Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915) is a masterpiece of modernism, but also one of world literature. The muscular precision of images that mark Pound’s translations helped established a modern style for American literature, at the same time creating a thirst for classical Chinese poetry in English. Yet Pound wrote it without knowing any Chinese, relying instead on word-for-word “cribs” left by the Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa, whose notebooks reveal a remarkable story of sustained cultural exchange.
This fully annotated critical edition focuses on Pound’s astonishing translations without forgetting that the original Chinese and Old English poems are masterpieces in their own right. By placing Pound’s final text alongside the poems it claims to translate, as well as the manuscript traces of Pound’s Japanese and American interlocutors, the volume resituates Cathay as a classic of world literature.
The Pound texts and their intertexts are presented with care, clarity, and visual elegance. In addition to the Chinese poems of Cathay, the volume also includes that volume’s additional poem, Pound’s famous translation of “The Seafarer” from Anglo-Saxon, as well as fifteen further Pound translations from Chinese and his essay “Chinese Poetry.” A substantial textual Introduction elaborates the texts’ histories, and substantial prefatory pieces by Bush and Saussy discuss international modernism, the mediation of Japan, and translation. Finally, the edition supplies exhaustive historical, critical, and textual notes, clarifying points that have sometimes lent obscurity to Pound’s poems and making the process of translation visible even for readers with no knowledge of Chinese.
This landmark edition will forever change how readers view Pound’s “Chinese” poems. In addition to discoveries that permanently alter the scholarly record, the critical apparatus allows fresh discoveries by making available the specific networks through which poetic expression moved among hands, languages, and media in a multiply authored and intrinsically hybrid masterpiece.
A miracle of poetic reincarnation, Ezra Pound’s Cathay finally gets a comprehensive and thorough treatment in this critical edition. A marvel of scholarship that will be required reading for all students of poetry.', Yunte Huang, author of Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History 'A feat of archival scholarship and patient deciphering. Cathay emerges from this critical edition not as the work of a single man, but as a multiply authored enterprise, animated by the erudition of Japanese professors Mori Kainan and Ariga Nagao; the notes of Ernest Fenollosa; and the chutzpah of a young Ezra Pound. Pairing Pound’s compositions with the cribs he used and the Chinese originals he couldn’t read, Timothy Billings makes available, for the first time, the layer upon layer of mediation that went into this collective masterpiece, tracing a conversational arc that extends from the Bronze Age to the twentieth century.', Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University 'This is an extraordinary book. Not just because of Pound’s poetry, whose verbal force still resonates with us today, but because, as an edition, it puts us face to face with the possibility of an interpretation that knows everything it needs to know. This is a book for teaching, for learning, and finally, for reading for pleasure—the pleasure of the poems, yes, and the pleasure of seeing in the poems the complex linguistic and conceptual histories, and accidents, that made them what they are today.', Eric Hayot, Pennsylvania State University 'An astounding work of scholarship that lays to rest at long last the myths and muddles surrounding Ezra Pound’s 'Chinese' poems. Billings’s painstaking erudition brilliantly illuminates just how collective poetic creation can be. Of great relevance to students of modern poetry and to all those with interests in transmission, translation studies, and cultural appropriation. I cannot recommend this beautifully published book too highly.', David Bellos, Princeton University 'If Pound’s translations are in many respects mistaken, they are among the most generative mistakes in world literary history.', Christopher Bush, from the Introduction 'This edition . . . supplements the Cathay long known to readers—an English-language collection with an invisible, remotely guessed-at Chinese background—with an archive of sequential conversations leading us back from the modernism of 1915 to the protest verse of the Bronze Age. . . . The Chinese ‘original,’ the mirror-image of Pound’s Cathay, has long occupied the space of an itch in the minds of poetry-readers. That original is a phantasm: Pound did not of course, translate directly from the Chinese, and what he did versify often corresponds to no Chinese original . . . . The double Cathay given here restores to history the composition process as it passed through a series of authors in a series of languages over some three thousand years; it creates, as a hron, what never was. Let it stand as ‘the invention of Cathay for our time.’', Haun Saussy, from the Foreword
Ezra Pound (Author) Ezra Pound (1884–1972) was a leading Modernist poet and the driving force behind Imagism and Vorticism. Timothy Billings (Edited By) Timothy Billings is Professor of English and American Literatures at Middlebury College. With Christopher Bush, he edited and translated Victor Segalen’s Stèles / 古今碑綠 (Wesleyan, 2007), which won the Aldo and Jean Scaglione Prize for Best Translation of a Literary Work. He has also edited and translated Matteo Ricci’s On Friendship: One Hundred Maxims for a Chinese Prince (Columbia, 2009) and is the editor of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria). Haun Saussy (Foreword By) Haun Saussy is University Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. He won the René Wellek Prize for Comparative Literature (for the second time) for his most recent book, Translation as Citation: Zhuangzi Inside Out (Oxford, 2018). His book The Ethnography of Rhythm: Orality and Its Technologies (Fordham, 2016) was awarded the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies. Christopher Bush (Introducer) Christopher Bush is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University and the author of Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media (Oxford, 2010).