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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.
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).