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This article is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

Cheng Ming Chi'i'd Christine Brooke-Rose

Ezra Pound: Les Cantos, traduction de l'américain par Jacques Darras, Yves di Manno, Philippe Mikriammos, Denis Roche, et François Sauzey (Flammarion) 185F

There is no substitute for a lifetime (C.98)

So wrote Pound in Thrones, and The Cantos are the work of a lifetime. To translate such a monumental work poses monumental problems, and to translate it into French seems to pose even more, judging by the strange result presented here.

Naturally one cannot expect a translator to be as single-minded as the poet himself and to devote his entire life to translating one such text, unless he or she is as possessed with it as the poet was. This was obviously the case with his daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz, who did devote a large part of her already busy life translating The Cantos into Italian (Mondadori 1985), and who, be it said in passing, also produced in the bilingual edition the only reliable English text available so far, and the only one that prints the two missing 'Italian' Cantos. Similarly, Eva Hesse devoted many years to her German translation of Pound (Cantos I-XXX, Pisaner Cantos, Letzte Texte - Entwürfe und Fragmente zu Cantos CX-CXX, Arche Verlag 1964, 1956 rev. 1969, 1975, all bilingual editions). This translation is alas incomplete, Ms Hesse having turned to other things, but two criticisms that cannot be made against either of these two translators are 1) lack of tonal unity, and 2) ignorance of Pound. They are ...


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