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This review is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

To Put the World in Order david moody, Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume II, The Epic Years 1921–1939 (Oxford University Press) £٢٥

‘To put the world in order’, runs an abridged Confucian maxim, ‘we must first cultivate our personal life’. What is often so boggling about the life of Ezra Pound is how this twentieth-­century Confucian failed so completely to adhere to this most basic of Confucian aphorisms. Pound routinely ignored his personal life – insisting he did not care ‘a damn about private affairs, private life, personal interests’. Life had a habit of producing ‘awkward human complications’, he observed, as if love was a kind of by-product of the mind’s activity. People ‘get on’, Pound informed his mistress Olga Rudge, because they ‘let each other alone’. How then is a biographer to tell the story of someone so self-negating, of a subject so completely uninterested in himself?   

David Moody’s approach in this, the second instalment of his leviathan life of Ezra Pound in three parts, is to piece together the poet in his own words. ‘Ezra Pound exists now in what he wrote’, argues Moody, echoing Pound’s own notion that the artist’s ‘work is his biography’. Where previous biographers have leant too heavily upon the easy anecdote, Moody is meticulous – ‘I have refrained from speculation, and I have ignored hearsay’. In this most vital of aspects, Moody’s book is commendable. With the gossip aside, what really interests Moody is the way in which Pound navigated the ideas of his time through his own poetry, prose, and music. The result is at times a little disjointed. We are sprung from a portrait of Europe on ...

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