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This review is taken from PN Review 229, Volume 42 Number 5, May - June 2016.

Cover of Ezra Pound: Poet - Portrait of the Man & his Work. Volume III: The Tragic Years
Matthew CreasyA. D. Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet - Portrait of the Man & his Work. Volume III: The Tragic Years
Oxford University Press 2015
654 + xxii pp., £30
As news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour reached Italy in early 1942, Reynolds Packard, the director of the United Press in Rome, tried to warn Ezra Pound about the consequences of his continuing public support for Mussolini’s government. The American poet was, however, obdurate: ‘But I believe in Fascism […]. And I want to defend it.’ Pound saw the broadcasts he made on Rome Radio as a matter of free speech: he wished to show Americans that their involvement in the war was misguided; that they had been led astray by the monopolising activities and usurious practices of various wealthy Jewish interests.

Pound thought of himself as a free agent, but the Italian Ministry for Popular Culture described him as ‘a collaborator’ in December 1943. The phrase was, A. David Moody explains, ambiguous: ‘In Italian, as in English, collaboratore can mean “a colleague, a co-worker”, as well as “one who works with the enemy”.’ The word admits, Moody suggests, ‘a sense of Pound’s compromised situation’. Such attention to nuance characterises Moody’s general approach to writing Pound’s life, an enterprise completed with the publication of The Tragic Years, covering 1939 to 1972.

Even ‘fascism’ receives scrutiny. By August 1936, Dorothy Pound was already complaining to her husband that the word was becoming ‘hopelessly vulgarised’ within press coverage of the Spanish Civil War. As Moody explains, the couple were concerned about the way that ‘fascism’ ceased to connote identifiable political values and was being used as a purely pejorative epithet. (It is broadly in ...

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