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Ezra Pound : dans le vortex de la traduction

135 pages
Foreword (Hélène Aji) ; Pound/Benjamin: Translation as departure and redemption (Fernando Pérez-Villalón) ; Rediscovering Ezra Pound's Cathay: Sources and routes (Sylvia S.L. Ieong) ; Distant and near: Translating Pound into chinese (Wai-lim Yip) ; Different realities: Fenllosa-Pound's discovery of the ideogrammic idea (Yoshiko Kita) ; The composition of the 20th-century salt commissioner: Pound's social view and its aesthetic reflection in "Canto 98" and "Canto 99" (Akitoshi Nagahata) ; Pound's mutation: translating symbolism into imagism (William Pratt) ; Pound as translator-poet (Mary Ann Caws) ; Notes on the genesis of the greek modernism: George Seferis, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound (Demetres Tryphonopoulos)
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Deuxième semestre 2002 - N° 16



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Comité scientifique: Wolfgang Binder (U. Erlangen), James Bolner (Louisiana State U.), Thomas Cable (U. Texas, Austin), Monica Charlot (U. Paris II!), Ceri Crossley (U. Birmingham, G.-B.), Max Duperray (U. Aix-Marseille I), Sylvia Hilton (U. Complutense, Madrid), Christian Lerat (U. Bordeaux II!), Marc Porée (U. Paris III), Serge Ricard (U. Paris II!), Daniela Rossini (U. Rome III), Christine Savinel (U. Paris III), Hubert Teyssandier (U. Paris II!), Sylvia Ullmo (U. Tours)

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ISSN : 1259-5098 @L'Hannatlan,2003 ISBN: 2-7475-3831-1

Tout ce qui concerne la rédaction doit être adressé à M. Serge RICARD, directeur des Annales, au siège de la revue.


Ezra Pound's Translations as Vortex: A Foreword, by Hélène AJl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

9 15 25 37

Pound / Benjamin: Translation as Departure and Redemption,
by Fernando PÉREZ-VILLAL6N.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rediscovering Ezra Pound's Cathay: Sources and Routes, by Sylvia S.L. lEONG. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Distant and Near: Translating Pound into Chinese, by Wai-1im YlP. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Different Realities: Fenollosa-Pound's Discovery of the Ideogrammic Idea, by y oshiko KITA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. The Composition of the 20th-Century Salt Commissioner: Pound's Social View and its Aesthetic Reflection in "Canto 98" and "Canto 99," by Aki t0shi NAGAHATA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Pound's Mutation: Translating Symbolism into Imagism, by William PRATT.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Pound as Translator-Poet, by Mary Ann CAWS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..
Notes on the Genesis of Greek Modernism: George Seferis, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, by Demetres TRYPHONOPOULOS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . "My genius is no more than a girl." Exploring the Erotic in Pound' s Homage to Sextus Propertius, by Steven G. YAO. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
'l'fote sur (es auteurs. ...............................


63 75 87


111 131

!Ezra Pound dans {évortex dé (a traduction


Although they are often presented as utterly innovative, Ezra Pound' s strategies as a translator correspond at the same time to older modes developed during the Victorian era and to his own, very idiosyncratic agenda as a poet. It is thus trivial to state that his choice in texts has implications beyond the mere passing on of too little known works since it constitutes an actual positioning both as a critic of past traditions and as the creator of a tradition "made new." Indeed the parallel between the semantic roots of these two elements, tradition and translation, can be useful in outlining the similarities in aim of whoever combines them in his work: a displacement and a replacement. In Pound's case the approach to translation stems from his training in the Romance languages, but astonishingly enough it does not remain confined to those languages he mastered-more or less. One of the most enduring debates around Pound's translations revolves around the notion of error, with its appendages of questionable competence and/ or willful counterfeiting. One sees in the whole body of his translations a heterogeneous quality as well as a bringing together of the diverse and its construction into a planned, if unachieved, constellation. The famous "I cannot make it cohere" (CXVI 810) of the end of the Cantos might be read as a disavowal of the entire project-but it is also to be perceived as inciting the reader to indeed "make it cohere," find the hidden correspondence between all the fragments lifted from others' texts. If the poet is not the one to make it cohere, the task remains the reader's and it is, it seems, the major achievement of the Cantos to institute this reader' s work as part of the poem itself-it is also what makes Pound's work central to the definition of modernism. In this context, Pound' s translations first emerge as more in the line of Dryden's imitations but soon turn into attempts to materialize his vision of a "cosmos of souls"(Pound SP "I Gather the Limbs of Osiris" 28), constitutive of the poet's own soul and allowing it to function in a sort of perpetual dialogue between the old and the new. Pound' s translations are part of a twofold process of self-definition and poetic creation and it is in this respect that they can be compared and at times assimilated to the wider project of the Cantos. In a crucial fashion, they occupy the same place in Pound's intention to generate
AMA 16 - 2e semestre 2002




a new poetics as the poems do. This is mainly due to his famous key concept of logopoeia,which Pound applies to the whole of his work:
[...] 'the dance of the intellect among words', that is to say it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word, its usual concomitants, of its known acceptances, and of ironical play. It holds the aesthetic content which is peculiarly the domain of verbal manifestation, and cannot possibly be contained in plastic or music. It is the latest come, and perhaps most tricky and undependable mode. (Pound LE "How to Read" 25)

This definition shows that Pound's translations go well beyond the notions of imitation or even pastiche, paying acute attention to the interplay between text and context, words and their connotations. In what Ronnie Apter calls the "archaic collage," (26) the poet becomes entitled to manipulate literary modes, juxtapose them or even fuse them together to put tradition into the new and ever changing perspective of the present. What is perhaps less noticed and more disquieting in Pound' s definition of the ruling concept of logopoeiais how he renounces dependability. What is at stake in his practice of translation is not accuracy of any type but the adequacy of result to a highly subjective perception of the text' s part in the complex resonating chamber of a present in the making. Thus Pound institutes a relation to past texts that is not just ahistorical, deprived of the distancing brought by chronology, suspended "in the timeless air," (Kenner 30) but structured by a form of historicism that could be deemed apocalyptic. To a certain extent, Pound' s translations offer the same characteristics as his poetic vision and even as his political options. The collapsing of past and present in the mind of the poet-translator is but a passage to the future, a mode of reorganizing the given and generating novelty that encompasses the literary text but in no way is to remain limited to the domain of the literary or aesthetic. Thus Pound posits himself at the end of times (as opposed to out of time) when all texts from all cultures can be summoned to be assessed and redeemed in translation. Accuracy is then not only unnecessary but in contradiction with the fundamental objectives of this activity: translation is to be understood as a general activity including linguistic transfer but also encompassing any type of transmission and integrating the intrinsic and discreet ambiguities of mediation. Homage to Sextus Propertius is one early example of the tense cohabiting of ancient and modern, whose heterogeneity is an aesthetic statement central to modernism but also and above all a forceful assertion of the poet as transformer and transmitter. Though my house is not propped up by Taenarian columns from
Laconia (associated with Neptune and Cerberus), Though it is not stretched upon gilded beams;







My orchards do not lie level and wide as the forests of Phaecia the luxurious and Ionian, Nor are my caverns stuffed stiff with a Marcian vintage, My cellar does not date from Numa Pompilius, Nor bristle with wine jars, Nor is it equipped with a frigidaire patent; Yet the companions of the Muses will keep their collective nose in my books, And weary with historical data, they will turn to my dance tune.

(Pound CSP "Homage to Sextus Propertius" 208-9)
In The Pound Era, Hugh Kenner gives a detailed analysis of Pound's work on this passage from Propertius's Elegies:

Something has happened... There is no "point of view" that will relate these idioms: neither a modern voice ("bristle"; "frigidaire patent"; "collective nose") nor an ancient one ("Phaecia"; "Marcian") can be assigned this long sentence; moreover "Laconia" has acquired what looks like a sotto voce footnote, while the modernisms ("frigidaire"; "data") sound plausibly Latin. In transparent overlay, two times have become as one, and we are meant to be equally aware of both dictions (and yet they seem the same diction). (29) Indeed, "something has happened" but of much greater import than the almost miraculous fusion between two apparently irreconcilable poetic dictions or the amazing achievement of "plausibility" in spite of whimsical anachronism: if these two dictions "seem the same diction," maybe it is because they are the same and this is worth more than a parenthesis and an afterthought. This passage is the concrete evidence of Pound's strict applying of the strategy of "recomposition" advocated in "Date Line."l What is emerging is his own diction and it emerges in three crucial dimensions: (1) as a revaluation of the past, selecting what would be worth acknowledging, i.e. more than the material remains, their spirit gathered by poets-rather than the texts, their rewriting; (2) as a type of discourse relevant to the present at its most concrete and factual, in a symptomatically fascinated and revulsed reaction to what is both a technological and economic era ("frigidaire patent") and an information age ("data"); (3) eventually as a programmatic and preceptive text, to whose "tune" people will "dance." One then better understands Pound's further definition of logopoeia, which paradoxically declares this basic rule of translation as not performing what it seemed committed to achieve: "Logopoeia does not translate" (Pound LE "How to Read 25). The consequences of Pound' s translating methods reach further than a superficial, if effective, revolution in modalities, objectives and products. In "Guido's Relations," the original poem is seen as surrounded by so many translations, which are so many commentaries
1. See Pound LE 74-75.




and clues to the effect of the text on the body of literature. All of them could be in fact placed on the same level, in a transcending relation to a purely conceptual text, a "formal" text in the Aristotelian sense of the term.2 It does not suffice to state that Pound's approach to translation frees the translators from the fetters of precision and adequacy, as what it actually does is turn the translation into another enactment of this form to which the poet can only have furtive access in the mystic trance of privileged communication with genius. The practical corollaries of this poetic stance concern all the aspects of poesis and in particular meaning and metrics: in either case conservation does not figure. Thus Hugh Kenner's commentary on Pound's Seafarerand its relations to the Old English "original" underlines the elusive balance between the persistence of the signifier and the remanence of the signified:
Pound' s splendid phrase, 'The blade is layed low,' derives from a phrase ('Blœd is gehnœged') which sounds as if it ought to treat of blades, but according to the lexicon means' glory is humbled.' (Kenner "Blood for the Ghosts" in Hesse 333)

Far from the strictures of the "lexicon," Pound's translations are in fact transfers of energy, from one verbal form to another presupposed to be its equivalent-of equal value or power. This issue of the power of words is one that evokes the key figure of Pound's aesthetics: the vortex. If one compares the definition he gives of his action as a poet translator in "I Gather the Limbs of Osiris" to the Vorticist manifesto that appears in Blast, it becomes clear that Pound's translations are not to be considered independently from the larger context of his work and his major "dicta":
Let us imagine that words are like great hollow cones of steel of different dullness or acuteness. [...] Let us imagine them radiating a force from their apexes, some radiating, some sucking in. [...] This peculiar energy which £ills the cones is the power of tradition, of centuries of race consciousness, of agreement, of association. (Pound SP ~'I Gather the Limbs of Osiris" 34) ... a radiant node or cluster; ... what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX,from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing.3

The corresponding illustration of this idea is the famous "cone" or "vortex" that illustrates the Blast declaration4

2. On this topic, see Peter Makin's essay "Pound's Provence and the Duecento" (Grover 91-110). 3. Quoted in Kenner 146. 4. "Vortex," Blast l, July 1914 (from Pound's Artists 42).







Within the vortex of Pound's work, reminiscent of his poetic and ideological choices, one thus finds the vortices of his translations, which the following papers scrutinize: as Perez-Villalon demonstrates, the Modernist translation is a cultural gesture which is not exclusively Poundian and which can have other, less authoritarian modalities; leong, Yip, Kita and Nagahata show how the philological adventure of Cathay, the Chinese character, and Confucian thinking outline the gradual move from aesthetics to ethics; Pratt, Caws, and Tryphonopoulos evidence the fact that translation is not limited to specific texts, but indeed concerns the possibilities or impossibilities of cultural transfers from one linguistic sphere to another; eventually, as Yao underlines it, Pound's translations are means to an end: the construction of the ultimate epic. Hélène AJI
Universitéde Paris IV - Sorbonne
Editor of the volume


Works cited

Apter, Ronnie. Digging For the Treasure: Translation After Pound. New Yark: P. Lang, 1984. Grover, Philip, ed. Ezra Pound and the Troubadours. Gardonne: Fédérop, 2000. Hesse, Eva, ed. New Approaches to Ezra Pound. London: Faber & Faber, 1969. Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. Pound, Ezra. Cantos. London: Faber & Faber, 1990. Collected Shorter Poems. London: Faber & Faber, 1984. Literary Essays. T. S. Eliot, ed. London: Faber & Faber, 1954. Selected Prose (1909-1965). William Cookson, ed. New York: New Directions, 1973. Pound' s Artists. London: The Tate Gallery, 1985. .:..:..:.



at Amherst

of Massachusetts

Par la mise en rapport de certains aspects des Cantos de Pound avec les idées de Walter Benjamin dans "'La Tâche du traducteur" et dans "'L'Origine du drame baroque allemand", on propose quelques réflexions sur l'œuvre d' art, le langage, et le sublime à notre époque. Lieu d'incessantes métamorphoses plutôt que de transmission dans leur début, les Cantos finissent par rejoindre le drame baroque allemand décrit par Benjamin, où s'étalent la mort et le désœuvrement, dans la
perspective d'une improbable rédemption par l'interprétation.

The reflections presented throughout the following pages examine Pound's writings, specially his Cantos, in relation to translation as a way to approach issues related to language, knowledge, and aesthetics. This perspective might help us to better understand the way in which Pound has contributed to shape our present conception of the translator's task and, even more important, the ways in which he can still provide new insights regarding it. In examining the Cantos from the point of view of translation, I have specially relied on the perspectives opened by the work of Walter Benjamin, as an approach to translation that proposes problems as challenging as those posed by the Cantos, in the context of a thinking that faces from a different point of view, in a different language, the same historical, aesthetic and political dilemmas Pound was attempting to deal with in his work. I have elsewhere commented on the obvious distance that separates Pound and Benjamin1: they clearly belong to diverse literary traditions, without either having showed much interest in the other' s; their political sympathies were also on opposite sides, and the whole system of beliefs from which those stem cannot be farther apart: Benjamin was highly aware of the potential danger of mythical
1. "El paraiso plural de Ezra Pound," paper presented at the conference on translation organized by VERTEBRA the Pontificia Universidad Cat6lica de Chile, in April 2000.
AMA 16 - 2e semestre 2002