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HUMANITIES 281 Italian instinct, when he attempted to link up Italy to an aggressive military power, to teach the Italian to feel contempt for the African and hatred for the Jew, that he failed,' Agresti sorrowfully writes. Ezra Pound undertook to educate her out of that belief, and this book is his practicum. In it, modernism's greatexplorer oflanguage drinks Circe's tisane and turns into a gibbering maniac with a mouth full of murderous cliches. Some of the cliches are European. (One of Pound's new interests as of 1953 was a volume of Hitler's table talk) Some are American. (Another new interest was the right-wing demagogue Joseph R. McCarthy, whom Pound compared admiringly with Hitler and Mussolini.) But all of them are cliches. They adhere to every word the poet writes, and his language crumbles under their influence. Here as in the later Cantos, for example, Pound pays homage to the historian Alexander Del Mar, a source of his crackpot ideas about money. In 1955, however, Pound is told by his new friend John Kasper, professional racist, that Del Mar was a Jew. 'I shall go on reviving his glorious memory,' he defiantly writes to Agresti. 'NOT that such impartiality will do me any good.' But then the word Jew settles into his mind and goes to work. '[G]iven- my admiration for DelM/ AS HISTORIAN,' Pound explains nine months later, Jit need [sic] 40 years watching to SEE that he is a kike, and that his information cd/ lead to kahal government system/ the STINK model of kremlin tyranny, only nobody KNOWS about it.' Stink model? The incoherence says something terrible to contemplate: that the language of Ezra Pound, the artist who changed poetry as fundamenta11y as Schoenberg changed music or Tatlin changed sculpture, was weak. Under the weight of a single word, Jew, it went bad. Poetry owes this discovery to the scholars who have published the Agresti archive: Demetres Tryphonopoulos and Leon Surette. And Canada's pioneer of modernist scholarship? Pound writes him off as 'marked as a poundista. but less so than is supposed.' Those are practically the only saving words in this pathetic, important volume. Out of the wreckage of his lifelong defence of Pound's politics, Hugh Kenner emerges with honour. (JONATHAN MORSE) Richard Gambino. Vendetta: The True Story ofthe Largest Lynching in U.S. History Guernica. xii, 198. $18.00 Originally published in 1977 by Doubleday and reissued by Guernica in 1998, Vendetta: The True Story of the Largest Lynching in U.S. History will remind a new generation of diasporic Italians in Anglo-North America - as well as members of other ethnic and racial minority groups - that their rights and freedoms were once denied by a state-sanctioned murderous hostility arising from violent economic competition. It is a bitter truth, one 282 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 that official paeans to multiculturalism and diversity try to honey over, but author Richard Gambino brooks no such deception. His account of the brutallynchings ofeleveri Italian-Americans by a New Orleans mob in 1891 raises anger to something like art and reveals how the democratic state can become, in the sway of a racialist majoritarian elite, the instrument of atrocity. Indeed, Gambino means to expose 'the many uses that governments , institutions, and individuals make of social violence, ethnic and racial hatred, propaganda and hypocrisy.' His reading of the anti-Italian pogrom executed on 14 March 1891 by 'several thousand of the first, best and even most law abiding of the citizens' of New Orleans accents the role of class warfare in ways that may seem unsettlingly Marxist or, rather, unsettling because the implicit Marxist slant is eminently justified. Certainly, the New Orleans authorities who instigafed the massacre - from the genocidal, Kurtzian mayor Joseph A. Shakspeare (a viable precursor to the fascistic Huey Long) to his Ku Klux Klan-like 'Committee of Fifty' claimed that Italian immigrants 'monopolize the fruit, oyster and fish trades and are nearly all peddlers, tinkers or cobblers.' To keep the Italians in their prescribed place as plantation labourers in post-Reconstruction Louisiana, the Anglo-American overclass used the mysterious murder of a popular (but probably corrupt) New Orleans...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 281-283
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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