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xi Foreword  The Archive of Cathay Haun Saussy Published in 1915, Cathay is often treated as a poetic masterpiece by Ezra Pound, and Ezra Pound alone. This is a half-truth, as this book will show. Many hands were involved in its production—Chinese singers and poets from many different dynasties; Japanese scholars; an American nineteenth-century art historian; and a young expatriate American striving to make a place for himself in the London literary world. Cathay is also often treated as a translation of poems from the Chinese—another half-truth. Part of its originality lies in its distance from the Chinese “originals.” It may be least inaccurate to call Cathay a masterpiece of the art of editing, an art at which Pound excelled. But to understand what Pound edited is to know a great deal more than Pound could know. This edition supplies the missing connections among the Chinese texts, most of them eighth-century poems taken from an eighteenth-century Chinese anthology popular in Japan; the paraphrases made of them in Japanese and English for the benefit of Ernest Francisco Fenollosa; Fenollosa’s hastily jotted notes; and Pound’s distillation of what he could understand of the notes into some of the twentieth century’s most often read and imitated poems. It supplements the Cathay long known to readers—an English-language collection with an invisible, remotely guessed-at Chinese background— with an archive of sequential conversations leading us back from the modernism of 1915 to the protest verse of the Bronze Age. Invention “Not, good Lord, a translation: [but] a poem made out of words from another poem. . . . Let us be quite clear that they are deflections undertaken with open eyes,” Hugh Kenner wrote in 1971, defending the unoriginality and originality of Cathay.1 Cathay is the best-known case, perhaps even the originating example, of the “poet’s version,” a form of translation that does not ask to be judged by its obedience to the features of the original being translated.2 What to make of such “deflections”? Chary of giving hostages to future literary history, T. S. Eliot hedged mightily when he wrote: “As for Cathay, it must be pointed out that Pound is the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.” Eliot knew that “to invent” had once been synonymous with “to find,” but he was using the word in its modern sense. By casting Pound as Chinese poetry’s inventor, he meant to deny him the role of its discoverer or translator. Both the translator and the discoverer reveal something that was already there before their arrival. Inventors, on the other hand, have the burden of novelty on their consciences. (Marie Curie, discoverer of radium, wins our xii Haun Saussy admiration; radioactivity is not her fault; but whoever invented the atom bomb has liabilities to contend with.) Unwilling to be seen as endorsing Pound’s adventurism as scholarship (the discoveryandtruthfuldescriptionofwhatwasalreadythere),EliotpegsCathaytothestatusof “invention”: an artifact, a possibly ingenious but certainly concocted novelty. “Chinese poetry, as we know it to-day, is something invented by Ezra Pound.” “Chinese poetry for our time”: not Chinese poetry in and of itself, not the definitive version of Chinese poetry, but Chinese poetry as people of the generation of the Great War, who have measured out their lives with coffeespoonsandjumpedtotheShakespeherianRag,areabletoknowit.Itwillbe“a‘Windsor Translation,’ . . . ‘a magnificent specimen of XXth Century poetry’ rather than a ‘translation.’”3 Of that time-bound, self-limited thing, Pound is the inventor. None of the scholars who knew Chinese better than Pound could find so much as a rash overtone in Eliot’s measured praise. Pound was less prudent—otherwise, Cathay would have had no possibility of existing— but all the same conscious of the difference between Chinese poetry and what he had made of his source’s “decipherings.” For the slim book is called Cathay and not China, China being a place to which you might buy a steamer ticket, Cathay a place of imagination or memory. A work of historical geography first published in 1866 but reprinted not long before Pound made his anthology, Cathay and the Way Thither by Henry Yule, contains hardly a word from or by the Chinese, but delivers four volumes of words about China from authors who, too, for the most part had never seen China but only transcribed reports of it. These reports were so inconsistent and unreliable that it was only in the late seventeenth century that geographers definitively established that “Cathay” and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780823281398
Related ISBN
9780823281060
MARC Record
OCLC
1076879185
Pages
364
Launched on MUSE
2018-12-06
Language
English
Open Access
No
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