March 21, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

Rudge's time

By Christopher P. Winner
Published: 2012-10-09

There was absolutely no adulation. Of course he [Pound] was interested in meeting him [Mussolini]. You'd have to pretend to be some sort of philosopher who has no interest in the world, someone above everything, not to want to know more. But it was curiosity.

So he was later disillusioned.

Rudge in 1915.

He never had any illusions with Mussolini. I think he may have had some about the New Deal. He was interested in that and thought it might work. It was never that way over fascism. If Pound was a Fascist he would have had a party card [tessera]. He could have gone around flashing it and saying, "Look here." No one knows that Ezra Pound didn't know that fascism existed until very late. He was involved with Sanskrit and poems. He was living as a foreigner in a foreign country and wasn't paying the slightest attention to politics. He was interested in Cavalcanti and Vivaldi. I remember in 1925 in Rapallo, Mussolini was coming to meet [British Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain. So I said, "Oh, Mussolini's arriving and everyone's going to see him. I'm going down." And Ezra wouldn't even go to the end of the stairs to see the procession.

But what about the radio broadcasts?

He did them of his own volition. He did the radio because he'd started doing it before the war. He had tried to get what he had off his chest at his own expense in 1939, when he went to the States. The result was that he was made fun of. He was so much out of things that maybe he was wrong to do the radio here. But it was his damned right as an American to shoot off his mouth if he wanted to. They called it "the regime's" radio, but wasn't British radio "the regime's" radio? All of it, the BBC included, it was all the same thing. Why don't they see that Pound wasn't weighing in. He wasn't trying to make a career [from broadcasting]. For heaven's sake, he never even owned a radio!

And the anti-Semitism charges?

They'll always pick on him, but I know he wasn't an anti-Semite. Not the way he's been painted. It's false and stupid. As a Catholic, Ezra was very much against the Hebrew religion. He was very Christian, New Testament. But that isn't anti-Semitism. People like [the late American poet] Alan Ginsberg had the damn cheek to whitewash Ezra by saying his anti-Semitism was just his "bourgeois upbringing." That misses the point. I know perfectly well that an ambitious young man of the period who was going for poetry would not have called himself Ezra Pound if he was an anti-Semite. He would have been E. Loomis Pound, in the American fashion, or Loomis Pound. But "A lume spento" [Pound's first poetry chapbook] is published as Ezra Pound, and he stuck to that. And he spoke on the radio as Ezra Pound.

Look, let me tell you something else. There was that ship in 1939 [the SS St. Louis] with German Jews trying to get out of Germany that no one would grant a harbor to, including the United States. Now, tell me this: Where were the headlines in the U.S. newspapers at that time? When they could have saved the lives of those damned, poor people.

Why such words as kike?

He stuck his neck out. But I'll also tell you that I came from a good family in Ohio and my reasonably-educated father wouldn't have hesitated to say kike, Yid, frog, hunky, for any person who wasn't... That was the slang. My mother was picked on because she sang in a Jewish synagogue. There was prejudice. [T.S.] Eliot was anti-Semitic in a way Pound was not, which made it awkward for [Eliot] when Pound was put away. Eliot may have been expressing the opinion of his intellectual class, the snobbery about "aliens," but that's what it was. [Editor's note: In "Burbank with a Baedeker; Bleistein with a Cigar," published in 1920, Eliot wrote: "The rats are underneath the piles./The jew is underneath the lot./Money in furs. The boatman smiles."]

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