Il carteggio Pea-Pound. Nascita di un'amicizia intorno alla traduzione di Moscardino. Barbara Patrizi (red.), Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore - Fondazione Primo Conti Onlus. 2007.

review by Furio Detti



This agile and quick-to-read Italian book gives us a glimpse into the exchange of letters and postcards between Ezra Pound and one of the less-famous, or less-popular, but indeed significant Italian authors of the 1920s in Italy: Enrico Pea. It was Pound in fact who having read the first part of Pea's long novel, «Moscardino» personally asked for permission to be his «reverse» translator from Italian into english (!). That was in June 1941. Pound lived in Rapallo and sent Pea his request, starting a correspondence that stretched from the summer of 1941 to the summer of 1958 (with a significant hiatus due to Pound's detention in Coltano and internment at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington D.C.), the year of Pea's death in Forte dei Marmi (Lucca). Indeed, sadly, the last postcard from Pound reached Pea's home just the very day that the Italian writer died.

The author and editor, Barbara Patrizi, started this work as a dissertation at the Università di Pisa, under the supervision of Prof. Angela Guidotti, and searched into the two repositories of Pound and Pea correspondence: the Fondo Enrico Pea by the Fondazione Primo Conti (Fiesole, Florence) and the Ezra Pound Archive of the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Yale University; from these sources came the 37 documents (letters, telegrams and postcards, mostly unpublished) that are the corpus of Pea-Pound correspondence around the translation of «Moscardino».

«Ho tradotto Moscardino di Pea: la prima volta in vita mia che ho avuto l'impulso di tradurre un romanzo.» (Carta da Visita, E. Pound) Pound characterized the effort to translate «Moscardino» as a «LAV-bloody-ORO!»; however, this series of documents reveals not only the translation process in Pound's mind, but brings to light the making of a friendship between the poet and a novelist deeply rooted into realism and a local idiom - the versiliese - that stirred Pound's curiosity for new languages and new ways to expression. From the beginning Pound admired Pea and his world of workers, farmers, outsiders and young people from rural Italy. Pea, on the other hand, treasured the fact that a «vate» like Pound was translating his long novel:

«Le poche parole corrispondenti che mancheranno al vostro vocabolario, voi, le divinate, con il cuore e con la mente, e, sarà tanto di meglio, arricchimento di poesia.» he wrote from Viareggio (1941 june, the 22th).

Pound for his own part revealed his brisk and literary bravura in searching English terms for Pea's idiomatic terms like «canterale», «battima», «sguvire», «botro», «lattime» everyday words from the daily life of Italian peasants. Barbara Patrizi did well to remark that the resonances of these terms, the imagery, and even Pea's friendship flowed in the mare magnum of the Cantos - (LXXX, LXXXVII). Pound used Pea's vocabulary as a gym to enrich his own metaphorical skills and cultural references. Truly Barbara Patrizi discovered that this exchange and even some visits paid by Pound in Viareggio were more than a building site for translation; rather a way to enter into traditions long remembered - as the devotion paid to the «Volto Santo» in Lucca, whose legends interested Pound in 1956, although Pound himself didn't know how to use those vernacular materials:

«Vultus Sanctus 'scolpito da Nicodemo' non so se mi servirà cioé non vedo pel momento come adoperarlo ma forse raccotono barzelette  (sic) o hanno qualche storia locale, come quell'asino a Verona...» (1956, may the 4th)

Pea's and Pound's friendship was also the occasion for Olga Rudge, Vanni Scheiwiller, Aida Mastrangelo, D.D. Page, Luigi Berti to weave a net of interests and activities related to  «Moscardino» and Pound's efforts to achieve also a small incentive from the enterprise:

«Even translators have to eat. The Mastrangelo was here today. I don't know how much she understood. But people who have to earn a living can not indefinitely do under paid work [...] And it is not a job you can give to the shoemaker.» (1950, february 21th).

Pound and Pea exchanged as gifts their respective books, like «Carta da Visita» and «Vita in Egitto» as well as their photos. We have just to complain a bit about the quality of pictures included.

The more casual reader of this book may be curious about a literary meeting between two writers, artists, scholars: the brief biographies of Pound and Pea at the end of the volume may be used as quick reference. For Pound scholars and aficionados it may be the opportunity to rediscover new sources for the linguistic inspiration of Pound's poems and the literary milieu of Italy during the middle decades of twentieth century.

Ezra Pound and Italy

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