Monday, May 19, 2008

Fascisms

As part of a collaboration with artist Stephanie Taylor, I have been re-reading some of the Cantos, and tracked down a translation of the Fascist cantos (72 & 73 – Pound provided his own translation of 73, but it appears the few extant translations of 72 are just that). The censored content contains nasty examples of what Pound later referred to as that “suburban prejudice,” but also an account, apparently even more objected to, of an Italian girl who led a group of Canadian soldiers into a minefield after they raped her. Resulting in a big Hollywood-type blow-up that made Pound very happy and damned him to hell at home and in the Allied abroad. (N.b.: all previous anti-Poundian sympathy apparently has been reserved for the Canadian soldiers.) More interesting was Pound’s engagement with Marinetti in Canto 73: the ghost of the Futurist hectors the seafarer for more war, while Pound begs off on account of fatigue, and the exhaustion of belief. Pound wanted a good many things, but war did not appear to be his perferred mechanism for their achievement. But this raised another sticking point. I knew that Marinetti was a Facist’s facist, whose Partito Politico Futurista was straight away adopted by Mussolini’s Facsi di combattimento, and who later split with the Italian Fascist party because of their coddling the bourgeoise and conservativism, but who retained a soft and constant affection for the principles of fascsism as being the politics most attuned to the Futurists. But I had somehow forgotten this ethical aspect even as Marinetti’s aesthetic has been increasingly reified here at home. European conversations about Futurism include this critique; why hasn’t this been the case among the current American avant where Pound is automatically dismissed and excoriated and Marinetti vivified and applauded? It perhaps should be noted that both used similar techniques of appropriation/collage, that one breathed long where the other went short.

2 comments:

mark wallace said...

An intriguing post, Vanessa.

I'm fascinated--if that's the way to put it--by your concept here of the "fascist's fascist," by which I take you to mean not someone who allies him or herself to fascism out of some combination of confusion, opportunism, or intellectual naivete, but who clear-eyed and knowingly advances the fascist political agenda whenever possible. Who are some other Modernists that you feel deserve the name?

I don't know enough about contemporary Marinetti scholarship to know if he's been "vivified and applauded" in general, but I can certainly think of one or two cases definitely where that has happened--and it's certainly one danger that results from trying to see avant garde practice as a pure aestheticism removed from political and cultural frameworks.

I also wonder if it might have a little to do with "U.S. hating" Americans (whom I'm not trying to attack here) and others, in that it's much more common to decry the fascist implications of current U.S. government and corporate actions than to note that similar ideologies are alive and well in other countries, if not so robustly successful at the moment. I mean--and I'm half kidding, but only half--a lot of American writers really would prefer to be in Rome because they believe it's more sophisticated, which it may well be, and it might be in bad taste to criticize your hosts when there are more high profile targets available. Criticizing Pound is one of the least socially complex ways of distancing oneself from fascism.

VanessaP said...

You may be right about the genesis of the distinction; my question is then to what effect? If Pound is rejected for his politics (and let's take as a starting point that every aesthetic has an ethical correlative, and visa versa), then shouldn't Marinetti be equally cast off, or at least looked at with similar suspicion? Where does this put some conceptual poets, who laud the poet as machine, cheering Zaum zaum all the way?