Ghostly Effects: Orientalist Translation in Pound and the Yasusada Text

in Asian Journal of Social Science
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T.S. Eliot famously remarked that Ezra Pound was "the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time." The nature of this invention is examined within the context of Pound's larger modernist project: his transformation of classical Chinese poetry into Imagist free verse and his projection of a vision of China as a utopian counter-image to the failure of the contemporary West. Although Pound clearly enough was consciously appropriating Chinese poetry according to his own poetic concerns, his particular solutions have had a pervasive impact in determining the look and sound of classical Oriental poetry in English ever since. The fundamental problem raised by this very influential tradition of poetic translation is the illusory desire for easy access to the foreign. In the early 1990s there began to appear the hoax texts purportedly by the previously unknown avant-garde Japanese poet Akiri Yasusada. Although a simulation rather than a translation proper, the Yasusada text will here be considered as a forceful questioning of the usual assumptions of translation's faithfulness and obligations to the foreign original. The elaborate construction of the Yasusada texts, including their initial public presentation as a hoax and the subsequent controversy, puts the reader in a disquieting and self-reflective position with respect to the desire for the authentic foreign.



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