- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: New Directions (January 17, 1969)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0811201546
- ISBN-13: 978-0811201544
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,254,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Confucius: The Unwobbling Pivot / The Great Digest / The Analects Paperback – January 17, 1969
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About the Author
New Directions has been the primary publisher of Ezra Pound in the U.S. since the founding of the press when James Laughlin published New Directions in Prose and Poetry 1936. That year Pound was fifty-one. In Laughlin’s first letter to Pound, he wrote: “Expect, please, no fireworks. I am bourgeois-born (Pittsburgh); have never missed a meal. . . . But full of ‘noble caring’ for something as inconceivable as the future of decent letters in the US.” Little did Pound know that into the twenty-first century the fireworks would keep exploding as readers continue to find his books relevant and meaningful.
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Oh yes, Pound was a lunatic on more than a few counts (most notably, his affiliation with Fascism and and Nazism), but he's still one of the finest English authors of the 20th century.
I originally pinned the following quote from this book on Nixon...though it's just as applicable to the current crop of amoral politicians and CEOs:
"When the head of state of family thinks first of gouging out an income, he must perforce do it through small men; and even if they are clever at their job, if one employ such inferior characters in state and family business the tilled fields will go rack swamp and ruin and edged calamities will mount up to the full.... This is the meaning of: A state does not profit by profits"
Ezra Pound seems to have captured the essense of these writings, as this translation confirms many ideas contained in other more scholarly works. Highly recommended!
I do applaud Ezra Pound's love of Confucianism and his intention to promote Confucianism for Westerners. In this vein, I recommend "Achieve Lasting Happiness" by Robert Canright, which is a version of the Analects updated for modernity. Canright's book also presents a vision of how Americans can embrace Confucianism as a system of universal ethics.
One of the other reviews said "no one knows how much Chinese Ezra Pound knew". I recommend "Ezra Pound and Confucianism" by Feng Lan. The author discusses Pound's translation in a way that is accessible and interesting. Dr. Feng Lan goes beyond the issues of translation. He also discusses Ezra Pound's "political polemic" in chap. 3 and Pound's spiritual beliefs in chapter 4.
Whether or not you buy this book by Pound, I encourage you to buy Robert Canright's book and Feng Lan's book.
His mouth has been shut. He has been convinced that his own God-given brain is worthless. Even if there's something he'd like to say, he or she is afraid of being shouted down by the 'experts' and their groupies. A reading of the great Chinese thinkers would soon convince anyone of how dangerous and damaging to society 'experts' can be, but most of us don't read the Chinese. We have been conditioned to think of them as alien and to forget that they were human like us.
Ezra Pound may have been a bit crazy in some ways (who isn't?), and his Chinese readings have come in for a lot of flak, but anyone who, like Pound, loved Asian thought and set out to bring it to a West that is desperately in need of it, certainly deserves our gratitude whether they be 'expert' or non-expert.
Nobody knows how much Chinese Pound knew anyway. He certainly knew some. And anyone who knows anything at all about the complexities of Classical Chinese realizes that all readings or translations from that language, whether by professional linguists or enthusiasts such as Pound, must always be personal. There are just too many ways of validly interpreting a given line.
And as Burton Watson, who is one of the USA's foremost scholars of Ancient Chinese has pointed out in his 'Complete Works of Chuang Tzu,' since there can be no definitive interpretation neither can there be any such thing as a definitive translation. Watson, incidentally, was perfectly happy to approve Thomas Merton's readings of another great Chinese thinker, Chuang Tzu, even though Merton knew no Chinese at all. He feels that the more translations, whether expert or non- expert (when done with sincerity and love), the better. But experts such as Burton Watson, sadly, are rare, perhaps because they are the only true experts.
My own copy of Pound's 'Confucius' was purchased many years ago. It's very well-thumbed and heavily annotated, and I often return to it. I've also studied Arthur Waley's more exact translation carefully, and a few others. But the Confucian lines that stick in my mind always seem to be those of Pound, lines such as: "If the root be in confusion, nothing will be well governed" (page 33).
The "root" today is certainly "in confusion." And those who dismiss Pound on the basis of a few howlers are simply adding to the confusion. To let you in on a secret, there are many howlers - up to and including the omission of whole lines - in the translations of even reputable and well-known scholars of Chinese (though I've never found any in Burton Watson).
My advice would be to ignore the gripers, most of whom don't have direct access to the Chinese text anyway, and to read Pound's version of Confucius. He was a literary genius and got it right most of the time, and you'd learn a great deal from it.
Pound's 'Confucius' has always found and will continue to find readers. I think it's because, as Confucius says: "Those who know aren't up to those who love..." (page 216).