Ezra Pound’s life is worth several fictions, but one unlikely novel he turns up in is Elmore Leonard’s Pronto, where a Miami Beach bookie, Harry Arno, uses the money he has skimmed from his bosses to retire to the Italian town of Rapallo. Rapallo has obvious attractions for a small-time fraudster on the run – the food, the climate, the girls – but the real draw, we discover, is Pound. Arno was a US soldier in Pisa in 1945, where the poet, imprisoned for treason, was in an outdoor steel cage writing what would become the Pisan Cantos. They spoke, and Pound read Arno a couple of lines: “The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world. Pull down thy vanity …” Two decades later, Arno returns to Rapallo, and sees Pound, in his 80s and accompanied by his mistress of 50 years, Olga Rudge, in a restaurant. Arno speaks the lines back to him but Ezra “walk[s] right past to the can, doesn’t say a word”. This is 1967: it’s late Pound, the last Pound, the mythical, Lear-like old man, who wrote, in “Canto 116”, “my errors and wrecks lie about me”, and who, after a performance of Endgame, told… Read full this story
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