Modernism and Fascism: The Seduction of Ezra Pound

On the topic of Italian Fascism, one significant modernist writer, Ezra Pound, notoriously entangled himself with that movement. Pound, who developed the style of Imagist poetry, was a major figure in early modernist literature.

He serves as an example of a writer who, in contrast to Nietzsche being posthumously appropriated by Fascism, was personally drawn in by the ideas of the movement. Pound was disgusted by the carnage of the First World War. He came to believe that the cause of World War I was finance capitalism, which he called “usury”. He came to believe that Fascism was the ideal vehicle for the social reform needed to counter the ill of usury. This idea would later become overtly Anti-Semitic, as Pound characterised usury as a product of Jewish influence.  On 30 January 1933 Pound met personally with Benito Mussolini. During the meeting Pound tried to present Mussolini with his economic ideas, but Mussolini brushed them aside, though he called the Cantos “entertaining”.

Despite this dismissive attitude, Pound was utterly taken by his meeting with Il Duce, proclaiming that “nobody seemed to GET his ideas as quickly”. Pound would go on to become an expatriate, relocating to Italy. During wartime, Pound would broadcast his own brand of pro-fascist propaganda over the State-controlled Rome Radio. Once again, we see the tendency for Fascism to absorb modernism into a propaganda apparatus of the state. The fact is that when the two movements dovetailed in the early-to-mid 20th Century, Fascism showed a capability to absorb, appropriate, and cannibalise Modernist works and authors to propagate its own agenda.slide 15

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