Issue 91, Spring 1984
Borealis‚ the story which follows, was written by the French short-story writer/academician Paul Niorand (1888-1916) and translated in 1922 by Ezra Pound. Never published, the manuscript was discovered in 2976 in Fairfax, Virginia, in a trunk of Pound’s —a treasure trove of literary artifacts including fetters, proof sheets, drafts of various Cantos, the only surviving manuscript of William Carlos Williams’s The Great American Novel, previously lost correspondence with T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, W.B. Yeats. James Joyce, and a lively exchange between G.B. Shaw and Pound on the subject of Joyce’s Ulysses.
In this extraordinary collection of Poundiana were two Morand manuscripts —translations of two volumes of short stories, Ouvert la Nuit [Open All Night] and Tendrcs Stocks [Fancy Goods]. Pound became interested in Morand’s work when he first arrived in Paris in 1920. Eager to champion those “writing without humbug, without Jealousy, and with- out an eye on any market whatsoever,” Pound was particularly impressed by Morand‚ who, he felt, offered “the first clear eye that had been able to wander about both ends of Europe looking at wreckage.”
Morand’s most productive literary efforts came after a brilliant early career in the diplomatic service. When Pound first contacted him in 1920 Morand was serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris. His first collection, Tendres Stocks, appeared that year to considerable praise, enhanced by an introduction by Marcel Proust, and in February, 1922. Ouvert la Nuit was an instant success. Pound, as the Paris correspondent of The Dial, described Morand’s rising reputation in his October “Paris letter.”
In the spring of 1922, Pound signed a contract with the English publishers‚ Chapman and Dodd, to translate Ouvert la Nuit and Tendres Stocks. Morand was “very glad” to have Pound as a translator and a certain amount of collaboration took place between the two. Pound must have worked at astonishing speed. The completed manuscripts were delivered within a month of the signing of the contracts.
Almost as quickly‚ Chapman and Dodd rejected the translations—partly on the grounds of sexual frankness and partly on the advice of A.B. Walkley, a critic who had reviewed Morand for the London Times. He had written the publish- ers: “You certainly cannot with credit, or indeed without ridicule, publish this translation.” He criticized Pound’s carelessness, his vulgarities, his Americanisms, his tastelessness, his lack of understanding of the author’s meaning (”absolute howlers”)—and then tips his hand by questioning the wisdom of publishing any Morand. “I think an English version, however accomplished, couldn’t fail to be ugly.”
Pound was understandably furious. He mistakenly thought that J. Middleton Murry, who had reviewed Morand in The Nation, was Chapman and Dodd’s outside reader He wrote him a tart little note: “Toddle on, and take your little dose of arsenic. Devotedly, E.P.”
Chapman and Dodd compensated Pound for his troubles with a single payment of £25. The translations disappeared into Pound’s trunk where they lay undisturbed for over half a century.