22 July 2021, The Tablet

Dry sticks

Dry sticks

The Poets of Rapallo: How Mussolini’s Italy Shaped British, Irish, and US Writers
(Oxford university press, 256 PP, £25)
Tablet bookshop price £22.50 • tel 020 7799 4064

Rapallo was a “modestly fashionable” resort on the Ligurian coast, already frequented by Max Beerbohm and Gerhart Hauptmann, when Ezra Pound (inset) settled there in 1924 and it became, in his words, a “licherary centre of Yourup”. His old friend W.B. Yeats took to wintering there from 1928 and became, as Laura Arrington puts it, “an equal if more reticent touchstone” for the group of younger left-leaning poets who gathered and later sought to draw a veil over their time in Rapallo as fellow travellers. This scholarly new study draws on a wealth of ­correspondence and unpublished writings to cast new light on their collaborations with Pound and how they dealt with owing so much to a man who subsequently went beyond the pale. It is not an exposé of wolves who later dressed as sheep, but rather an enquiry into the multifaceted allure of the Italian fascist aesthetic at a time when everyone had Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West in their suitcase and a period of “Caesarism” seemed like an historic inevitability. For Yeats, the catastrophe of Irish politics had shown up democracy as a dead duck and “even tyrannical rule” by an elite intelligentsia had its attractions.

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