Let the Wind Speak
Mary de Rachewiltz and Ezra Pound
by Carol Shloss
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Carol Loeb Shloss creates a compelling portrait of a complex relationship of a daughter and her literary-giant father: Ezra Pound and Mary de Rachewiltz, Pound’s child by his long-time mistress, the violinist Olga Rudge. Brought into the world in secret and hidden in the Italian Alps at birth, Mary was raised by German peasant farmers, had Italian identity papers, a German-speaking upbringing, Austrian loyalties common to the area and, perforce, a fascist education.
For years, de Rachewiltz had no idea that Pound and Rudge, the benefactors who would sporadically appear, were her father and mother. Gradually the truth of her parentage was revealed, and with it the knowledge that Dorothy Shakespear, and not Olga, was Pound’s actual wife. Dorothy, in turn, kept her own secrets: while Pound signed the birth certificate of her son, Omar, and claimed legal paternity, he was not the boy’s biological father. Two lies, established at the birth of these children, created a dynamic antagonism that lasted for generations.
Pound maneuvered through it until he was arrested for treason after World War II and shipped back from Italy to the United States, where he was institutionalized rather than imprisoned. As an adult, de Rachewiltz took on the task of claiming a contested heritage and securing her father’s literary legacy in the face of a legal system that failed to recognize her legitimacy. Born on different continents, separated by nationality, related by natural birth, and torn apart by conflict between Italy and America, Mary and Ezra Pound found a way to live out their deep and abiding love for one another.
Let the Wind Speak is both a history of modern writers who were forced to negotiate allegiances to one another and to their adopted countries in a time of mortal conflict, and the story of Mary de Rachewiltz’s navigation through issues of personal identity amid the shifting politics of western nations in peace and war. It is a masterful biography that asks us to consider cultures of secrecy, frayed allegiances, and the boundaries that define nations, families, and politics.
""[A] meticulous literary biography...Shloss illuminates the complexities of Mary’s life [and]...captures her 'fiercely principled' subject and the times in which she lived, using impressive research to highlight the obstacles she navigated to secure her father’s literary legacy. Pound scholars will appreciate new insights into his personal life.""—Publishers Weekly
""In this deeply researched biography of an extraordinary and fascinating living person, Carol Loeb Shloss uncovers web upon web of the lies, secrets, and silences that entangled Mary de Rachewiltz even before her birth as Mary Rudge in 1925 in Bressanone, Italy (formerly Austria). What other major writer’s child has a life story that intersects at all points with both international geopolitics and her father’s boundary-crossing, world-making poetry and poetics; with the after-effects of one world war and the lived experience of another; with the hidden causes and devastating effects of Italian and Allied spy networks, including Hoover’s FBI, whose abuse of the law came to daylight in the Watergate investigation; with the contending by lawyers, scholars, and libraries over a valuable international literary estate? Let the Wind Speak casts new light on Ezra Pound’s controversial yet indispensable life and work through the lens of his daughter’s life, full of twists, turns, surprises, and mysteries, some of them still unsolved. As a portrait of Mary de Rachewiltz, it captures a moving image of its courageous subject—an eloquent poet, writer, and translator in her own right—as she navigates formidable familial, political, literary, and legal terrains over a turbulent century with forbearance, grace, and creative love.""—Christine Froula, Northwestern University