Again the rain will fall
on the sweet pavements,
a light rain
like a breath or a footstep.
Stunned by the world, I reached an age
when I threw punches at air and cried to myself.
Listening to the speech of women and men,
not knowing how to respond, it's not fun.
On the asphalt of the avenue the moon makes
a quiet lake and my friend remembers other times.
A spontaneous encounter used to be enough for him
and he was no longer alone. Looking at the moon,
Death will come with your eyes—
this death that accompanies us
from morning till night, sleepless,
deaf, like an old regret
Dawn's faint breath
breathes with your mouth
at the ends of empty streets.
Gray light your eyes,
Black earth red earth,
you come from the sea,
from the arid green,
where there are ancient
Man and woman watch each other lying in bed:
their two bodies stretched out wide and exhausted.
the man is still, only the woman takes long breaths
that quiver her ribs. The legs distended
You have a face of carved stone,
blood of hardened earth,
you came from the sea.
All is gathered and scrutinized
Why be ashamed? When one has done time,
if they let one out, it's because like everybody else
who belongs to the streets, one has been in prison.
From morning till evening we wander the avenues
This body won't start again. Touching his eye sockets
one feels a heap of earth is more alive,
that the earth, even at dawn, does not keep itself so quiet.
But a corpse is the remains of too many awakenings.
Cesare Pavese was an Italian poet, novelist, literary critic and translator; he is widely considered among the major authors of the 20th century in his home country. Early life and education Cesare Pavese was born in Santo Stefano Belbo, in the province of Cuneo. It was the village where his father was born and where the family returned for the summer holidays each year. He started infant classes in San Stefano Belbo, but the rest of his education was in schools in Turin. His most important teacher at the time was Augusto Monti, writer and educator, whose writing style was devoid of all rhetoric. As a young man of letters, Pavese had a particular interest in English-language literature, graduating from the University of Turin with a thesis on the poetry of Walt Whitman. Among his mentors at the university was Leone Ginzburg, expert on Russian literature and literary critic, husband of the writer Natalia Ginzburg and father of the future historian Carlo Ginzburg. In those years, Pavese translated both classic and recent American and British authors that were then new to the Italian public. Arrest and conviction; the war in Italy Pavese moved in antifascist circles. In 1935 he was arrested and convicted for having letters from a political prisoner. After a few months in prison he was sent into "confino", internal exile in Southern Italy, the commonly used sentence for those guilty of lesser political crimes. (Carlo Levi and Leone Ginzburg, also from Turin, were similarly sent into confino.) A year later Pavese returned to Turin, where he worked for the left-wing publisher Giulio Einaudi as editor and translator. Natalia Ginzburg also worked there. Pavese was living in Rome when he was called up into the fascist army, but because of his asthma he spent six months in a military hospital. When he returned to Turin, German troops occupied the streets and most of his friends had left to fight as partisans. Pavese fled to the hills around Serralunga di Crea, near Casale Monferrato.He took no part in the armed struggle taking place in that area. During the years in Turin, he was the mentor of the young writer and translator Fernanda Pivano, his former student at the Liceo D'Azeglio.Pavese gave her the American edition of Spoon River Anthology, which came out in Pivano's Italian translation in 1943. After the war After the war Pavese joined the Italian Communist Party and worked on the party's newspaper, L'Unità. The bulk of his work was published during this time. Toward the end of his life, he would frequently visit Le Langhe, the area where he was born, where he found great solace. Depression, the failure of a brief love affair with the actress Constance Dowling, to whom his last novel was dedicated, and political disillusionment led him to his suicide by an overdose of barbiturates in 1950. That year he had won the Strega Prize for La Bella Estate, comprising three novellas: 'La tenda', written in 1940, 'Il diavolo sulle colline'(1948) and 'Tra donne sole' (1949). Leslie Fiedler wrote of Pavese's death "...for the Italians, his death has come to have a weight like that of Hart Crane for us, a meaning that penetrates back into his own work and functions as a symbol in the literature of an age." The circumstances of his suicide, which took place in a hotel room, mimic the last scene of Tra Donne Sole (Among Women Only), his penultimate book. His last book was 'La Luna e i Falò', published in Italy in 1950 and translated into English as The Moon and the Bonfires by Louise Sinclair in 1952. He was an atheist. Work themes The typical protagonist in the works of Pavese is a loner, through choice or through circumstances. His relationships with men and women tend to be temporary and superficial. He may wish to have more solidarity with other people, but he often ends up betraying his ideals and friends; for example in The Prison, the political exile in a village in Southern Italy receives a note from another political confinato living nearby, who suggests a meeting. The protagonist rejects a show of solidarity and refuses to meet him. The title of the collection of the two novellas is Before the Cock Crows, a reference to Peter's betrayal of Christ before his death. The Langhe, the area where he spent his summer holidays as a boy, had a great hold on Pavese. It is a land of rolling hills covered in vineyards. It is an area where he felt literally at home, but he recognised the harsh and brutal lives that poor peasants had making a living from the land. Bitter struggles took place between Germans and partisans in this area. The land became part of Pavese's personal mythology. In The Moon and the Bonfires, the protagonist tells a story of drinking beer in a bar in America. A man comes in whom he recognizes as being from the valleys of Le Langhe by his way of walking and his outlook. He speaks to him in dialect suggesting a bottle of their local wine would be better than the beer. After some years in America, the protagonist returns to his home village. He explores Le Langhe with a friend who had remained in the area. He finds out that so many of his contemporaries have died in sad circumstances, some as partisans shot by the Germans, while a notable local beauty had been executed by partisans as a fascist spy.)
The Cats Will Know
Again the rain will fall
on the sweet pavements,
a light rain
like a breath or a footstep.
Again the breeze and the dawn
will blossom lightly
beneath your footstep
as you reenter.
Among flowers and sills
the cats will know it.
There will be other days.
There will be other voices.
You will smile alone.
The cats will know it.
You will hear antique words,
tired and empty words
like the disused costumes
from yesterday's festivals.
You too will make gestures.
You will respond with words—
face of Spring,
you too will make gestures.
The cats will know it,
face of Spring;
and the light rain,
the hyacinth-color dawn,
that tears the heart of one
who no longer longs for you,
they are the sad smile
you smile alone.
There will be other days,
other voices and awakenings.
We will suffer at dawn,
face of Spring.
Will power is only the tensile strength of one's own disposition. One cannot increase it by a single ounce.
Literature is a defense against the attacks of life. It says to life: "You can't deceive me. I know your habits, foresee and enjoy watching all your reactions, and steal your secret by involving you in cunning obstructions that halt your normal flow."
If it were possible to have a life absolutely free from every feeling of sin, what a terrifying vacuum it would be!
One does not kill oneself for love of a woman, but because love—any love—reveals us in our nakedness, our misery, our vulnerability, our nothingness.
No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.
A man is never completely alone in this world. At the worst, he has the company of a boy, a youth, and by and by a grown man—the one he used to be.
Love is the cheapest of religions.
Reality is a prison, where ... one vegetates and always will. All the rest—thought, action—is just a pastime, mental or physical. What counts then, is to come to grips with reality. The rest can go.
At great periods you have always felt, deep within you, the temptation to commit suicide. You gave yourself to it; breached your own defenses. You were a child. The idea of suicide was a protest against life; by dying, you would escape this longing for death.
Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. It means involving oneself in a complicated chain of circumstances.
Artists are the monks of the bourgeois state.
Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference.
Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.
The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.