The town where the Cesare Pavese legend lives on


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The town where the Cesare Pavese legend lives on

Fondazione Cesare Pavese
A series of events in Italy this month are commemorating
what would have been the 100th birthday of the poet
and author Cesare Pavese, above, who committed suicide in 1950.

By Elisabetta Povoledo
Published: September 23, 2008

SANTO STEFANO BELBO, Italy: A photocopy of the suicide note that Cesare Pavese left when he took his life on the night of Aug. 26, 1950, hangs on a wall here, in the house where he was born. It reads: "I forgive everyone and ask everyone's forgiveness. O.K.? Don't gossip too much."

It was a last request that would never be heeded. The combination of Pavese's tormented life and his acclaim as one of the country's major 20th-century poets and authors has meant that he's still a talked-about figure in Italy. Particularly now, as a series of commemorations mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, on Sept. 7.

"There's always been lots of discussion about his private life, his love stories and his politics, but we should speak about Pavese as a writer, poet and narrator," said Luigi Gatti, president of the association that runs the Pavese museum in this vineyard-covered corner of Piedmont where the author spent the first years of his life. "We should stop talking about his human frailties and defects and focus on the fact that he was a great writer."

That may be. But part of Pavese's lasting appeal is undoubtedly wrapped up in his anguished life and the final act that ended it one summer night in a hotel room in Turin.

His biography continues to draw thousands of fans to Pavese's native Langhe hills on reverent literary pilgrimages, seeking out the sights and sounds of the places and hardscrabble people that the author mythicized in his work.

In Pavese land, tourists quote passages from his books and poems from memory as they traipse among the landmarks of his fiction. They pore over Pavese memorabilia, even though much of what they're looking at is a facsimile (including the furniture in the museum, which dates to the pre-World War I period during which Pavese lived here but was not his).

"Is that her? Is that the woman of 'Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi"' (Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes)? asked one lavishly coiffed woman, pointing to a photograph in the museum of Constance Dowling, Pavese's American love, whose return to the United States deepened his depression in the weeks before he killed himself.

"She was the proverbial straw that broke him, but the fact is that he found it very difficult to continue living," Gatti said somberly.

The harsh countryside that Pavese immortalized has prospered considerably in the last 50 years, mostly due to the local muscat grapes and the resultant sparkling wines. But economic development has exacted a cultural cost that institutions here are trying to curtail. Pavese is part of the antidote.

"We are witnessing the slow decay of society and our cultural model is being corrupted by anthropological changes, so to rediscover the words of Cesare Pavese is to return to higher values," said Giuliano Soria, president of the Grinzane Cavour Prize, a cultural institution that - among many activities - grants annual literary prizes dedicated to Pavese. Soria was speaking at this year's awards ceremony, which took place on Sept. 7. Among the winners was the Nobel laureate Imre Kertész.

Pavese may have struggled to make sense of his own life, Soria said, "but he helps us as we reflect on our own existence."

This year the Grinzane Cavour Prize is also sponsoring a diary-writing competition (though short stories are accepted) in honor of Pavese, who kept a thoughtful, often anguished, journal during the last 15 years of his life.

Academic and editorial interest in the Italian author persists today, both at home and abroad. "We have a correspondent in Hanoi who just wrote to tell me that a translation of 'La Bella Estate' was recently published in Vietnamese," said Antonio Catalfamo, the coordinator for the Permanent Observatory for Pavese Studies in the World. He was referring to the novel ("The Fine Summer") for which Pavese received Italy's most prestigious literary award in 1950, shortly before his suicide.

Pavese's translations of American novels by Joyce, Dos Passos, Stein, Steinbeck and Faulkner, to name a few, and essays on American fiction also had a significant ripple effect during the years of Fascist rule.

"During full Fascism we read his translations and followed his cultural battles," said Raffaele La Capria, an Italian writer and another recipient this year of the Grinzane Pavese prize. "For a young boy, they opened the horizons of unpredictability, holding out the promise of political and spiritual freedom."

Claudio Gorlier, a writer and one of Italy's foremost experts in Anglo-Saxon literature, added that, "entire generations of young Italians discovered America" because of Pavese's "splendid and modern" translations.


Full article at:
« Last Edit: 24 Sep, 2008, 13:12:55 by wings »
Ο λόγος είναι μεγάλη ανάγκη της ψυχής. (Γιώργος Ιωάννου)


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