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Cesare Pavese and America

Cesare Pavese and America: Life, Love, and Literature

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Cesare Pavese and America
    Book Description:

    When he committed suicide at age fortyone, Cesare Pavese (1908–1950) was one of Italy’s bestknown writers. A poet, novelist, literary critic, and translator, he had been profoundly influenced in his early years by American literature. But later he grew disaffected with American culture, coming to see it as materialistic and shallow. This book, the first fulllength Englishlanguage study of Pavese in twenty years, examines his life and the evolution of his views of America through a chronological reading of his works.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-163-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations and Pavese Editions Cited
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. “Introducing Cesare Pavese”
    (pp. 1-14)

    That is the title Leslie Fiedler gave his 1954 essay on Pavese, an essay which in 2001 the italian editors of a collection of pieces on Pavese translated and included because “Fiedler saw beyond all italian criticism of the time; he succeeded … in digging deeply, writing truly illuminating pages well ahead of their time.”¹ Fiedler described Pavese as “the best of recent italian novelists,” better than “moravia, vittorini, Berto or Pratolini … or silone … Pavese is the most poetic of recent italian fictionists.” He wrote this four years after Pavese, at the height of his powers and fame,...

  6. PART I

    • ONE The End Game: Connie and Cesare
      (pp. 17-34)

      In his diary entry for January 14, 1950, Cesare Pavese, sitting in Turin, noted, “Thinking back on the Dowling sisters, I know I lost a great chance to fool around.”¹ He was referring to Constance and Doris Dowling, two American actresses who had come to Rome to try their luck in the dynamically expanding postwar Italian movie industry. Constance, New York–born, twenty-nine when the forty-one-year-old Pavese met her, was an attractive sandy blond; Doris, twenty-six, a brunette. Doris had more success in Italy, as she had in the United States. In her best-known role before coming to Italy, Doris...

    • TWO Family and Friends
      (pp. 35-56)

      To chart the beginning of Pavese’s life we must move from the center of Turin, where he ended it, about sixty miles southeast to a region of undulating hills called Le Langhe, in the midst of which lies the nine-square-mile municipality of Santo Stefano Belbo. An unremarkable agricultural town of about four thousand inhabitants at the edge of the province of Cuneo, Santo Stefano typifies the whole Langhe area. Low-growing grape vines, planted with almost military regularity, march in straight lines and closed ranks up the easy sloping hills. Corn covers large areas and in some of the vineyards a...

    • THREE Tina
      (pp. 57-85)

      Battistina Pizzardo was first introduced to the literary world as a series of editorial asterisks in Pavese’s published letters and the early editions of his diary; then as “the woman with the hoarse voice” to readers of the earliest biography of Pavese.¹ Pavese and all her other friends called her Tina.² Like Pavese, she came from a middle-class family, hers strongly Catholic. Her mother died when Tina was nine and her father, employed in the Turin office of one of Italy’s large insurance companies, placed her in a strict, all-girls Catholic boarding school, which she attended for eight years. Then,...

    • FOUR Einaudi, Fernanda, and World War II
      (pp. 86-106)

      Between 1930 and 1936 the major part of Pavese’s creative energies went into translations, critical essays, and poetry, while beginning with 1936 his efforts went mainly into short stories, novels, and editing. He did continue to translate to support himself. He translated four books in 1937, all of which were published in 1938: John Dos Passos’sThe Big Money, John Steinbeck’sOf Mice and Men, Daniel Defoe’sMoll Flanders, and Gertrude Stein’sThe Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Teaching would have been a natural choice for more income, but his expulsion from the Fascist party and his confino barred him...

    • FIVE Liberation?
      (pp. 107-132)

      For many Italians, particularly those on the political left, the immediate postwar days and months carried great hope. They felt that the blood shed in the civil warsurelywould lead not only to peace, but to a renewal and reordering of Italian society. Intellectuals were to play a leading role in bringing about a more just and equitable society, a public role. Both because he wanted to believe in that role and because he needed to atone for his nonparticipation in the civil war, Pavese joined the Italian Communist Party in 1945 and began writing for the party newspaper,...

  7. PART II

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • SIX “Viva Walt Whitman”
      (pp. 135-168)

      Cesare Pavese never lived in or visited America; indeed, though he grew up seventy miles from Switzerland and fifty miles from the French border he never set foot outside Italy. The Italian liceo curriculum in the 1920s included neither English as a foreign language nor American literature in translation. Yet before he graduated from D’Azeglio in 1926 he read English well and preferred Walt Whitman above all other English-language writers.

      By the end of his third year of university Pavese had already chosen Whitman as the subject of his degree thesis (tesi di laurea). Just before his fourth and last...

    • SEVEN “The peach of the world”
      (pp. 169-214)

      After finishing his thesis, Pavese published between 1930 and 1934 ten essays on American writers, wrote four reviews of books relating to America, translated four American novels, includingMoby-Dick, and added prefaces to two of these and anavvertenza(notice to readers) to a third.¹ (In 1934 he also translated James Joyce’sPortrait of the Artist as a Young Man.) While he continued to translate American fiction after his return from confino in 1936, these earlier years constitute his most productive period of the 1930s, a decade Pavese later called, referring not only to his own work, the “decade of...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • EIGHT “Storia passata”
      (pp. 215-248)

      In the July–August 1933 issue ofLa CulturaPavese published his essay on Whitman; his next for the journal would be the one on Faulkner in April 1934. The Whitman essay carried forward the same enthusiastic, warm appreciation of Whitman and of American culture that characterized all of Pavese’s writings about America beginning a decade earlier in the liceo. One has to search hard and generally in vain to findanythingnegative about America in all Pavese’s writing up to and including the Whitman essay of 1933. Not so in 1934. Things changed that year.

      In the short (one-thousand-word)...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 249-278)
  9. Suggested Reading
    (pp. 279-282)
  10. Illustration Source Credits
    (pp. 283-284)
  11. Index
    (pp. 285-303)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-306)