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(11/09/2014) The Moon & The Bonfires by Cesare Pavese. New York. 1953. Farrar Straus & Young. hardcover. 206 pages. Translated from the Italian by Marianne Ceconi. Foreword by Paolo Milano. keywords: Literature Italy Translated.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Anguila, the narrator, is a successful businessman lured home from California to the Piedmontese village where he was fostered by peasants. But, after twenty years, much has changed. Slowly, through the power of memory, he is able to piece together the past and relates it to what he finds left in the present. He looks at the lives and sometimes violent faces of the villagers he has known from childhood, setting the poverty, ignorance or indifference that binds them to these hills and valleys against the beauty of the landscape and the rhythm of the seasons. With stark realism and muted compassion, Pavese weaves the strands together and brings them to a stark and poignant climax.

Cesare Pavese (9 September 1908 – 27 August 1950) 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. 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. 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 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.

 

 

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