Cesare Pavese

The first of our High Window previews featured a poem by the American poet J.S. Belote which was inspired by the work of Cesare Pavese, an Italian poet and novelist who was himself inspired by Twentieth Century American literature.

So here’s a biographical introduction in case you’d like to find out a little bit more about the man and his work:

Cesare Pavese is widely regarded as one of the foremost men of letters in twentieth-century Italian cultural history, and in particular as an emblematic figure: an earnest writer maimed by fascism and struggling with the modern existentialist dilemma of alienated meaning. Little known in the United States, Pavese was profoundly influenced by American literature, and, when official censorship closed his mouth, he would use his position as a translator and editor indirectly to bring into Italy messages of freedom and new ideas from English-language authors. Most Italians first encountered Herman Melville, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, and Daniel Defoe in Pavese’s translations, and also encountered their influence, and echoes of their meditations, in Pavese’s own highly accomplished body of novels, short stories, and poems.

You can read more here

or you can go straight to some poems here at POETRY FOUNDATION. You could do worse than start with this one: The Country Whore in a splendid version by Geoffrey Brock.

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Here also are some extracts from The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950:

‘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.’
May 5, 1936

‘Literature is a defense against the attacks of life.’
May 5, 1936

‘Will power is only the tensile strength of one’s own disposition. One cannot increase it by a single ounce.’
Jan. 15, 1938

‘Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.’
January 19, 1938

‘Love is the cheapest of religions.’
December 21, 1939

‘Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference.’
February 21, 1940

‘If it were possible to have a life absolutely free from every feeling of sin, what a terrifying vacuum it would be!’
March 17, 1940

‘The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.’
Feb. 13, 1940

‘Artists are the monks of the bourgeois state.’
July 25, 1940

‘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.”
March 25, 1950

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Finally, don’t forget that The High Window has  previously featured two selections of specially commissioned translations from the work of Italian poets. You can find them by following the links below:

THW1: March 1, 2016

THW3: September 1, 2016

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