Who is Cesare Pavese?
Cesare Pavese (UK: /pæˈveɪzeɪ, -zi/ pav-AY-zay, -zee, Italian: [ˈtʃeːzare paˈveːse, ˈtʃɛː-, -eːze]; 9 September 1908 – 27 August 1950) was an Italian novelist, poet, short story writer, translator, literary critic, and essayist. He is often referred to as one of the most influential Italian writers of his time.
The typical protagonist in the works of Pavese is a loner, through choice or through circumstances. Their relationships with men and women tend to be temporary and superficial. They may wish to have more solidarity with other people, but they often end up betraying their 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 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.