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Cesare Pavese/ NOVELS/ THEATRE/ POETRY/ MAIN

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(1908-1951)

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Cesare Pavese was born in Piedmont in 1908. Now considered one of Italy's most distinctive writers, he was unable to publish his creative writing during the fascist era and instead channelled his energies into translating the work of English-language writers into Italian. He was imprisoned by the government in 1935 - inspiring his novel The Political Prisoner - and lived with the partisans between 1943 and 1945. The bulk of his work - stories, poems and novels - appeared between 1945 and his suicide in 1951.

The Moon and the Bonfire

Excerpt - translated from the Italian by Louise Sinclair
...And now he was telling me of his life in the band. Round about us were the villages where he had been; by day they shone in the sunlight, picked out by clumps of trees, by night they were nests of stars in the black sky. When he and the rest of the band, whom he taught on Saturday nights in a shed at the station, arrived at the fair, they were full of high spirits; then for the next two or three days they never shut an eye and they stopped playing only to eat - away went the clarinet for the glass, the glass for the fork, then back they went to clarinet or cornet or trumpet. Then they ate a bit more and drank a bit more, then came a solo and after that a snack and then a huge supper, and they'd stay awake till morning. There were festas, processions and marriages, and contests with the rival bands. On the morning of the second and third days they got down from the platform with their eyes popping out of their heads and it was a relief to dash their faces in a bucket of water and maybe throw themselves flat on the meadow grass among the carts and wagons and the droppings of the horses and oxen.

"Who paid for all this?" I used to say. The local authorities, a rich family perhaps, or an ambitious man, all these footed the bill. And those who came to eat, he said, were always the same.

And you should have heard what they ate. I kept remembering the suppers they told about at La Mora, suppers of other villages and other times. But the dishes they served were still the same, and when I heard about them I seemed to be back in the farm-kitchen at La Mora and to see the women busy grating and making the pasta and stuffing and lifting the lids off and blowing up the fire, and the taste of it all came back to me, and I heard again the crackling of the broken vine shoots...