Author Talks: “Cesare Pavese and America”


>>And it is my very great pleasure
to welcome you to the author talk on “Cesare Pavese and America”,
co-sponsored by the W. E. B. Du Bois Library, the Department of Languages,
Literatures, and Cultures, in particular the unit in
French and Italian, UMass Press, and the
College of Humanities and Fine Arts. And here we are to celebrate the
arrival of the Smith-Pavese Collection at the Library, and it’s an incredible
treat to see all of this come together, to finally meet Larry Smith,
about whom I’ve heard so much from my colleagues and to see familiar
faces, and I can’t resist putting in a personal note: I have known Mark
Pietralunga for longer than either of us cares to remember, um, as fellow
department chairs, um, from you know, yesterday and today,
and so anyways, and uh, Geoff, I don’t know if you know this,
but I chaired the Lois Roth Prize Committee
in 2004 that gave the best prize in literary translation to
Disaffections and it was such a magnificent book, and I had
all kinds of pleasure dipping back into it and rereading
it these last few weeks, so it’s wonderful to actually
see you here in person. And so what a great event,
lovely to see you all here, I’m going to pass the word to
Jim Kelly from the library, he’s going to say a few things
about the collection.>>Thank you, Julie.>>[OFFSCREEN] Jim, Jim, could you use the –
>>Oh, yes, right.>>This…
>>[OFFSCREEN] Is it working?>>Do we have volume?
Is it, uh…>>[OFFSCREEN] Tap the top.>>[TAPS ON MIC] Oh. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]>>[OFFSCREEN] High-tech…>>Uh, thank you all for coming, uh,
I’m really pleased to be able to, uh, introduce this event
on behalf of the Library. Thinking back, and as I will tell you
in a few minutes, uh, as to something of the
history of the Libraries and the appreciation we have
for Larry’s gift. Uh, I finished library school in 1974, which was when this library
opened the first time around and I recall looking at a picture
of it on the cover of American Libraries Magazine and
thought, “What a silly building!”.>>[OFFSCREEN LAUGHTER]>>28 floors, and of course the
technology, such as it was then, involved only the ability to, uh, to check
out books online and to, uh, bill people when those books
were overdue. All the other technology
as intervened since. So, uh, just a few words about that. When I entered the field of librarianship
in 1974, the academic library was little changed in appearance and
operation from that of the previous century, but we were on
the cusp of a sea change which would, which would
witness automated cataloging, online catalogs, searchable
databases, and finally the internet, which combined and brought
us to the current state of the library. Undoubtedly, almost all of this has
been to the benefit of the library user and those dedicated to serving the
public, but there have been some inevitable changes, uh, which some
might see as losses against all the gains of
poorly-bought technology. One cheap alteration in the academic
library in recent years has been the reduction in the acquisition
of print materials, especially books and the reliance instead on digital
surrogates and interlibrary loan. Thus, the joy of serendipity and browsing
through favorite branches of the stacks had been reduced, as the books to
be encountered thereby had dwindled in number. For this reason among others,
a gift such as this from Lawrence Smith is so
warmly welcomed on all sides. Intensive collecting is, for the
most part, a thing of the past in all but the very largest of
research libraries, but thanks to Larry’s gift, we
have a new bright spot in the stacks, and in the online catalog,
when we search for materials related to or by Cesare Pavese. Lingering in the area of,
and forgive me the library speak here, PQ4835.A846, the region assigned
by the Library of Congress to books by and about Pavese.
We can revel in the bibliophilic pleasures of sampling
a wide range of books hitherto unavailable to users
of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. And while we now have this
powerful tribute to traditional forms of librarianship, we also
have the distinct benefits yielded by computers and software,
namely the ability to virtually browse those same materials by call number,
author, subject, keyword, and combinations thereof. In addition, we can locate
all of Larry’s gift books by searching those
bibliographic records under his name, and view
as well the digital bookplate affixed to each record. But Larry’s gift is not only a
measurable enhancement to the Library’s circulating
collection, but includes six of Pavese’s books signed by him,
some with dedications, and they’re in the back
of the room. In the same timeframe
as that described before, concerning the decrease in the
growth of traditional collections, special collections and archives
have, as it were, been newly discovered, and the
riches they contribute to the institution of which they are
a part are unmatched. Unlike the general sameness
of commercially-acquired books in circulating collections,
special collections are repositories of rare or unique items, either
on their own or as they relate to other objects within those
collections. Our archives have experienced
a wondrous expansion since the early 2000s, and that
increase in materials continues unabated. Most of this growth belongs to the
acquisition of archival collections pertaining to social movements
of the 20th century, local and regional historical documents,
and a seemingly endless, uh, number of distinct and distinctive
donations or purchases that further enhance the significance of our
Special Collections and University Archives as a destination for scholars,
researchers, and, increasingly, graduates and undergraduate
students. To those draws, we can now add
Larry Smith’s handsome and treasured volumes for the use
of generations to come. And I’ve been asked to do the one thing
that librarians I guess like to do most, other than shushing people or
the other sensible things that we are renowned for. It’s to show you just briefly
how technology has served to bring this together,
for people not able to visit the Library or in advance of a visit to
the Library, so that they can, um, witness these
digitally, firsthand, secondhand, the collection that we have
almost entirely cataloged now that Larry brought to us this summer. So, from the Library homepage,
I’ll be brief about this, uh, we will go…here…
and, we will look at the… This is the part where you’ll
have to bear with me I’m uh, an inveterate user
of the old way of looking at the catalog.
We have a new way of doing it, which involves a Discovery
Service, which brings together items not only in the catalog,
but also in databases. Um, this particular search,
I think works better than the old-fashioned way-
well, the new old-fashioned way, as it were. So we’ve got the
Five College Catalog, and we’ll look for… […] it’s ‘C’, right?>>G
>>G! Sorry, I should know better, working with all these records… So, […] Each of the bibliographic
records, uh, that has a field in it which attributes the donation,
the gift, to Larry, and, uh, as well as […] the display, we will
get down to the digital bookplate
which…ah! Oh, sorry! This is not
one of them, I don’t know how it got here.
That’s a Smith College one… [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] I’ll have to question
them about that. So here – this is a genuine one –
here is the field that describes the gift of Lawrence G. Smith,
and here’s the digital bookplate. So we have been concerned, uh,
in the world of conservation that the adhesives on the
back of these bookplates was potentially damaging to
the materials, so we moved away from that and, uh,
not wanting entirely to disregard the, uh, the warmth of
feelings we have for people who donate things, uh, especially
a lovely collection like this, we’ve been able to concoct this
with the help of technical services and systems people and provide
this with all the books given us by donors. And with that,
I will introduce… Roberto Ludovico, who will be I –
the M.C. for today?>>Okay.
>>And thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]>>Please understand that this
object is absolutely traumatic for me, so be patient. Um, uh, but I will use it to add
my voice and thanks to Larry uh, for this wonderful gift, and
also to our guests who accepted to join us to, uh, to celebrate the
110th anniversary of Pavese’s birth, who was born on September
9th, um, 1908. Um, Geoffrey, uh, Brock, Mark
Pietralunga, our own Andrea Malaguti, and Larry Smith, of course. Um… In addition, uh, I must say thank
you, um, to the Library staff: to Jim Kelly, to Kim Fill,
and all their, uh, colleagues who have been working
intensely throughout the summer um, to make this occasion
possible um, the cataloging and time
for the event as well as the organization of this,
um, for this colloquium. Thank you very much. Um, so it was April, I think,
when Larry contacted me um, asking if, um, the Library –
or if I might inquire if the Library would be interested
in receiving this, uh, collection, which is his
entire library, uh, of books by Pavese, on Pavese,
and around Pavese. Larry and I met
probably 10 years ago for the several conferences that
were organized for the 100th anniversary
of Pavese’s birth, we kept loosely in touch,
uh, and it was, uh, I was delighted to hear
back from him especially with such a
generous offer. I RAN to the Library, um, and I
was, uh, very touched by the enthusiasm with which uh, the offer
was – was received both by, um
Jim Kelly, and Kim, as well as from Rob,
Robert Cox, um, the Head of the
Special Collections. From the kind of reaction I had
from them I knew that this thing was going to happen no matter what,
they were going to make sure that the books, uh, were going to come
here and that we were going to celebrate the collection and
Pavese today. Um, the actual original idea
for this colloquium I owe to Andrea Malaguti, who first came up with this,
with this project and has been a big part in
the organization of it. Um… I just want to, um,
add one short anecdote, the first email exchange
that I had with Robert Cox uh, he, um, said that he was obviously very happy
to receive the books at Special Collections, and he
was somewhat apologetic because Pavese was not represented
already in the Special Collections and uh, in my view,
from my point of view, Pavese was indeed
already in this library if not with books,
physically, at least in spirit. Several years ago, when I
was working on the exchanges, the letters exchanges between
Pavese and Renato Poggioli I discovered recordings here
in Special Collections of the radio program from the, uh,
Literary Society of Massachusetts in which a number of, um,
American literature scholars were invited to discuss classics
of Italian – of American literature from a perspective
of the outsiders. The title of the series was,
I think, eight episodes was “As Others Read Us:
American Fiction Abroad.” What a wonderful idea it is to
make an effort to look at ourselves from the outside, from the point of
view of other cultures and other people. Uh, in one of those, uh, tapes,
there was a discussion, a conversation about
Sinclair Lewis, in which Perry Miller and Renato Poggioli
were the two interviewees to discuss it. Um, as I read through,
um, the, um, the transcripts, and I listened to
the tape, I realized that, um, Poggioli was heavily relying
upon Pavese’s essays on American literature in his,
um, presentation and his conversation with Barry Miller. He quoted Pavese, um,
several times and somehow, um, jokingly, I wrote in
an essay that he traveled from Cambridge here and in
his train ride, he was reading, um, Pavese’s essays on, um,
on American literature. Um, I would write it again and
probably bet that, um, Pavese was still for Poggioli and
many others of that generation the point of entry in the, um,
modern American Literature that had a huge impact
on Italian 20th Century, um literature. Pavese was one of the pioneers,
uh, as a translator, and as a critic, um, among a small group of
other ‘Americanists’, as they defined themselves, uh, and perhaps one
of those who had the, um strongest impacts, uh, as a
translator, as I said, and as a critic. Um, I’ll finish by quoting a passage
quoted by Renato Poggioli, uh, from ‘Ieri e Oggi’, one of Pavese’s
essays, in which he says, “The culture” – the American
culture he meant, “seemed to us to be an ideal place
for work and research “for a hard and difficult quest,
not merely a Tower of Babel “full of sound and fury,
made of noisy efficiency “and dogmatic optimism. “We then realized that America
was not another land “or new historical beginning,
but only the enormous stage “where the greater –
the greater truthfulness than anywhere else there was
played the drama every man.” And this is a key word for me
to understand who Pavese was and why he has become a
cult figure in Italian literature and um, and around the world: a true classic –
not a modern Italian classic but a real classic of,
um, of literature of all time. Um, personally, I’m delighted that
this, um, journey that I started, um, in this, uh, library, uh,
that I – sorry, Special Collections
comes full circle today thanks to Larry and all
of you. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] Um, Larry will close the
presentations today, we will start, um, with, um,
Mark Pietralunga he is, um a professor at
Florida State University. Um he holds the
Victor Oelschläger, um… is the Victor Oelschläger
Professor of Modern Languages
and Linguistics. Um, he holds a BA
in English from UCLA and an MA and a PhD um,
in Italian from UC Berkeley. Um, Mark is a scholar, obviously
of 20th century Italian literature. He’s particularly interested
in postwar Italian narrative um, Italian-American studies,
and translation studies. Um, he has been for several years
Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics
at his university. Many of us have known him
for a long time as the book review
editor for Italica, uh, he’s been at that
position for a long time, he’s now, um, one of the
associate editors for the, uh, for the
magazine. He has published extensively
and in Pavese in particular, in particular books that have had
a, um, fundamental impact uh, in North America. I’m referring in particular to An Absurd Vice: A Biography of
Cesare Pavese, the translation of the biography by
Davide Lajolo, who really launched the cult of Pavese in 1960,
ten years after his death. He’s written on Beppe Fenoglio, Beppe Fenoglio and English Literature:
A Study of the Writer as a Translator; again, Beppe Fenoglio e
l’esaltante fatica del tradurre, Prometeo slegato:
Pavese traduttore di P. B. Shelley for Einaudi, Quaderno di Traduzioni:
Beppe Fenoglio – Einaudi again; Cesare Pavese and
Anthony Chiuminatto, which is the topic of
his presentation today. Um, the title of Professor
Pietralunga’s presentation is “‘To My Dear, Dear Buddy in America,
Who Let Me in a New World’: Revisiting the First Chapter of
Pavese’s Discovery of America.”>>Thank you very much, Roberto. I also want to first of all
compliment you I’m not so sure I’d be able to
talk and chew gum at the same time and read here,
but I’ll do my best as well, uh, test of coordination
on my part, but let me also thank
the library staff, uh, James Kelly and
Kim Fill in particular for the invitation and
for all they’ve done in organizing the event and
working with – with Larry. Of course, I’d like to
thank the Dean, Julie Hayes; it has been a while,
a long time, it’s always great to
be back here, appreciate it and of course, I thank you
again for coming and, uh, the invitation, as well as the
department, uh, in particular French and Italian,
and the good friends, uh, Roberto and Andrea. I, uh, I too would like to – when Roberto was talking
about briefly, uh Larry, he – and the gift,
he mentioned, the generous gift, and one
of the things, apart from admiring Larry’s
scholarship over the years, being one of the lucky ones
to read his book early on and over the years, I’ve learned
what a generous man he is as well. And I’m really grateful
to know him and grateful for the invitation to
see him and be here today with him. And I was reminded
when, uh, I did read the book for the first time,
Larry’s book, wonderful book, and reporting on it,
one of the things that I said was uh, it was a good time for
Pavese studies. There was a publication
in the New York review of books by Tim Parks and he talked
about the renewed interest in Pavese at the time. He mentioned, uh,
Flint’s translation published again
at that time, uh, The Moon and the Bonfires,
La Luna e i Falò. He mentioned, uh, the wonderful
translation by Geoff Brock at that time, which is just
a great piece of translation, something that, I must say, having
studied translations of Pavese over the years, it was really quite
nice to read a good translation. From day one, that has been
one of the problems, I believe in getting Pavese over the bump
and really to be recognized has been really one of the issues
that have been treated. But in any event, it was
a good time then. We had Geoff’s book that came out,
the translations that I mentioned, then of course,
there was Larry’s books, so there was a renewed
interest at that time. I don’t know, maybe things
have kind of slowed a bit but it is nice to, to see
and to hear the words of Roberto, really talking about
hit classics, a classical work, classical figure of many works
and a great translator, as well. So let me, um, begin, but I would like to just
sort of introduce my – my comments today, by referring
to where my paper today is – sort of begins. It begins in a
collection that Italo Calvino, put together
for Einaudi in mid-1960s and he was contacting
a lot of friends of Pavese to see if he
could collect these – these letters and of course
it was published in two volumes at the time in 1966. Uh, but there was one letter
that Pavese wrote to a collaborator, uh, perhaps even a romantic
interest of Pavese, not perhaps –
a romantic interest of Pavese was Bianca Garufi and uh,
in writing to her, he said that it’s a very big deal, talking
about this collection, it’s a very big deal in terms of
quantity, quality, and importance. Since Pavese was one of the last
writers who knew how to express himself through his letters.
In fact, there is much of Pavese that the letters, and only the letters,
can give us, and I return often to that observation by, um, by Calvino. I agree fully with him whenever
I write about Pavese I’m always returning
to his letters, and I – maybe I’m a little bit biased, but
I think one of the most interesting collection – among his
collection of letters was with Antonio Chiuminatto,
and I’d like to address that now. Cesare Pavese’s correspondence
with an Italian-American musician, Anthony “Tony” Chiuminatto,
represents a fundamental chapter in the Piedmonti writer’s
development as Italy’s leading Americanist and the preeminent
translator of his generation. The epistolary exchange with
Chiuminatto offers an eloquent testimony of Pavese’s joy
of discovery of America and of the early stages of his
activity as a translator and writer. In the first letter to Chiuminatto
in late November of 1929, Pavese thanks his friend for
having initiatied him, and I quote, “To the mysteries of your language
and nation,” end of quote, and recalls the passion he felt
for American things. And in a letter of April 1930,
Pavese reveals his enthusiasm for contemporary America,
again I quote: “You are the peach
of the world, not only the “wealth and material life, but
really in liveliness and strength “of art, which means thought and
politics and religion and everything. “You’ve got to predominate in
this century, all over the civilized world, as before did
Greece and Italy and France”, end of quote. I want to also point
out as I continue here these – the correspondence
was entirely in English so there’s going to be sort of –
some errors along the way in terms of what I’m reading, it’s not like I’m having
any English lapses here. Chiuminatto, who was
just outside of Turin in 1904 – was born just outside of
Turin in 1904, was only 4 years old when his mother brought him to
America to join his father, who had settled in Wisconsin. In 1925, Chiuminatto
returned to Italy and enrolled in a violin
course at the Giuseppe Verdi Royal Conservatory of
Music in Turin. While studying at
the conservatory, Chiuminatto heard through a
friend that two university students, Cesare Pavese and
Massimo Mila, were interested in
taking English lessons. In a letter of June 1965
to literary critic and journalist Lorenzo Mondo,
Chiuminatto recalls the encounters that began in the
early months of 1927 and continued until his
departure in October of 1929. And I quote from the letter:
“Our encounters always had as their “sole aim the study
of English. “We would discuss how English
pronunciation differed from American, “then the usual grammatical
and syntactic considerations. “Then I had them read
some prose and poetry. “Yes, I’m sure about this. “I was the one who taught
Cesare about American slang. “This was a point that gave him
a great deal of trouble “and one could easily understand
why, because at that time, “there was no dictionary of slang.
At our meetings, he would bring “a list of slang phrases that I
would explain to him, “one at a time time, until he could
find its Italian equivalent. “In addition, I would prepare a
list of phrases for eventual use. “I remember very well how, at
the end of each of these meetings, his face would light up with
great satisfaction.” After his return to
the United States, Chiuminatto began a four-year
intense correspondence with Pavese, in which he fed his
Italian friend’s thirst to learn about American culture,
its latest literary works, and its most significant
contemporary writers. From Pavese’s first letter to
Chiuminatto, we learn how valuable his American –
his Italian-American friend had become to his
understanding of American slang. I quote: “Perhaps you don’t even assume
what usefulness had for me “our little lessons of American
spoken. Yet, I keep those jottings “carefully, and scanty as the
expressions of words are, “I could put down. Yet, as
I read modern American authors, “I feel more assured, bolder in
understanding them, “more in touch with their mood
of living and thought. And all comes from your
lessons of language.” Pavese is anxious to continue
these lessons beyond the ocean, and boldly includes in his
letter a list of phrases from Sherwood Anderson’s
Dark Laughter. Half apologetically, he asks Chiuminatto
to send the list back to him, “with your wanted
so interesting explanations”. He then playfully adds, “If you’ll dedicate a little time,
you’ll do me a big, big gift. Think, ’tis for your own country’s sake.” Chiuminatto enthusiastically
accepts Pavese’s proposal and takes particular
pleasure in his role as teacher of slang,
volunteering to fill the lack of dictionary on modern American
speech, by being that book for his Italian friend. And I quote:
“If ever I should hear “of some book, or other of that –
of this kind, “I shall get it
and send it to you. “For the present,
Mr. Pavese, send me a list of phrases you do not understand,
and I’ll be that book for you.” Upon receipt of Chiuminatto’s
thorough explanation of words and phrases from the Anderson
novel, an exuberant Pavese is quick to thank his teacher, and
is eager, even giddy, which is not a word you often use when
you talk about and, uh, read Pavese or think about him but, he’s
giddy in this letter, with pleasure to put his slang lessons to
the test, and he writes, “I’m befuddled, all in a daze,
with your titanic kindness I’ve now seen the world only
through pink sheets” – because in the long list of
explanations, he writes on pink paper – “through pink sheets, all bristling
with slang phrases, which are “meddling together, re-echoing and
staring at me from everywhere. “I’ve got now I can no more take
a pull out of a bottle together “with my gang without thinking
I’m going on the grand sneak “and how flip I get sometimes
and how many keen mamas “I’m looking after. My whole
existence has got a slang drift now. You could almost say
I’m a slang slinger. Ha!” [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] In the same letter, Pavese’s
reference to slang as the natural part of language and
a living part of all languages recalls those qualities of freshness,
primitiveness, and sponteneity that first attracted him to
Walt Whitman, who would become the subject of
his university thesis. For Pavese, “Whitman’s poetry
is not a gallery of detached illustrations,” and I’m quoting from
Pavese’s thesis, and he says, “Whitman’s poetry is not a gallery
of detached illustrations “or vignettes, but a person, a
sensibility, who moves in the real world.” And what’s
interesting about that observation is that Pavese
about this time, maybe even a year or so out, he’s
writing essays on cinema and many of those same
words he’s using to describe modern cinema and American
cinema and so forth are, in fact, similar to what he’s
saying, he’s saying here and he’s very critical of Italian
cinema being stilted, anachronistic, and so forth,
similar to what he’s going to be saying and will be saying regarding,
uh, regarding language. So Whitman’s idea of putting a
real human being, freely, fully, and truly on record captures
what Pavese believes to be the true ambition of the
modern American artist. That is, “to attain” – I quote –
“to attain to the true nature of things, “to see things with virgin eyes,
to arrive at that ultimate grip of reality, which alone,
is worth recognition.” For a young writer and
translator like Pavese who was seeking to
infuse a moribund literary language with new, living
models, Whitman’s view of slang as an internally active part of
language that would strengthen an enfeebled English language
unquestionably struck a chord. Pavese would put this philosophy
on language to an immediate test in his translation of
Sinclair Lewis’s Our Mr. Wrenn. The correspondence with
Chiuminatto allows us to witness the
preliminary stages of a program of linguistic renewal […] of the Italian prose that
Pavese will articulate more fully in his series
of essays on contemporary American writers, most notably
those on Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson,
and O. Henry. In these essays, Pavese
argues that these so-called ‘provincial’ writers succeeded in
raising slang and the vernacular to the level of true poetry and
a national language. In his essay on Lewis,
Pavese writes, and I quote, “The true provincial nature
of Sinclair Lewis “is shown in the use of
slang and the vernacular. “This kind of jargon and dialect,
the national expression of America, “is understood by him, loved,
and finally made into poetry, “resulting in the true creation of
language: the American vernacular, “a thing of which there has been
no example since the times “when the neo-Latin peoples
stabilized their virgin idioms “in works of art and life. “Before Lewis, American
slang was local color or journalistic improvisation.” In the early months of
their correspondence when Pavese had
already received Chiuminatto’s detailed comments on the slang
phrases of Anderson and Lewis, and had demonstrated an
impressive competence in the use of
American expressions, the writer began to
contact Italian publishers offering his services
as translator. Over the course of several
months in 1930, Pavese discussed with his
publisher, Arigo Callumi, a number of possible translations,
all of which figure prominently in his correspondence
with Chiuminatto. In November of 1930,
just days after Sinclair Lewis was awarded the
Nobel Prize for Literature, Callumi writes Pavese
requesting a translation of a novel by the
American writer. They ultimately agree on the
above-mentioned novel, Our Mr. Wrenn. On November 26, shortly
after confirming he would undertake the translation, Pavese
informs Chiuminatto of the project and alerts him that he may be
seeking out his assistance in explaining the more difficult
words, and I quote: “Do you know, my boy, I’m
translating Our Mr. Wrenn? “The Nobel Prize awakened
‘Eye-Talian'” – E-Y-E – “-Talian publishers,
and I’m drudging now “six hours a day
about this book. “New worries for you. “Of course, there is
something here and there “I’m afraid I don’t quite
understand, so I’ll send you “someday the very book
with all difficult words underlined. “Will you then be so kind
as to send me “a last time some of your
thorough explanations? Honestly, let me know before
whether you have the time.” With his usual generosity,
Chiuminatto is quick to offer his assistance,
and he writes, “As for Mr. Wrenn, my big
opportunity as a friend has arrived, “I guess. Whoopee. Say buddy,
just send me the whole book “marked and with it your
translations, “so that I can
cross-examine the entire work. “Not to criticize your
handling of it, understand but to help you find
the perfect translation.” As it happened, Pavese was
forced to work under very tight time constraints
and did not have the opportunity to share the entire
translation with Chiuminatto. Instead, he made good
use of his American friend’s previous list of phrases,
his copious list of phrases. Nevertheless, at the time of the
submission of the manuscript to his publisher at the end of 1930,
Pavese indirectly recognizes Chiuminatto’s role in helping him
deal with the slang expressions and in broadening his knowledge
of American colloquial speech, which, in turn, he attempted
to instill in his translation, and he writes, “It is somewhat of a problem to
deal with slang words and phrases “but I have largely overcome
the difficulty by communicating “directly with an
American authority. “In some instances
I have used terms “borrowed from Italian dialects
when these seemed appropriate. “Throughout, I have maintained
a rather colloquial tone, bearing in mind the general
atmosphere of the original work.” Just a few months later,
Pavese is forced to defend the colloquial use of his
translation of Our Mr. Wren in a letter dated
the 4th of April 1931 to the publisher
Enrico Bemporad, who had accused him
of presenting to Italian readers a work that
contains pages that are absolutely incomprehensible. “In this work,
I took considerable pains “to ensure that Italian readers would
get the same impressions “colloquially rendered
in their own language “as American readers did
from the original text. “When necessary,
I may have used unfamiliar “even harsh words,
so as to bring home to “Italian readers the realization
that this is a foreign work, written from the point of view
very different from their own.” Pavese’s determination to give
Italian readers a re-creation of the original novel serves
as an important step in a developing theory of language
that he would eventually realize in his first mature collection
of poetry, Lavorare stanca, or as Geoff translated,
“Work’s Tiring” in English. In the essay
“Il mestiere di poeta,” “The Craft of the Poet,” which
appeared as an appendix to the definitive edition
of Lavorare stanca, Pavese focuses on
Mari del Sud, ‘South Seas’, the first groundbreaking poems
in his collection – in this collection that marks his creative
maturity as a writer and discusses those factors that
enabled him to achieve his aims. I quote: “My studies of American literature
put me in contact with the reality “of developing – of a developing
culture, a culture in growing pains. “My experiments with
fiction enlarged and “sharpened my sense
of human experience and “rooted those interests
in a real world. “Finally, from a technical point of view,
my work on the Pornoteca” – the Pornoteca was
a collection of writings as a youth that he exchanged
with his friend Mario Sturani and they’d wrote about a
variety of things – uh, ballads, tragedies,
and so forth, lyrics, so this moment of exchanging
with Mario Sturani with the Pornoteca
was crucial, “teaching me the profession of art,
the joy of resolving problems, “the limits of a theme,
the play of imagination and style “and also the mystery of
felicity in a given style, which means coming to terms
with a possible audience or reader.” Each of these areas allowed
Pavese to enter into contact with a linguistic creation based
on dialect or common speech. The linguistic discovery was a result
of his studies of colloquial American and his use of Piedmontese
or Turinese slang in his efforts to write
naturalistic prose dialog. For Pavese, both of these activities
represented the adventurous projects of youthful enthusiasm, to which
he had devoted sustained and serious thought, and both were
integrated by the encounter with a theory in which poetry and
language were identified. It was in his youthful years, not
long before he enrolled in university, that Pavese discovered his affinity
with American culture and literature. First inspired, as we have noted,
by Whitman, Pavese found in American literature a vehicle to
free himself from an imposing tradition and to discover a new way of living
and a new means of expression. Years later, in the 1947
essay to which Roberto referred to a few moments ago when
he was talking about Poggioli and Pavese in ‘Ieri e Oggi’,
‘Yesterday, Today’, Pavese recalls those fervent years
when he, along with others, discovered American culture,
and sort of continuing what, uh, Roberto read to us earlier: “Around 1930, when fascism
was beginning to be “the hope of the world,
some young Italians “happened to discover
in their books America. “An America thoughtful and barbaric,
happy and truculent, “dissolute, fecund, heavy,
with all the past of the world “and at the same time,
young and innocent. “For several years, these young people
read, translated, and wrote with the joy of discovery and of revolt
that infuriated the official culture But the success was so great
that it constrained the regime to tolerate it,
in order to save face.” Pavese’s brilliant translations
and excellent essays on American authors,
which reveal a sensitivity to the democratic
spirit of discovery, the immediacy of expression,
and the linguistic experimentation taking place in American
literature during the 1920s and 1930s helped contribute
to the deprovincialization of Italian culture and make it,
as he observed in his 1947 essay, “the first little hole in
the wall to freedom.” Pavese saw in the works of such
writers as Whitman, Lee Masters, Anderson, and Lewis, an
alternative to the fossilized and autocratic culture of
the fascist establishment. He was stuck by the rebellious
force and commitment of human existential
values that emerged from the writings of the American
authors he translated and studied. American culture provided
Pavese with an ideal place, if only metaphorically,
in which the work – in which to work and study. For Pavese, the real lesson to be
drawn from American culture was the continuing effort to
readjust language to the new reality
of the world, in order to create a
new language, down to Earth and symbolic that would justify
itself solely in terms of itself and not in terms of any
traditional complacency. An often-cited passage from
this 1947 essay captures the significant value Pavese
placed on American culture in the years that
corresponded with his intense epistolary exchange
with Chiuminatto: “It” – American culture – “became
a sort of great laboratory, “where with another freedom
and with other methods, “men were pursuing the same
job of creating modern taste, “a modern style, and a
modern world that perhaps, “with less immediacy,
but with just as much “pertinacity of intention, the best
of us were also pursuing. “During those years of study, it
dawned on us that America “was not another country,
a new beginning in history, “but only the gigantic
theater where, “with greater freedom
than elsewhere, the drama of all
was being acted out.” The correspondence with
Tony Chiuminatto enriched in Pavese a real life
and personal connection And he felt –
that he felt was also lacking in the criticism of the period,
particularly with regard to North American
literature. Pavese’s dedication to
Chiuminatto that accompanied his article on Sinclair
Louis underlines the fundamental contribution
of his American friend in the discovery of a
new world and his literature: “To my dear, dear
Buddy in America, who let me into
a new world.” [APPLAUSE] I don’t want to take – I don’t want to take too
much time from – but if you would just give me
one moment of indulgence, just to give you an
example here of, um […] some of the translations
and how detailed Chiuminatto was uh, in providing them, and
it came from his translation of Our Mr. Wrenn,
and it had to deal with a title of a song
that he found in Our Mr. Wrenn called “Well” –
“Wal, I swan”, W-A-L comma,
‘I swan’ that Chiuminatto sent
to Pavese uh, after receiving it
in one of the letters. And this is the description
that he gave: “‘Well, I swan’ is a southern
farm expression for saying “‘Well, I’ll be darned’
or, ‘well I’ll be damned’ “or a million other such
expressions of “real wonder,
surprises, or incredulity. “When we are extraordinarily
surprised, for good or bad, “we generally exclaim
‘Well, I’ll be damned!’ “meaning such things as,
‘Well, I can’t believe it’ “or ‘well, can you imagine it’
and the likes. “In the country – the real
provincial class – “they exclaim with
‘Well, I swan’ and “the type is usually that
of our Uncle Sam. “I don’t know where the
‘swan’ originated of course “but I’ve heard this
expression so many times “I more than know
what it means. “If you were to translate
it with ‘Ma, guarda lì’ “you’d come about as close
as possible to the right solution. The fact is, I don’t see any
difference in meaning at all!” Pavese then responds
very quickly to him, but I thought it would be
appropriate to mention it because we’re in
Masschusetts and so forth, more talking Bostonians
but, in any event, he says – he thanks
him profusely, “Thank you for ‘Wal, I swan.’
That’s the real stuff! “I’ve here a whole family of
Yankees, Bostonians, all of them “and I asked them about it
and after much blabbering “and ‘Webstering’
they all agreed “they didn’t know
what the saying meant. “It’s not just the thing. “Someone suggested the
following spelling: ‘Well, I see one’ and translated,
‘Bene, sono – sono uno’. Isn’t my Buddy the cold card?” In his translation of these
words found in Sinclair Louis’ Our Mr. Wrenn,
Pavese then translated it’s following very closely
with Chiuminatto’s advice translating ‘Wal, I swan’
as ‘Ma, guardi po.'” Okay, thank you. [APPLAUSE]>>Is it okay if we take
questions all at the end? Should we go forward with
the presentations now or would you rather wait?>>Uh, we can wait.
So they can go, I don’t want to take
too much of their time.>>Our next presenter is,
um, Geoffrey Brock. Um, he holds a,
an MFA in creative writing at University, from
the University of Florida and a PhD in
comparative literature from University
of Pennsylvania. He’s a professor of English um, at William Fulbright
College of Arts and Sciences at University of Arkansas. He’s a renowned poet
and translator. As a poet,
he’s the author, um, of ‘Voices Bright Flags’ which
won the Anthony Hecht – is that the correct pronunciation? um, Poetry Prize. His first collection of poetry
‘Weighing Light’ uh, won the New Criterion
Poetry Prize. There’s a very long list
of other prizes that would take a very
long time to read. Um, I’ll encourage
you to uh, check them out, on
his, um, website. Um, Brock’s poems have
appeared in many anthologies including ‘Best American
Poetry 2007’ and ‘Pushcart Prize XXXIV.’ Um, he’s received
poetry fellowships from the National
Endowment for the Arts, and the Cullman Center
for Scholars and Writers, and he was a Wallace
Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford from
2002 to 2004. Geoff is also the editor of ‘The FSG Book of
Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry.’ As a translator,
Geoff received the MLA Roth Prize
for translation for Cesare Pavese’s poems,
which Julie mentioned before, ‘Disaffections.’ He also translated, uh,
Roberto Calasso’s ‘K.’, Umberto Eco’s ‘The Mysterious
Flame of Queen Loana’, Italo Calvino’s ‘Six Memos
for the Next Millennium’, and Carlo Collodi’s
‘Pinocchio.’ Man, what’re you
going to do next?>>[LAUGHTER]>>Um, […] Geoffrey’s presentation
is entitled “Into a Rhythm: Translating
Pavese’s Poetry into English”>>I’m going to read
off of my computer… Thank you Roberto, um. […] Uh before I start
I’d like to thank Roberto for that
lovely introduction and Roberto and Andrea
for inviting me here and uh,
Larry for giving us a reason for the gathering
and it’s a real pleasure to be included, um,
in this event. And I’d also like to
thank everybody else who was involved in
organizing it, um, and uh, Julie Hayes. Now that I’ve just
discovered her role in the
Lois Roth Awards, which I didn’t know about
until uh, twenty minutes ago. Um, it’s also a particular
pleasure for me to be uh, sharing the bill with
Mark Pietralunga who was my first
Italian teacher um, longer ago than
you would probably believe. Um… as for Pavese, um,
I came to know his work through his poetry. And in my short talk
today I’ll try to give you a brief overview
of his career as a poet, and of how I’ve come to
translate it into English. Um… I-I’ll have a
particular focus on the unusual rhythm of his
poetry in Italian, he called it the,
‘the rhythm of my imagination’ ‘il ritmo del mio
fantasticare’ and about how that rhythm
affected my approach to translating his poems. Uh, I first discovered
uh, Pavese, in the 1980’s when I was studying
abroad in Florence. Uh, the two things
I most wanted to learn in those days were Italian
and how to write poems. Uh, I quickly found that
reading Italian poets could help me both of those
goals at the same time. Uhm, I also discovered
by accident that translating was the
closest uh, most intimate form
of reading. As well an excellent way
to learn about writing from another writer. Um, I guess that’s
the short version of how I ended up being
a translator and a poet. The first work of Pavese’s
that I encountered was a slim, posthumous
book of poems um, it was mentioned
earlier, called ‘Verrà la morte
e avrà i tuoi occhi’, ‘Death Will Come and
Will Have Your Eyes’, Larry’s gonna –
that’s the one that has a connection to
Constance Dowling, and uh I think Larry
will talk a bit more about that
collection later. Um… I’m going to talk more
about ‘Lavorare stanca’, uh, eventually ‘Death Will Come
and Have Your Eyes’ led me to Pavese’s
earlier poetry. Um… and… those two books
of poems, ‘Lavorare stanca’ and
‘Verrà la morte’ sort of uh are –
frame his career as a writer. Uh, between them he
was mostly a fiction writer, between those two books. And to give you a
sense of the rough shape of his career,
um, let me just break it into decades
as a kind of overview. Uh, the mid-to-late
20’s um, the period Mark was
talking about, were his – what I think of as
his apprentice years, in which he read
widely and wrote uh poems that, um,
were not particularly serious or original,
uh in themselves. In retrospect, the – what we would call
his juvenilia, um, now. But in the 1930’s,
he found his, he found his voice as
a poet and became, really became a
poet in I think in 1930 and uh, at the same time
he was becoming a translator uh, particularly of
American fiction. So in the 30’s
he’s a poet and a translator, and in the 40’s
he’s chiefly a fiction writer, publishing nine
short novels and a couple of collections
of stories in the 1940’s. Um, he’s generally known,
particularly in Italy, more for his fiction
than his poetry, uh, partly because
he was more prolific as a fiction writer,
but also because his poetry doesn’t
fit neatly into any of the established critical
narratives about Italian poetry. Uh, in the 1930’s
when he’s when he’s writing his
poem – the poems of ‘Lavorare stanca’
the major figures, uh in the poetry world like Montale,
Ungaretti, Quasimodo, uh Mario Luzi these guys were all
writing increasingly oblique, inward-looking
kinds of poetry. Uh, the sort of poetry
that would come to be called uh, ‘hermetic’. Pavese on the other hand
was writing in an outward-looking
narrative mode. He was writing
something he called the ‘poesia racconto,’
the ‘poem story’. Um, and particularly in the
longer ones like um, ‘I mari del sud,’
‘South Seas’ um, they often seem to
have more in common with fiction than with the Italian
poetry that was being written at the
same time. If you wanted to find precedents
in the poetry world you’d probably have better luck
looking at American poets, as I’ll – as I’ll
get to in a minute. But first I wanna, back up
a little from all this overview, and I
wanna zoom in to a moment in the late 1920’s,
um, around the time he began his correspondence
with Chiuminatto that Mark was talking about. Um, and in the late
20’s when he was, he was about
20 or 21 years old he began to feel,
uh… […] there’s quite a bit
of overlap here uh between what Mark
was saying – in the words of
Gian-Paolo Biasin, he began to feel that
“the bold winds of the world “to which the castle of the
closed Italian literary culture remained impervious, were
blowing strongest from America.” Up until that time he’d
been steadily writing his own poetry,
often with the results uh, one would expect from a
precocious teenager: formal experiments,
satires of established styles sometimes self-indulgent expressions
of teenage lust and angst, the pornoteca,
these kinds of things. And the vast majority
of that work from the 20’s remained unpublished until
1998, when his Italian publisher released an expanded
collection of his poems that contained more than
a hundred pieces from the 20’s. But, uh, in November of
’29 when, uh, around the time he began
that correspondence with Chiuminatto, two
things happened: he declared his resolve
to devote himself fully to the study
of American literature and at the same time,
for a considerable period, he stopped writing his
own poetry, so there’s this gap
in his poetic production that corresponds with his
immersion in American literature. And over the next year, he did indeed immerse himself
in reading and translating and writing about authors
from across the Atlantic. Within a few years, um, he would be established
as one of Italy’s leading interpretors of
American literature. He was almost
single-handedly attempting to open up that, uh,
what Biasin called that ‘closed castle’
with Italian literary culture. Um, Walt Whitman had been
the subject of his uh, of his highly-regarded thesis,
and now he turned to contemporaries including
Sinclair Lewis who won the Nobel in 1930, Sherwood Anderson,
and Edgar Lee Masters, whose work had a social
dimension that he found lacking in the work of many of his
Italian contemporaries. Which is surpising, given
that this is the era with the rise of Fascism, and
yet you look to the poetry and, and uh,
it’s hard to tell [LAUGHS] what’s happening in the,
in the culture at large sometimes. Um, during this period
he wrote an essay on Masters’, on ‘Spoon
River Anthology’ by Edgar Lee Masters and
some of what he says about that book, seems to
describe the book of poems that he himself was just
sort of preparing to write. This is what he wrote: “A book where nearly everyone
lements a wasted life, “might well seem uncasual reading
the survey of clinical cases. “The difference lies only
in the eye of the poet “who views his dead not
with a morbid or polemical “satisfaction, nor with that
pseudoscientific indifference “that is now unfortunately
so popular in the States, “but rather, with an austere
yet sympathetic awareness “of everyone’s griefs,
everyone’s vanities, “not in order to produce
scientific or sociological document but only out of
passion for human truth.” Uh, in general it seems to
me that sentiments of that passage, uh,
especially the final phrases of it could be applied to
many of the poems in ‘Work’s Tiring’,
‘Lavorare stanca’. So nine months passed
after his uh, after he declared his intent to immerse
himself in American literature before he wrote his
next poem, and that poem was called, ‘Frasi all’innamorata,’
‘Words for a Girlfriend.’ Uh, and he wrote that in
August of 1930. And, a month later he
wrote a poem called ‘Mari del sud,’
‘South Seas’. Uh by this time, a dramatic
change had taken place in his poetic style. ‘Words for a Girlfriend’ is the
earliest of the Pavese poems that I’ve translated because it
always seemed to me to be the first
authentic Pavese poem. Though it’s still a
youthful work, he’s probably 21,
uh at this point, it is clearly more closely
tied to what would come after then to
what had gone before. In that poem he made
what seemed to be two crucial discoveries
that paved the way for all the poems that
he wrote in the 1930s. The first was the idea that
I mentioned earlier that idea of ‘poesia racconto,’
the ‘poem story’, sort of a
short story verse. The second idea was
the idiosyncratic rhythm that I also mentioned, um,
that he would later call ‘the rhythm of my
imagination.’ If ‘Words for a Girlfriend’
was the poem in which he discovered
these things, the next poem that he
wrote, a month later, ‘South Seas’ was,
as he recognized, the poem in which he
first employed them to truly brilliant effect. Um, also adding a sort of
social dimension I think. And for that reason that poem
became the opening poem of ‘Lavorare stanca’,
his first collection. Uh, I just want to look
briefly at the first line of each of those poems to give
you, to give you a sense of the rhythm
that I’m talking about. They both began with an
image of two people walking together in silence, which I think is as good
an emblem as any for the fraught relationship
in his work, and his life, between solitude
and company. In both of the opening lines
we have the seeds of narratives and themes
that will come to seem typically Pavasean. And in both we also have
the distilled essence of that new prosody,
that new rhythm. So in the first line
in ‘Words for a Girlfriend’ is “Vado a spasso in silenzio
con una bambina,” “I walk without
saying a word with a girl.” And then the first line
from ‘South Seas’: “Camminiamo una sera
sul fianco di un colle,” “We’re walking one evening
on the flank of a hill.” Um, in the original the two
lines are metrically identical and although I’m
gonna get into the the weeds a little bit here
with talking about meter for a second, um,
bear with me. Accentual-syllabic verse is a,
is a fairly rare, uh, thing in Italian poetry. The standard meters in
Italian verse such as the hendecasyllable
and the settenario, um are defined more by syllable
count than by rhythmic pattern, they have a somewhat
variable pattern of stresses. But Pavese
in the 1930s was – was an accentual-syllabic
poet in my view and a fairly strict
one at that. His primary meter, as those two lines that
I just read indicate, is anapestic, which is
almost as usual in serious Italian poetry as
it is in serious English poetry. Um, and his usual line
length was four feet um “Camminiamo una
sera sul fianco di un colle,” for an anapestic tetrameter. Um, although he
frequently extends the lines to five or even
six feet and sometimes he
shortens them to three, and so the variability of
lines, uh, sort of makes the whole thing look
a little bit, um, more casual, or more
prosier or something. In his essay the
“Mestiere del poeta” that Mark mentioned,
“The Poets Craft” which originally
appeared as an appendix to the expanded 1943
edition of ‘Lavorare Stanca’, Pavese explains the origins
of his new rhythm, his new meter: […] “At that time I knew only
that free verse was “ill-suited to
my spirit, “but I lacked faith in
traditional meters. “And besides, I had
parodied them too often “to take them seriously now. “I knew of course that
traditional meters don’t exist “in any absolute sense,
but are remade according to “the interior rhythms of
each poet’s imagination. “And one day I found
myself muttering a certain jumble of words
which turned into a pair of lines from
‘South Seas’, “in a prounounced cadence
that I had used for emphasis “ever since I was a child, “when I would murmur
over and over “the phrases that obsessed me
from the novels I was reading. “That’s how without
knowing it I found my verse “which was of course,
for all of ‘South Seas,’ “and several other poems
as well, wholly instinctive. “Gradually I discovered the
intrinsic laws of this meter, “but I was always careful
not to let it tyrannize me, “and I was ready to accept
when it seemed necessary, “other stress patterns
and line lengths. “But I never again strayed
far from my scheme, which I consider the
rhythm of my imagination.” Uh, so the prosodic
change that followed that nine-month
silence was dramatic, it seems to me a new rhythm
was born in his writing and uh it was a rhythm that was
virtually never present in his work of the 1920s, and that
was virtually always present in his work in the 1930’s. And at one point in his
diary, he describes his poems of this period
as getting drunk on their own rhythms. Um, and their incantatory cadence
for me as a reader was one of their – was one
of the striking features of them. And because it was so
important to me as a reader, it became an important
consideration when I began to translate them. And, but when I did,
so I took my cues from that passage of his
that I just read and I too try not to let it
tyrannize me, and I uh when necessary I deviated
from it in minor ways while trying to adhere
fairly closely to it. So I had decided –
[…] as soon as I decided
that I wanted to create some sort of regular
rhythm in the English, I had to decide exactly what
kind of rhythm that would be because at first, it didn’t
seem obvious to me that that I would use the same
rhythm that he used in Italian. A rhythm or meter
one language may not have the same effect
in another language, um dactylic hexameter for
example was a great meter for Greek epics but uh, I don’t think I could
get through Homer if it was translated into
dactylic hexameter in English. Um, usually when the
translators of Homer want to – want to create a
metrical version of the Iliad or the Odyssey,
they will almost always use
iambic pentameter, which in our tradition,
in our language has proved to be
a good vehicle for epics. So, um, so initially I
just didn’t think that anapestic tetrameter could
possibly work in English as a vehicle for
serious poetry. That’s the meter,
after all of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, or and, ‘The Grinch Who
Stole Christmas’, and lots of wonderful
verse but none of it serious. Uh, so my first impulse
was to look elsewhere I considered using
something like a loose iambic hexameter, which I
hoped might provide the necessary length and scope
while avoiding that triple meter, uh, the anapest,
which is so often seems to tilt toward
comic verse. The hexameter though,
when I tried that out felt, didn’t feel right
it felt too stately, it felt kind of
stodgy and stiff, it is a more canonical
meter after all, which goes against the
spirit of the original in my view. So eventually, sort of
out of desperation I tried out that same anapestic tetrameter
that Pavese used which seemed so
strange in English but it also seemed strange
in Italian and that seemed, that seemed a strangeness
that was worth preserving I think. And I also found that given
the nature of Pavese’s poetry, I didn’t have to worry much
about comic effects. Um, quite apart from
his sort of generally melancholic outlook,
there are those unpredictable line lengths that I mentioned,
and sometimes irregular enjambments
and uh, kind of colloquial voice and
all those things uh, counterbalance I think the
regularity of the rhythm and sometimes indeed they
obscure it altogether and you don’t even realize that
the lines are metrical. Uh, in fact, some critics
have accused him of being too prose-y,
of it um – I think Doug Thompson for example
accused him of quote, “loosening the bonds of poetic
form until the verse becomes indistinguishable
from prose,” end quote. Um, strangely though,
the line that he cited as an example
of the prosiness, “Qualche nostro antenato
dev’essere stato ben solo”, is perfectly anapestic. I think that’s
probably – I think Pavese would have
enjoyed that though, ’cause given his desire to create
a kind of hybrid form of prose, a poem-story. I think he might have
seen that as a success, Thompson’s remark. And I would like to close just by reading the
first stanza of the ‘Mari del sud’,
‘The South Seas’ poem. I’ll read it in Italian
and then in English um, just to get that
rhythm into the air, in the hopes that
you can sort of hear what I’ve been
talking about. “Camminiamo una sera
sul fianco di un colle, in silenzio. “Nell’ombra del tardo crepuscolo
mio cugino è un gigante vestito di bianco, “che si muove pacato,
abbronzato nel volto taciturno. “Tacere è la nostra virtù. “Qualche nostro antenato
dev’essere stato ben solo “un grand’uomo tra idioti
o un povero folle per insegnare ai suoi
tanto silenzio.” “We’re walking one evening
on the flank of a hill in silence. “In the shadows of dusk my
cousin is a giant dressed all in white, “moving serenely,
face bronzed by the sun, “not speaking. “We have a talent for silence. “Some ancestor of ours
must have been quite a loner, “a great man among fools,
or a crazy old bum, to have taught his
descendants such silence.” Thank you. [APPLAUSE]>>Um, next speaker is
Andrea Malaguti. He’s an associate
professor of Italian studies at UMass Amherst. He’s a specialist of modern
Italian poetry, Italian cinema, um, Italian-Jewish culture
and literature. He’s the author of a monograph
of a 20th century Italian poet Giorgio Caproni entitled
‘La svolta di Enea.’ And recently,
‘Straniere a se stesse: ‘identità femminili e
stilistica visuale nel cinema di Michelangelo Antonioni
degli anni cinquanta.’ So poetry first
and then Michelangelo Antonioni
and cinema after. He’s written articles on
Michelangelo Antonioni and Giorgio Caproni
of course, Giorgio Bassani,
Sebastiano Vassalli, and French poet
André Frénaud. Andrea’s presentation
is titled: “First Love, Last Rites: Cesare Pavese and the
Film Imagery.”>>Thank you, Roberto, thank you for everyone
who’s coming in, I feel very embarrassed
at this point, and I feel extremely
embarrassed with all these people that have published
so much about Pavese, who’s me after all? And I said fine, I’ll be
‘quarto tra cotanto senno’, fourth among
all those intellects, and after all I’ve
always liked Ringo, so I’ll try to keep it
short and fun. Um, I might need to
use the computer I don’t know whether
I’ll be able to do that, is there any specialist?>>[OFFSCREEN MUTTERING]>>[OFFSCREEN] Do you need it
right away Andrea?>>Um, if, I could,
I could start but there are couple of quotes
that need to come there later. Because…>>[OFFSCREEN MUTTERING]>>[OFFSCREEN] Did you
have a PowerPoint?>>Yes I have a PowerPoint, the PowerPoint’s already
there for that matter.>>[OFFSCREEN MUTTERING]>>Um, yes that’s right,
it’s the one on the left. Yes, bingo. I’ll take the – if you don’t mind. Thank you.>>[UNINTELLIGIBLE]>>Oh no no, that’s fine,
I can go ahead, I can go
ahead this way. And for those who
have been wondering, Roberto Ludovico first, about the hermeticism of my title, I’ll just tell you
that it’s a story by Ian McEwan in his book
‘First Love, Last Rites.’ I’ll just tell you briefly
what it is. It is the boy and girl,
actually married – well not actually married,
but living together in London, South London, kind of a
poor situation, and a sticky situation
as well because they are in love and not that
much in love anymore, and she’s pregnant. At times they have
the boy’s uh, little brother
pestering them, and at times there’s
the girl’s mother – the girl’s father who wants to be
in business with the boy. So in this kind of sticky situation,
one day there’s a rat in their apartment, so they eventually
kill the rat, by basically stabbing her
with a knife, it’s a she-rat. Not only that,
but she’s pregnant and the ovaries come out, and the womb
comes out there. They dispose of the body,
the dead body of the rat, but it’s that ritual
that finally will make them
stick together. And so that is also the um – […] the spin, the redline
that I’m giving to my, to my presentation today, about going from
love to a ritual. And we’ll see
what it is about. Now, here’s uh –
now here’s the thing. How about Pavese’s
a movie-goer? Pavese’s uh…
born in 1908, so he starts going to the
movies in his early teens, we’re talking about
late 20s, early 30s, precisely when film in Italy,
not necessarily Italian film starts transitioning from
silent movies to talkies. Different visual style, different ways of acting. So in this –
so in this case, what he has is basically
the long wave of the great season of
Italian silent movies. A long wave, steady. And, the films that
actually uh, come there. And he was a
cinematic omnivore. Both German expressionism
like ‘Faust’ by Murnau and Hollywood
appeal to him. He appreciated drama, ‘Foolish Wives’ directed by
Erich von Stroheim, and comedy as well, with
‘Gold Rush’ by Charlie Chaplin. It is better to start with the
second trend of his tastes, with Hollywood, his experience
with Hollywood cinema could actually be well-compared
to that of Italo Calvino in his essay “An Autobiography
of a Spectator”. That is, some kind of
secluded world where imagination
could be set free, as opposed to
the context of oppression and
repression of fascism. Repression of course
of feelings most of all. And uh, that is the way that he
actually remembers America in that quote that both
Roberto and Mark talked about, so I will skip it,
and I will do that and I will go directly to
this quote from this essay ‘For the Rebirth
of Italian Cinema’ and this is an
important quote about American film
that we’ll find later as well. “You may like it or not,
but it is a fact that American films, “even the less dignified, “are thriving and living
within a healthy soul, “a frank and vigorous
idea of life, “an enthusiasm that shapes
their everyday life, “towards a joyful seriousness
in life and work. “All of this lives,
pulsates, “and is being admired and loved
in art, even though its defects and – even through its defects
and imperfections, through its guileless
and academism (…)” But what doesn’t
have academism, he says right after. So I think that this is
actually the cipher of his appreciation of
American film. His friend and classmate,
musicologist Massimo Mila, more modestly
acknowledged that cinema, that was essentially
American cinema for them, was this kind of most –
kind of benign addiction, not really an intoxication,
but in Mila’s word, “the strengthening food,
an open window of that world that
fascism denied” as we said before. However, the world that
American film disclosed, the social comedy of
that took place on the stage of America,
was for Pavese something that had to correspond
also with the audience. Now that somehow to –
that had somehow to be um, be somewhat
mirroring the audience. Also in his literary essays,
his famous one, ‘Middle-west e Piemonte’, that is, ‘Middle-west
and Piedmont’. There must be some kind
of correspondence between what is
happening on the stage, and what is happening
on this side. And for that reason,
he never disparaged against commercial cinema, and was very keen
in disparaging, on the contrary, I guess
those aestheticists that disparaged against
commercial cinema. Anyway… anyway,
further on, I can say – I want to remind you
that this is 1927, so he basically wrote this
essay when he was 19. Which is, and um – the essays that he actually
writes when he is 19 and 20, one is for the rebirth
of Italian movies, and the other one is critical
problems of cinematography. The first one focuses on
what Pavese perceives of the crisis of Italian
cinema in the 20s, after the major season
of the silent films, Pavese laments that Italian
cinema has chosen conformity by churning out
historical dramas that idealize the nation’s past. The solution of this crisis
is on the one hand, America’s social state,
on the other hand Germany’s experimentations, that in Pavese’s
words are not just rigid form, but address a
new sensitivity and the torturous depth
of modern souls. Please bear with my
English translations, I’m worse than Pavese in that. Um, but I wanted
to tell you also that it’s no coincidence this
depth of a modern soul, this kind of understanding
of modernity. It’s no coincidence that the
essay concludes with a suggestion of a
film rendition of Baudelaire’s
‘Les Fleurs de Mal’, which is this kind of foundational
collection about modernity. And even more interesting are
Pavese’s observation about the film reviewers lack of
specific preparation. Um and for, who might –
I mean a college student who was twenty
at the time, he might not have been aware
of the fact that this topic has actually been treated,
even in Italy, by Sebastiano Arturo Luciani
in ‘The Anti-Theatre’ uh, the cinematography
as art. Nonetheless, Pavese recreates
his own awareness of the specific film units
in what he calls, ‘tratti cinematografici’,
‘film features’. “Those brief film excerpts
when action is not there, “neither human nor
scenographic, that is, “the character acting out
of an inner drive “inside of their
surroundings, “which, I repeat,
it is drama, “but individuals and scenery
have equal importance “and their positions
and movements, “in the framed
dynamic structure, “acquire meaning as moving
compositions of light and shade outside of the specific
realism of daily gestures.” The film unit. He had an awareness
of the film unit, a film as language
with its own units. And think about this,
he also said clearly that – he also acknowledged clearly
film suppleness, the fact that you can obtain
all the images you want, as opposed to the novel
and dramatic theaters that have much more
rigid structures. Now in 1925,
at age sixty-two, Pirandello said
exactly the same. Just to give you an idea
of what Pavese, um, of how Pavese actually anticipates
in his intuitions film as a precise
and plastic art, that it’s inevitably
bound to the instant of its
representation. And here you have
Walter Benjamin, who was contemporary
to Pavese, but certainly Pavese
didn’t know, and twenty years later, André Bazin in 1947, with his essays about
photography. Now, there’s another
assertion of Pavese that tells us
about him a lot: “Unfortunately, asserts
film productions “involves too many people, “and therefore cannot
possibly provide “the unified synthesis
of expression that the work of art entails.” Now, the idea of a unified
and a totally coherent work of art that is
issued by an individual and is an expression
of its whole self, clearly comes from
Benedetto Croce’s ‘Aesthetics’, as we all know. But, in this case
I would say that for this reason,
one more, he admires a lot
of those filmmakers that are at the
same time directors and script writers,
and actors as well, so Buster Keaton,
Charlie Chaplin. And one thing that I want
to say about this, this idea that film should be
only made by one person, this kind of idea of
the artist as the creator, the personality of
the artist as a creator, would be a major obstacle
in him being a script writer. But hmmm,
let’s go by order – Um, film – hm. In 1927 he also
writes some uh, a narrative in form of sequence,
with strictly numbered um, with strictly numbered
uh, actions but, so he certainly
captures the multiplicity of interlacement in film, he certainly had
a mind for film. And film certainly
persists in the interstices of his
literary works, young student Masino
spends afternoons, many afternoons lingering
in movie theaters on the outskirts ‘la Barriera’,
as the author did. Movie halls
and variety venues and all the people
connected to them are represented all the way
through the novel ‘Il Compagno’,
‘The Comrade’ and in his cryptic
‘La bella estate’, it is often by
going to the movies, that women find their
spaces, either alone like Clelia
in ‘Among Women Only’, or in each others’ company
like Ginia and Amelia in ‘That Beautiful Summer’,
this very last novella and furthermore, according
to critic Lorenzo Mondo, has some kind of
cinematic structure. I’m not really, I’ve not
investigated it yet, this is the topic of my
next article, why not? Now, Pavese resumes
his writing for the movies only in 1948,
in a letter to um, script writer Carlo Mussio. Um one sec, and – mmm, we’ll do this later. Uh, to Carlo Mussio. I had something here
that I wanted to say but I will say
it very briefly. 1948. Pavese’s already ditched
American culture, or at least the most
recent American culture. He kept saying that
everything that was good in America actually dates from the 1930s. 1947, nothing else
came up. What?
Steinbeck kept on writing. Um, great films
actually came out, I’m thinking about, […] ‘To Have and Have Not’
by Howard Hawks, and um, […] from the novel
of Raymond Chandler with Humphrey Bogart,
Lauren Bacall, scratch yourself, scratch yourself,
no problem […] ‘The Big Sleep’, sorry, sorry!
[LAUGHS] Sorry, I will always
keep that in mind. So, some of the most
important products of Hollywood that came out between
1938 and 1947, were actually not
considered by someone who was so knowledgeable
about American culture. I basically think that he was
tagging on the line of the Italian Communist Party. 1947! Those were times
of tension. Italy was deciding
whether to uh, if it would join
the Warsaw Pact or whether it would
join the NATO. And, Pavese aligned himself
with the Warsaw Pact. I don’t think that his
praise of neorealism was actually tied in um,
tied in uh to the uh, to the Communist Party. Both in public statements
and in private letters, he shows a strong
sensitivity for the former. For instance, he goes
beyond the political meaning of Rosselini’s ‘Open City’
and recognizes the expressiveness
of the images of a well, overwhelmed city in fear,
in the long shots of Rome, Rome’s empty streets,
rapidly filling with soldiers. Um, […] Therefore there is this
kind of appreciation that, of the movies that
comes from the sensitivity to
the film form. And there is another clue, the soft spot that he had
for Vittorio De Sica, of all the directors
which was probably due to this kind of streak
of sentimentalism, that was never banal,
that De Sica had. One could probably say,
at least tentatively, that what appealed
Pavese was precisely Frank Capra’s intense drama. It was deprived of a happy
ending, even if America’s incurable optimism was
immediately obliterated, which is what happens
in all De Sica’s films. Now, the 1948 treatment
discussed and sent to Carlo Musso, probably
followed a discussion in which Musso related
Carlo Ponti’s suggestion about regional films that
had a specific location. Now, this is probably the best
treatment that Pavese ever wrote. It’s the story of a young,
uncommitted man from the working class who goes
through life without really questioning it, but eventually
discovers political commitment when he finds a girl
that he starts loving. She comes from the
Clandestine Army of the Resistance because of which the
young man embraces and therefore,
as Pavese would say, “recognizes his destiny”. It is a simplified version
of Pavese’s novel, ‘Il Compagno’, even if he
doesn’t recognize that, but it’s a very
cohesive story, simple enough to have
a linear succession, could have made
some success, but was never produced. Whereas, Pavese’s most
awkward and disturbing commitment to the
film form however, comes in 1950 when he, when he meets Constance
and Doris Dowling, the two sisters, both actresses,
who had come to Italy to work. Doris had stronger acting
abilities and had had wider success already
in the United States, whereas Connie, who
started as an actor only had a few parts
here and there, mainly to her
dissatisfaction. And in the circle of film
productions, they were both known as having
self-destructive habits. At the party where Pavese
met them there was Raf Vallone as well,
who basically said, “well I’m worried about
that man.” Probably because Pavese
might have had also had a fame of being rather
frowning, so to speak, a little like Luigi Tenco,
for those who were familiar. So uh, he got much closer to
Connie, as we all know and as Larry would actually
explore more in detail. And, uh, fell desperately
in love as it was his – deeply and desperately in love,
as it his was custom. However, I contend that this
is kind of a different case, and uh, there are implications
in Pavese’s eventual suicide of 20th of August of 1950, in which his scriptwriting and
myth are a little closer, more closely interlaced. It’s a hypothesis
that I’m giving to you. Now, one word about
Constance Dowling, she had limited
acting abilities – and so had Clint Eastwood
for that matter – and could probably,
certainly could not fit in the boxed
characters of Hollywood However, some Italian directors
at least could apparently bring out the best in her,
as Franco Prono said in his book about Pavese
and film, “she pierces the screen”. And, we’re going most likely
explore a little of that, of uh the film Pola ‘La città dolente’,
Pola ‘The City in Pain’, which is about the um, well we’ll probably
explore it later, when she basically
uh, well she plays the part, I can tell you, of a
Yugoslav sergeant during the time when
the Italians were actually leaving Pula,
between – in 1947. But we shall, yes, it’s
a docu-drama about the exodus of Italian
community from Pula, now Croatian territory, between the 10th February
and 20th of March of 1947. It’s recent history through
it’s um – it was recent history
about very strong tensions. It was a war zone,
a particularly difficult war zone. Constance Dowling plays the
part of Yugoslavian sergeant, a sergeant that takes over
the apartment of a young Italian couple
that has stayed, um after the last
trip of the Tuscana cruiser, that would bring
people to Italy. Of course, Constance,
the sergeant, is very frank and overly seductive
from the start and ends up seducing
the Italian young man. Even a secondary director
as Mario Bonnard, could actually bring out
her feminine power, the power of,
um, of seduction. Now, after having had a brief
but intense affair with Constance in early March
1950, and after having known of her intentions to
return to the United States, Cesare Pavese
frantically started to write film treatments
one after the other. He desperately wanted to
provide Constance with opportunities to work and he thought he could
do it precisely because he was starting to be
an established writer in 1950: The Strega Prize,
the novel coming out, ‘The Moon and the Bonfires’. Everything was
supposed to be in his favor but he did not know
on the one hand, that the film production circles
were not that penetrable from the outside. And on the other hand,
and on the other hand he thought he could do
it on his own, and that was
his major mistake. Script writing is not something
that you can do alone, script writing is
always collaborative. Every history of film I
could tell you about it, uh some Italian examples
but we know also about Hollywood: script writers sit together, try a few uh,
a few scenes, then rewrite them, then there is
the production coming in. It’s a whole, complex uh
way of writing and, unfortunately Pavese had this idea
of the individual effort that prevented him for possibly
joining the movie productions. It was much better his
treatment of 1948 probably because it was
not pretentious, and probably because it was
addressing another script writer, uh Carlo Mussio, that could have helped him. Now, um, this,
the uh, treatments that he
wrote for the Dowlings, the Dowling sisters, both
before and after Connie moved to the United States were very
far from being remarkable. He sent all of them to Doris,
who lived in Rome, to review them, partly because
she didn’t want to hurt – and she took her time,
she didn’t want to hurt Cesare, most likely. They were actually quite inconsistent,
repetitive, series of scenes that can hardly
relate one to the other, two treatments basically
repeat the same story of the two sisters being in love
with the same man, who’s a dysfunctional
abuser that basically lives off of them
until he dies. Identicial. The most interesting
of it is actually ‘The Snake and the Dove’,
‘Il serpente e la colomba’ the story of a rich,
mature bourgeois who approaches a
young woman living on the margins of
prostitution and crime, who eventually sets up
house with him, the woman, but she is still too
attracted to her low life. And he follows there and
loses all his money. In the end, she dies,
she actually commits suicide because the secretary
of this bourgeois, of this man who
actually produces um, bathroom implements,
so basically tells him well you know, you have lost
your money you have to come back. She tells this to the girl,
and the girl commits suicide, so in the end, it’s she
who actually saves him, paradoxically. What is most, probably more
remarkable in this script is not only the girl’s
awkward attraction to crime, but also the man’s attraction to
the woman’s vicious circle. It is, it is her that,
by committing suicide, actually makes him resume
the proper way of life in the bourgeois. Pavese’s insight,
in the corruption of the bourgeois was
something rather new, and I can tell you, barely
acceptable in the 1950s. There’s only one
director who ever dared talking about it
in such radical ways and that is
Michelangelo Antonioni, who Pavese couldn’t
know at that time but then of course,
if you want to talk about Pavese and Antonioni,
you open Pandora’s Box, let’s keep it closed. Now um… to run to the end. This kind of myth of
the individual writer – this kind of myth
of the individual writer that, um, has actually corresponds
to what I personally think is Pavese’s personal
mythology of himself as the one who could
learn to be a script writer as he learned to be a
teacher, a writer, an editor – as if he could do anything
he wanted with his writing. As if with his writing,
he could actually get Constance back from
the United States. And now here there’s something
that I want to explore, that goes in his
relationship to Constance – but of course Larry knows
much better than I do and please tell me
if I’m totally wrong – that I think goes way
beyond eroticism. Now, they parted,
if I am not mistaken, around the 17th
of March of 1950 from their first
encounter, isn’t it? 17th of March. Italy, at that time,
they barely had phones. Trains were working in the way
they could possibly work, it’s 1950! Um, the mail didn’t
exactly uh, there were no cell
phones and so on. Twenty-five days
after she’s gone: “Nothing. She does not write.
She could be dead. “I have to get accustomed to it
as if it were normal. “How many things I did not tell her. “I am frightened to
lose her now, “and it’s not the anxiety
of ‘possession’ “but the fear of not being able
to tell her these things. “What these things are,
I don’t know, “but they will stream out of
me if she were here. “It’s a state of creation. Oh, God, let me find her again!” So basically,
he already thinks about Connie as
possibly dead. There’s this element of
death in his imagination that takes place very early. And, later,
let me see this, um, yes, one second. So later Connie is
identified with a poet – with poetry itself. With what he can say
and cannot. More than a muse,
Connie represents an emotional investment
that involves his whole life, past and present, his work as a translator
of American fictions, his poetry. One month later he writes, “She is poetry in the
most literal sense. How could she have
not understood it?” And during these
months of crisis, the work that Pavese
cherished most of everything that he had ever written
was, as we know, ‘Dialoghi con Leucò’,
‘Dialogues with Leucò’. This kind of his revisiting of, and rewriting,
of Greek mythology. Now consider him,
the runt who had the power to resuscitate Connie,
to make Connie come back. It’s basically
‘Orpheus Cinematographicus’. He is basically rewriting himself
in the myth of Orpheus. Now, we’re thinking about
[…] Orpheus that can resume his –
that with his song, can make Eurydice come back. There’s one problem though: In the end,
Orpheus dies as well. He doesn’t die because
of suicide, but close enough as a matter of fact
because he’s actually, because after Eurydice
comes back he goes to the Riphean Mountains,
as we know where winter is perpetual, so forget about
Persephone coming back, forget about
Earth giving food. So there is that suggestion,
that Orpheus dies because of other causes,
but let’s take a look at the 13 of August,
here still we have – it’s ‘The Burning Brand’
above, 13 of August. “She is much more,
she came from the sea.” 14th of August: “she also ends in the same way. She’s gone. Good.
It is just waves of this sea.” ‘Onde di questo mare’. So, the quote down is exactly
from ‘Dialogues with Leucò’, the ‘La schiuma del mare’. “Nymph Britomarti to
suicidal Sappho: “Oh Sappho,
this is not smiling. “Smiling is living
like a wave or a leaf, “accepting one’s own destiny. “It’s dying in a form and
being reborn in another. “It’s accepting oneself and
his own – and one’s own destiny.” Sorry, as I said I’m very bad
at translating into English. So, 13 of August, um, I think,
um, 13 of August, that 25th of August, another
letter to Davide Lajolo: “Now I shall write no more! “With the same
hardheartedness, “with the same stoic
will of the Langhe, I shall undertake my journey
to the world of the dead.” Exactly like Orpheus. “If you want to know
who I am now, “do reread ‘The Beast’ in my
‘Dialogues with Leucò’ I had foreseen everything
five years ago.” And let’s take a look
at “The Beast”. “The Beast”,
about ending him, who of course is in
the wood of Latmos, and basically meets
The Beast that, he says: “[…] her sweetness
is like dawn, “it is heaven and earth
revealed, and she’s divine.” “But um” –
[…] okay, I don’t remember
what was the original tone – “things or beasts, the wild
one has a brief smile, “annihilating others, and nobody even
touched her knee.” The stranger says
to Endymion: “[…] to each one
the sleep that’s his, ‘a ciascuno il suo cogno’ “Your sleep is infinite
with voices and cries. “Sleep it bravely,
you have nothing else. “This wild solitude is yours,
love it as if she loves it. Goodbye, but you shall no
longer reawake, remember it.” This is what The Beast
said to Endymion, who was sleeping in the
woods of Latmos. She touched him and said,
“you will never,” she wakes him up,
he looks for her he goes all through the woods, and she said, “then you will
never wake up again.” 26th of August,
another letter of Pavese. “Connie’s back! Constance, the citizen
Constance Dowling is back to Italy. But he says, “The American?
I’m busy otherwise.” So Constance Dowling, citizen,
is apparently back, but she’s only ‘l’americana,’
‘the American’. Connie Eurydice, poetry,
is gone. Cesare,
Orfeus Cinematographicus therefore accepts
his destiny. He prepares his lethal
concoction, and like Endymion, sits down to sleep,
never to wake up again. Thanks. [APPLAUSE]>>Thank you. Larry,
you’ve been called upon several times in the
past hour and a half, I think you will have
a lot of answers to provide. Lawrence Smith was, um born and raised
in Washington D.C.. He attended Harvard College,
where he earned a BA, magna cum laude in 1959. He spent a year at
the University of Pogwa, as a Fulbright scholar,
which is where he first encountered
the work of Cesare Pavese. Larry returned to Harvard
and entered the Graduate School
of Arts and Science in the American Studies program. He taught for
two years at Harvard, and then, after passing his
oral examinations, left academia to
pursue a career of international banking
and finance, during which, among
many other places, he lived and worked
for years in Italy. He wrote his dissertation
on Pavese and America, while working
full-time for Citibank. He earned his
PhD in 1972. Joel Port was his advisor,
and Harry Lugman, the second reader
of his dissertation. He maintained his
interest in Pavese throughout his
working career. That interest culminated
in the 2008 publication by the University of
Massachusetts Press of the book “Cesare Pavese and America:
Life, Love, and Literature”, and we’re particularly
grateful to UMass University Press for
publishing the book, because otherwise we probably
would not be here tonight. Um, the book was
well received. In 2001, it won the
Premio Cesare Pavese for the best book of
criticism of Pavese published in any language. Since the publication of his book,
he’s spoken on Pavese at the Italian Cultural
Institute in New York, at the Liceo Massimo
d’Azeglio in Turin which was, um,
Pavese’s high school. And I think others, in
the audience as well as many other intellectuals
of that generation. Um, and at conferences organized
by San Francisco State and Stony Brook University,
as well as the University of Turin. Uh, Dr. Smith lives
in New York with his wife
Marguerite, um… who is… there,
nice to see you. Um, the title of
Larry’s presentation is: “‘To Connie, who understands,
from Cesare.’ Four books inscribed by Pavese
to Constance Dowling.” Larry, thank you. [APPLAUSE]>>[unintelligible] While they’re working to
get the graphics ready, I want to thank everybody here
at the University of Massachusetts, particularly the library people. It was important to
me to find a home for what I’ve just donated
here because it comes from about 55 years of
involvement with Pavese. I am not a scholar
of Italian literature. I know a lot about
Cesare Pavese and I know a lot about
Pavese in America. But I could not analyze
Leopardi for you, or anyone else, and I’m honored by
the people who’ve come, who are real scholars
of Italian literature, and not the kind of
narrow person I am. Um, books on –
that I’ve donated, the inscribed books,
there’s actually five of them, four of them
inscribed by Pavese to Constance Dowling,
one to Doris Dowling and a man called ‘Harry’. He happened to
be Harry Cushing, but I’m only going to talk
about the first four. As it turned out
I didn’t know, I’m going to show you
slides of the inscriptions, but the physical books
are back there. They’re well guarded,
[LAUGHS] and you, please do
when I’m finished, go look at the actual
physical objects that are back there. To understand the
significance of those four books that Pavese
dedicated to Constance Dowling, you have to know
something about Pavese, about Dowling, and about a man
named Leone Ginzburg. It’s always tricky to assume,
even in an audience like this, too much knowledge
about Pavese when I’m talking
in America. So let me just stipulate
that in early 1950, he was 41 years old. He was a respected,
successful novelist he was the managing
editor of one of Italy’s most prestigious publishing houses. He had behind him
successful careers as been mentioned,
as translator, essayist, novelist, short story writer, and poet. Although, at the
beginning of 1950, he had not yet
written the poem that has become most
associated with him. He had turned in
the manuscript of what would be
his last novel ‘La luna e i falò’, ‘The Moon and the Bonfires’
in English, which when
it came out in April went on to win Italy’s most
prestigious prize – literary prize,
‘The Strega’. And this is a picture
of Pavese taken in June 1950 in Rome, about the time of
The Strega ceremony. And, as an aside I’ll say there are not a lot of
pictures actually of Pavese, given his importance in
mid-20th century Italian culture. And the reason is, as a
woman knew him told me during my research,
he thought he was really ugly. He did not like
his pictures taken. He would not let
Einaudi use his pictures for publicity purposes. And if you get
into Pavese studies, you come across – if you read
biographies or articles, you come
across the same 20 or 25 pictures
all the time. This one was taken
professionally and he allowed it because
of the Strega Prize. It’s also relevant for the
books I’m going to talk about, his passion for America,
which Mark talked about, Geoffrey, and Andrea. That passion for
American culture the literature and
the movies, led in 1930
as you’ve heard, for this 21-year-old
provincial to turn in a 300-page honors thesis
on Walt Whitman. This is quite remarkable
if you think about it. This is 1930.
This is Italy. This is a man who
never took a course in American literature,
because there were no courses in
American literature taught in Italian high
schools or universities. One thing that has
not been mentioned here, but is relevant for
these books, is to know that Pavese
had a relationship – a history of terrible
relationships with women. Not in the sense
of colleagues or friends, but let’s say in the
romantic, sexual sense. Terrible history! Uh, he never married, he did propose four times –
that we know of – and he was rejected
by all four of the women. The first of whom,
by the way, told Pavese to his face
when they were breaking up that he had never
satisfied her sexually. So into the life of this
complicated 41-year-old Italian, comes at the beginning of
1950, Constance Dowling, a 29-year-old minor
American movie actress. A beautiful sandy blonde with
lustrous light brown eyes. An American and
a movie actress. And let me show you
just a couple pictures of Constance to give you
a feel for the woman. I think I do this… This is a picture of her about
two years before she met Pavese and Pavese – and people
who I’ve interviewed who actually knew Constance
always speak about her eyes, lustrous eyes,
the eyes she had. They were not blue,
they were light brown. This is her still from the
1946 movie called Black Angel. Uh the ‘MM’, she wasn’t
playing Marilyn Monroe, she was playing Mavis Marlowe,
a nightclub singer who gets murdered
early in the movie. These are some publicity stills
from her Hollywood period. And this, again the eyes,
this is a young Richard Egan who then starred in her last movie,
1955 was her last movie Gog, which was a terrible
science fiction deck. Cesare met Connie at a New Year’s
Eve party at the turn of 1950. In March 1950 she came to
Turin at the invitation of a mutual friend,
Alda Grimaldi. Said mutual friend invited both of them to join her
and her husband on a short trip to
the mountains to Cervinia, which is on the Italian side
of the Matterhorn. And here’s Cesare
and Connie in Cervinia, this is one of the only two
pictures of together that we have. To quote myself in my book from
ten years ago: “A trip Pavese “made to a different mountain
resort with a woman sixteen “years earlier resulted in
a humiliating disaster. “Cervinia, however, turned
into a triumph for him. “A true ecstasy of sexual and
emotional release. “Even knowing what happened
later, one wants to cheer for “him up there in the mountains: “the not-very-good-looking
Italian intellectual “gets the dazzling blonde
American movie actress in bed and they both have
a wonderful time.” This is another picture where
you – you almost think – he’s almost kinda slightly
strutting there. They returned to Turin, and
Connie stayed a few more days with Cesare before going off to
Monte Carlo to meet her sister, and then back to Rome
where the sisters lived. Pavese was in a daze. He could not believe
what had just happened. The sex and the emotion
nearly overwhelmed him. But you have to remember this
was a man who did not have good sexual relations with women
in the past, and here he was, in bed with a blonde
American actress who for all we can tell
had a fine time. After he put Constance
on the train out of Turin, he wrote in his diary: “The step was
indeed terrorful “and yet it is taken. “Her incredible sweetness,
words of hope. Darling” – that’s in English
in the original, the diary of course
is in Italian – “A smile, the long
repeated pleasure “of staying with me. “The nights of Cervinia,
the nights of Turin. “She is a girl, a normal girl.
And yet she is terrorful. From the depth of my heart I
say: I did not deserve so much.” From that entry, and from
others – oops, excuse me. From others around the same
time, we know that Pavese was not only in love with Connie,
but he was besotted. But he was alas, besotted
with an imaginary Constance Dowling, which
makes this a good time to introduce Constance
in more detail. Her birth name,
I discovered through my research, I have
to say to my quiet pleasure, was not Dowling – but Smith.
>>[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]>>She was born
Constance Jean Smith in New York City, 1920. She took her stage name from
her mother, Mabel Dowling. She was the oldest of four
children, two girls and two boys. She grew up on
Manhattan’s West Side, north of what is
now Lincoln Center. By age 17, she was
dancing in a nightclub review and in the chorus of
several Broadway musicals. She moved to Los Angeles
and her big break came in 1944, when Samuel Goldwyn co-starred
her opposite Danny Kaye in Kaye’s first full-length movie,
Up in Arms. Uh, included Dinah Shore
and uh, Dana Andrews, not a shabby cast at all. Even though in that
little picture it looks like Constance is together with Dana,
she was actually Kaye’s love interest
in the movie. Unfortunately, she was
not very good. In fact, though beautiful,
she was always somewhat wooden on the screen. In his review of
‘Up in Arms’ for The New York Times,
Bosley Crowther wrote: “A new girl named Constance
Dowling doesn’t act, but she improves the atmosphere.”
>>[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] She never made another
MGM movie, she made one for United Artists, and then
she got work in several B films before moving to Italy in 1947
to join her sister Doris, also an actor, who came earlier
with a contract to star in the neo-realist movie
‘Riso Amaro’ (‘Bitter Rice’), which came out in 1949. This is uh the two sisters
on the set of ‘Bitter Rice’. Doris is in costume, for those
of you who may remember it’s about put-upon rice-pickers,
rice harvesters in the Po Valley. Constance also found work in Italy. She made seven films there,
all but one forgettable. The exception was mentioned
by Andrea, ‘La città dolente’ (‘City of Pain’) in 1949,
directed by Mario Bonnard. This is a poster from the
publicity for that movie. We know a good bit about
Constance Dowling before she met Pavese because of Elia Kazan,
American, Greek-American director and actor. In his 1988
autobiography, Kazan wrote about the autumn of 1937: “Then it
happened in a burst, her name was Constance Dowling.
She’s dead, so I can name her.” He was 28 and she 17,
when they began an eight-year affair that nearly wrecked Kazan’s marriage. In fairness to Kazan,
and to avoid for him a post – a retrospective ‘me too’ movement,
she lied about her age. She said she was 19 when they
met at the Belasco Theatre where Kazan was acting
in Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy and Connie was ushering. Kazan writes of the time they met: “That winter and spring
we’d been like animals in season or two criminals closely pursued,
consorting everywhere – on cold nights up against
the radiator that warmed the lobby of her apartment building;
on the first miracle-warm day of spring, on the roof,
back of the chimney stacks. [COUGH] Walking the dark city streets,
we might suddenly turn into a narrow alley between tall
buildings. Or, when the impulse insisted, we’d meet in a box in
the Belasco Theatre before the audience had entered, our sounds
muffled by the heavy weight of the drapes.
Even during the performance (I wasn’t in the first act of
Golden Boy), we’d do it up against the rail at the back
of the orchestra – just for the hell of it –
or quickly in the lounge below.” Kazan describes, in these chapters
on his affair with Constance, Constance’s body and her
love-making in graphic, graphic detail, and I do mean graphic, it’s kinda
just shy of pornographic. Among other things he
records are her vocalizations during sex, which included ‘oh’, ‘darling’ and ‘oh my God’, which are actually relevant to
a poem I’m going to show you later on. Constance caused Kazan
fits of jealousy. The photographer Robert Capa
proposed marriage to her. She stood up Kazan once to
go off for a weekend in the country with John Houseman. She told
Kazan about an unnamed man in the back of a Pontiac. Kazan
once spied her coming home with a man he assumed to be
an ‘intellectual’, a species Kazan deemed dangerous.
She had a short affair with Charles Boyer. Kazan also describes
the emotional up and downs of the relationship, how
his impulses to leave his wife alternated with the desire
to break off with Connie. Eventually in 1945 he did
break with her. Within days of that final break-up she
was sleeping with Helmut Dantine, the handsome Austrian-born
actor who has been seen millions of times in Casablanca as
the young Bulgarian refugee whom Humphrey Bogart
lets win at roulette so his wife won’t have to sleep with the police
captain played by Claude Rains. The affair with Dantine took place
four years before she met Pavese. When she met Pavese,
she was sleeping with the Italian journeyman actor
Andrea Checchi. I have to say over the years
I’ve been involved with Pavese in America, I’ve actually
come to rather like Constance. She was, in the word
of Tim Parks, one of the “glamorous and brashly erotic women
to whom Pavese was invariably attracted,
but also found frightening”. She married only once, in 1955. Her husband was a Hungarian-born
American – Hungarian-born
American producer named Ivan Tors. They had four children, all boys. One died within days of his birth
and one committed suicide, as did one of Constance’s brothers. I’m sorry to say Constance herself
committed suicide in 1969 at age 49.
Two sons and her husband survived her. Ivan Tors died in 1983. He was best known for
the TV series Flipper. Let me finish my comments on the real
Dowling by once again quoting myself: “At one point in his book,
Kazan calls Dowling a ‘hoyden’. That little-used, sexually tinged word, meaning ‘a boisterous, bold,
and carefree girl’ and more – describes Dowling well. Constance Dowling enjoyed sex
and used her sexual gifts to advance her career. Constance made her way
in a man’s world by using men and being used by them.
She was not using Pavese however, in March 1950, she was just having fun. She had no self-interest in
sleeping with Pavese, and certainly her expertise
made the sex enjoyable for both of them. She was in a mountain resort with a man; in such a situation she slept
with the man, whether it was John Houseman, Elia Kazan,
Robert Capa, or Cesare Pavese. Neither she nor Pavese was married;
neither was betraying anyone. She personally had nothing to do
with Pavese’s history and bears no blame for the
symbolic importance Pavese attached to her. She could not know that
after she left for America he wrote in his diary, ‘surely in her
there is not only her, but all my past… past life,
the unknowing preparation – America, aesthetic discipline, my craft. She is poetry in the most literal sense’.” For Pavese, the nights of Cervinia
and the nights of Turin were momentous, earth-shaking,
even, he hoped, life-changing. Pavese came to realize however,
and write in the last poem he ever wrote,
which happened to be in English, that for Dowling,
‘twas only a flirt. Walt Whitman had been for Pavese
the first incarnation of America. Dowling, the last. And she an incarnation in both
the symbolic and physical sense. She resurrected in him a
hope in the future that he had not felt since he had discovered Whitman as a teenager. And yet that hope lasted
barely two weeks, from mid-March to early April 1950. Andrea quoted some of this,
but I’ll add, as early as six days after Connie
got on that train to Tur – out of Turin,
Pavese wrote in his diary, “nothing, she writes nothing,
she could be dead. Oh God, let me get her back.” In early April he did see her again,
and she told him she was returning to America
that very month. In the five months between
Constance’s return to America and his death, Pavese
resigned himself to the loss. This black period when he knew
he was losing Dowling also led to his composing
what became his best-known poem, “Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi”, “Death Will Come and
Will Have Your Eyes”. Since I have here the translator
of the poem into English, I’d like him to read the poem.>>Verrà la morte e avrà i
tuoi occhi, and um… I’ll just read it. “Death will come and will have your eyes – this death that accompanies us
from morning until evening, unsleeping, deaf, like an old remorse
or an absurd vice. Your eyes will be a useless word,
a suppressed cry, a silence. That’s what you see each morning
alone with yourself you lean toward the mirror. O precious hope, that day
we too will know that you are life and you are
nothingness. Death has a look for everyone. Death will come and will have your eyes. It will be like renouncing a vice,
like seeing a dead face reappear in the mirror, like listening to a lip that’s shut. We’ll go down into the
maelstrom mute.”>>Thank you. Um, with this background in mind, let us look at three of the
inscribed books first. Before doing so, I should add that though I purchased these books in 2009, we’ve known about them and
their inscriptions since around 1992, when Professor Pietralunga
interviewed Doris Dowling, and Doris showed him two of
the books with inscriptions you will see today. The first uh book is a 1949
first edition of Prima che il gallo canti,
uh “Before the Cock Crows”. The inscription reads: “To Connie, who understands,
from Cesare. Turin, 15 March 1950.” Almost certainly, Pavese meant
“who understands me”. He was very wrong. Dowling was an intelligent woman
and understood many things, but she did not understand
the Cesare Pavese who had fallen blindly in love with her. The second book given
to Constance on March 15 is a 1948 second edition of
Il Compagno, “The Comrade”,
and it bears this inscription: “To Connie – To Connie,
alone like many of us, from Cesare.” I have to say right off that
Connie – Dowling – Constantine was absolutely not alone; she was never alone hardly
in her whole life. Certainly not “like many of us”
since with “us” Pavese meant himself. I have to say, I have to say
that this inscription has always slightly annoyed me. It is true that Pavese began a
downward depressive cycle in March, but it was not true, then or ever,
that he was alone. He lived with his sister, her husband, and their two girls,
the latter of whom adored him. He had many friends whom he
held dear and who loved him. Indeed, as his influential teacher
Augusto Monti said after Pavese’s death, “the truth is that Pavese knew
very well that he had many friends. One by one he got them by himself. In fact, that boy passed his whole life making everyone who came
near him love him.” But regardless of what I may think,
Pavese’s feelings of aloneness will come up in the
very last book we’ll look at. The third one here is a uh
1945 third edition of Paesi Tuoi which was in fact the first novel
Pavese published in Italy even though it wasn’t
the first one he wrote. It’s inscription – excuse me –
inscription will lead us directly back to the nights of Cervinia: “To Connie, glowing, laughter.”
While Pavese and Dowling were still in Cervinia,
he wrote her a poem. It was the first poem he had written
in four years, and he wrote it in English.
He entitled it “To C, from C.” Glowing laughter come
from the last line. You all can read as well as
I can talk so… I wanna point out two things
about this. One, first second third fourth,
‘ballet of’ – however you wanna pronounce –
I think shows, kind of a tell that Pavese wrote
this in a foreign language, because he thought ‘boughs’
would rhyme with ‘snows’. So in his he phonetically
saw it as ‘ballet of boughs’. The other thing is “moaning
and glowing, your little ‘ohs’”, it can’t help but take you
back to Kazan’s description and vocalizations about Dowling um,
when Kazan and Dowling were together. I think with this – excuse me – I think with this we’ll leave Pavese, after he had given Constance
these three books on March 15. He is still aglow with the
sex and the surprise of it; she’s on a train to Monte Carlo
to meet her sister and we don’t know who else. And, we have to turn our
attention to Leone Ginzburg, […] who is not very well known
outside the people who study Pavese. During the three years
Pavese attended the Italian equivalent of
senior high school, liceo, he formed friendships that
lasted his whole life. Many of these friends went on,
as Pavese did, to make major contributions
to Italy’s cultural life, especially Leone Ginzburg,
Massimo Mila, Norberto Bobbio, Giulio Einaudi, Tullio Pinelli. They called themselves the
‘confraternity’. Because of Pavese’s
later fame, the confraternity has often been viewed as
his group of friends, but the real intellectual,
or as the the Italians would say, the moral center of the group
was Leone Ginzburg: a Jew, born 1909 in Odessa,
then part of Russia. He was by all accounts a prodigy
and a remarkable human being. The family left Russia in 1913
and established itself in Turin. The family then lived in Berlin
between 1921 and 23, and when they returned Leone entered
the Liceo Massimo d’Azeglio in the class of 1927,
one year behind Pavese. By then Ginzburg already spoke
fluent Russian, German, French, and Italian. Before graduating from the Liceo,
he had already translated into Italian Gogol’s novella Taras Bulba, and his first published article,
on Anna Karenina, appeared as he was
entering the University of Turin in the faculty of law. He became a naturalized
Italian citizen in 1931, the year he received his laurea. He was always deadly serious
about morality and politics, and about morality in politics. He played an active role in the
Turin cell of Giustizia e Libertà, which was an anti-fascist
movement founded by the then-exiled Carlo Rosselli. Under an assumed name,
Ginzburg wrote articles for the movements’ illegal newspaper, and took part in other
clandestine activities. In March 1934,
he was arrested and spent the next two years
in prison. His moral compass always pointed
true north. As the political philosopher
Norberto Bobio recalled, “among our group Ginzburg
stood out not only culturally “but also morally. “Our wonder, mixed sometimes
with affectionate parody, “for the variety of his cultural interests “and the immensity of his knowledge “took second place to our
unconditional admiration for the strength of his convictions.” By 18, his personality
was fully formed. Leone was above all
a man of character. In ethics he was rigorous;
he conceded nothing for practical reasons. His writings,
including his letters, show not only his
wide range of interests, but his editorial sharpness. He effectively co-founded
the Einaudi publishing house with Giulio Einaudi. They also show an intellectual
vitality that never waned, not even during his
two years of jail and later, three of confino, which was
kind of an internal exile. In his essays and reviews,
he wrote in a clear, though somewhat formal Italian that
gives no evidence he learned it as a second or third language. In 1938, he married the
former Natalia Levi, who we in the English-speaking
world know better as Natalia Ginzburg, a better
known writer in fact than her husband. This is Leone and Natalia
not long after they were married. This cultured – I should say,
when they were in conf-confino that was in the Second World War, and when the Allies
invaded Italy in 1943, Leone left the family in the
Abruzzo, travelled to German-occupied Rome,
where he joined the underground. Uh, this cultured, sociable,
kind, caring, severe, and courageous man died
in February 1944, after being tortured by the Nazis
in a section they controlled of the main Rome prison. So strongly did Ginzburg influence
the people who knew him that Bobio, writing 20 years
after Ginzburg’s death and 35 after the confraternity
period, could say, “His convictions became,
in my mature years, “a yardstick for measuring good
and evil, the voice of conscience: ‘what would Leone have said?’,
‘what would Leone have done?’” Thus, while Ginzburg measured
himself by his own standards, many of his friends measured
themselves against him. Pavese was one such friend. And in measuring himself
against Ginzburg, he generally found himself wanting. As I just mentioned, Ginzburg
died under torture in February 1944. At that time, Pavese was sitting
out the war in Casale Monferrato, teaching under an assumed name
at a Catholic boarding school. When he learned of Ginzburg’s
death on March 1 of that year, Pavese wrote wrote in his diary: “Do others exist for us?
I wish the news were not true, “so as not to suffer. “I live as in a fog, “thinking about it,
but always vaguely. “It ends up that in this state
you develop the habit “of always putting off
the true pain until tomorrow, and that way you forget
and have not suffered.” Think a moment about the situation: Pavese never chose sides
in the Italian Civil War of 1943-1945. He definitely did not join
the puppet regime that uh Mussolini had established in Salo, but he never joined any of the
partisan bands in Piemonte, which was the base of many
of the partisan bands. He never committed an act of sabotage, he never even wrote for
an underground newspaper. He hid out and taught teenagers. His best friend,
the man he looked up to, died under torture. As Bobio said, Leone was
above all a man of character. After Ginzburg’s death,
he came to represent for Pavese an examination Pavese had failed, an ideal he had not lived up to, a friend he had morally betrayed. Those kinds of feelings
generate guilt. And the manner of Ginzburg’s death, combined with Pavese’s
choice of safety during the war, absolutely contributed to the
free-floating guilt that characterized Pavese in the
six years he lived after Ginzburg. With that condensed
background in mind, you have some idea of
the character of Leone Ginzburg, what he meant to Pavese, you have some idea of
Constance Dowling, let us look at the fourth book. Um, in his lifetime Pavese
translated seventeen books from English into Italian. I believe the most significant
of them was the second, which was Moby-Dick,
which came out in 1932. It’s a two-volume book, the uh whale on the cover
was designed by Mario Sturani,
who was a relatively – moderately known Italian
painter and ceramicist and a member of the uh,
of the confraternity. The first volume of this book
bears two inscriptions, the second volume has none. The first, rather
lighthearted inscription, comes from the time of
the book’s original publication and reflects the gift that it was. If you can read that it’s, “Offro gratis a Leone Ginzburg,
10 June 32, Cesare Pavese”. The second inscription has
nothing at all lighthearted about it. It is dated 1 April 1950,
which is exactly seventeen days after Pavese had inscribed the
first three books that we looked at. Having heard nothing from Dowling
and frantic to see her again, Pavese travelled to Rome on
1 April and arrived that evening. Nothing in his diaries or
his letters suggests that before his arrival in Rome Pavese
knew of Dowling’s decision to return to America. All he knew was that she had not
shown a strong attachment for him, while he felt possessed
by the woman. I think Pavese wrote the
dedication to Constance we’re about to look at
before seeing her for the first time on that trip. He felt desperate, and looked
for a way to show her how much he loved her
and how important she was to him, so he wanted to give her
a gift of great value and that was meaningful to him. So he gives her the copy of
Moby-Dick that previously he had given to Leone Ginzburg,
and he adds this inscription: “Leone died my only friend,
won’t you take his place, Connie?” If that doesn’t wanna make you
cry, I don’t think anything will. Leave aside my objection to
the only friend business, this shows a man who was
desperately in love, and just plain desperate. And here is how
the book looks in total, […] the dual inscription, the book physically is back there. It’s actually for this book
that I bought this collection of books in 2009, this inscription is really
extraordinary, just extraordinary. You have the eighteen –
it’s eighteen years apart, you have the young
and carefree Pavese, you have a middle-aged
and obsessed Pavese. I wanna close by posing
a question: what on Earth made
Pavese think that an eighteen-year-old
translation of Moby-Dick would mean anything to
Constance Dowling? I believe the answer was
that the book was dear to Pavese. A valuable, almost sacred object because of its connection to
Leone Ginzburg. Therefore, he believed it would be
dear and valuable to Connie, for in his eyes, she was
a woman who understands, and was alone like many of us. How could she not treasure
a book with such significance – such symbolic significance and with such a
significant inscription? But once again Pavese was
seeing the woman he wanted to see, the woman he wanted Connie to be. He wanted Connie to be somebody
who would really appreciate that. He was not seeing
the real Constance Dowling. In fact, none of the books,
not even Moby-Dick, meant anything to Constance. When she returned
to America that month she gave all four to Doris. It was Doris who brought them
to America in September 1950, and Doris who kept them
until she died in 2004, and her only son
Jonathan Shaw inherited them. By then of course, none of it –
none of it mattered to Pavese, he killed himself in August 1950. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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