Showing posts with label Cesare Pavese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cesare Pavese. Show all posts

19 September 2019

Italo Calvino – writer

One of 20th century Italy's most important authors



Italo Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923 but moved to Sanremo with his Italian-born parents in 1925
Italo Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923 but moved
to Sanremo with his Italian-born parents in 1925
Novelist and journalist Italo Calvino died on this day in 1985 in Siena in Tuscany.

Calvino was regarded as one of the most important Italian writers of fiction of the 20th century.  His best known works are the Our Ancestors trilogy, written in the 1950s, the Cosmicomics collection of short stories, published in 1965, and the novels, Invisible Cities, published in 1972 and If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, published in 1979.

Both of Calvino’s parents were Italian, but he was born in Santiago de Las Vegas, a suburb of Havana in Cuba, in 1923, where his father, Mario, an agronomist and botanist, was conducting scientific experiments. Calvino’s mother, Eva, was also a botanist and a university professor. It is believed she gave Calvino the first name of Italo to remind him of his heritage.

Calvino and his parents left Cuba for Italy in 1925 and settled permanently in Sanremo in Liguria, where his father’s family had an ancestral home at San Giovanni Battista.

His family held the science subjects in greater esteem than the arts and Calvino, a prolific reader of stories as a child, is said to have ‘reluctantly’ studied agriculture.

Encouraged by his mother, he joined the Italian Resistance during the later stages of the Second World War, having gone into hiding rather than sign up for military service in Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. Using the battle name of Santiago, Calvino joined the Garibaldi Brigades, a clandestine Communist group. He became a member of the Italian Communist Party, although he would leave it in 1957 following the Soviet invasion of Hungary,

Calvino's first novel was published in 1947, inspired by his time with the Italian Resistance
Calvino's first novel was published in 1947,
inspired by his time with the Italian Resistance
After the war he settled in Turin and gained a degree in Literature while working for the Communist periodical L’Unità and the Einaudi publishing house, where he came into contact with Cesare Pavese, Natalia Ginzburg, Norberto Bobbio and other left-wing intellectuals and writers.  From 1959 to 1966 Calvino co-edited the left-wing magazine Il Menabò di Letteratura.

Calvino’s first novel was inspired by his time in the Italian Resistance. Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno - The path to the nest of spiders - published in 1947, sold more than 5000 copies and won the Premio Riccione prize.

He began writing fantasy and allegory in the 1950s. Il visconte dimezzato - the Cloven Viscount - was published in 1952, Il barone rampante - The baron in the Trees - in 1957 and Il cavaliere inesistente - the Nonexistent Knight - in 1959. These stories were to bring him international acclaim.

In an interview, Calvino once said that the scenery around his family home in Sanremo continued to pop out in his books.

In 1962 Calvino married Argentinian translator Esther Judith Singer in Havana. During the trip to Cuba he visited his birthplace and was introduced to Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. 

Before meeting Singer he had had an affair with Italian actress Elsa De Giorgi, a married, older woman, which caused something of a scandal.

Calvino's tomb in the village cemetery at Castiglione della Pescaia in Tuscany
Calvino's tomb in the village cemetery at
Castiglione della Pescaia in Tuscany
Calvino and his wife settled in Rome, where their daughter, Giovanna, was born.  Later, they would move to Castiglione della Pescaia on the Tuscan coast. He was inspired by the beauty of the area and his last full length novel, Palomar,  published in 1983, is set in the village.

In later life, Calvino visited Mexico, Japan and the US, where he gave a series of lectures in different American towns.  During the summer of 1985, Calvino prepared a series of texts on literature to be delivered at Harvard University in the autumn.

But in early September he was admitted to the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena where he died on 19 September of a cerebral haemorrhage, aged 61.  His lecture notes were published posthumously in Italian in 1988. They were published in English in 1993 as Six Memos for the Next Millennium.

At the time of his death he was the most translated contemporary Italian writer.  He is buried at the cemetery in Castiglione della Pescaia.


The seaside resort of Sanremo was one of Italy's earliest destinations for foreign tourists
The seaside resort of Sanremo was one of Italy's earliest
destinations for foreign tourists
Travel tip:

Sanremo is an historic Italian holiday destination that was one of the first to benefit when the phenomenon of tourism began to take hold in the mid-18th century, albeit primarily among the wealthy. Several grand hotels were established and the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia was among the European royals who took holidays there. The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize, made it his permanent home. The Italian Riviera resort is also famous as the home of the Sanremo Music Festival, the prestigious song contest that has been held every year since 1951 and which has launched the careers of many stars.

Piazza Castello is at the heart of royal Turin, the city in Piedmont where Calvino lived after the Second World War
Piazza Castello is at the heart of royal Turin, the city in
Piedmont where Calvino lived after the Second World War
Travel tip:

Turin, where Calvino settled after his wartime experiences, is the capital city of the region of Piedmont in the north of Italy. It is an important business centre, particularly for the car industry, and has a rich history linked with the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of royal Turin. Turin Cathedral was built between 1491 and 1498 in Piazza San Giovanni in Turin. The Chapel of the Holy Shroud, where the Turin Shroud is kept, was added in 1668. Some members of the House of Savoy are buried in the cathedral while others are buried in the Basilica di Superga on the outskirts of the city.

More reading:

How Cesare Pavese introduced the great American writers to Fascist Italy

The philosophy of Norberto Bobbio

Giuseppina Tuissa, heroine of the Garibaldi Brigades

Also on this day:

1898: The birth of Giuseppe Saragat, Italy's fifth president

1941: The birth of Umberto Bossi, fiery former leader of Lega Nord

The Festival of San Gennaro


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9 January 2019

Norberto Bobbio - political philosopher

Intellectual regarded as foremost 20th century commentator


Norberto Bobbio was a university professor and a forthright political commentator
Norberto Bobbio was a university professor
and a forthright political commentator
Norberto Bobbio, a philosopher of law and political sciences who came to be seen as one of Italy’s most respected political commentators in the 20th century, died on this day in 2004 in Turin, the city of his birth.

He was 94 and had been in hospital suffering from respiratory problems. His funeral was attended by political and cultural leaders including the then-president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.  He had been writing essays well into his 90s, despite for much of his life suffering from bouts of what was described as “fatigue and melancholy”.

His extensive catalogue of work spanned almost seven decades of Italian political life and societal change from the rise of Fascism in the 1930s to the second premiership of Silvio Berlusconi, of whom he was an outspoken critic.

For much of his career, Bobbio was a professor at the University of Turin, where he was chair of philosophy of law from 1948 and, from 1972, of the faculties of legal and political philosophy and political science.

He was made a Life Senator in 1984, although he stayed away from playing an active role in Italian politics after failing to gain election to the parliament of the new Republic in 1946, standing on a liberal-socialist ticket.  Later he confessed that he was much relieved when a move to make him President in the 1990s did not succeed.

Bobbio was part of a famous group of Turin  intellectuals who opposed Fascism in the 1930s
Bobbio was part of a famous group of Turin
intellectuals who opposed Fascism in the 1930s
Many of his books and collections of essays are regarded as seminal works, but among them The Future of Democracy: A Defence Of The Rules Of The Game (1984), State, Government and Society (1985), The Age of Rights (1990) and Right and Left (1994) are considered to have particular importance.

Right and Left was an analysis of left-right political distinctions, in which he argued that the incompatibility of the two poles boiled down to the Left's belief in attempting to eradicate social inequality, set against the Right regarding most social inequality to be the result of inherent natural inequalities, and seeing attempts to enforce social equality as utopian or authoritarian.

Bobbio was born into a middle-class Turin family, the son of a doctor  whose attitude to Fascism was that, set against Bolshevism, which was gathering pace in Italy at the time, it was the lesser of two evils.

His own political thinking was influenced by the group of friends he made at the Liceo Classico Massimo d'Azeglio in Turin, where he became part of the intellectual movement that included the novelists Cesare Pavese and Carlo Levi, his future publisher Giulio Einaudi, the critic Leone Ginsburg and the radical politician Vittorio Foa. 

Bobbio argued in favour of the Historic Compromise between the Communists and the Christian Democrats in the 1970s
Bobbio argued in favour of the 'historic compromise' between
the Communists and the Christian Democrats in the 1970s
They were all involved with the anti-Fascist magazine Riforma Sociale - Social Reform - published by Einaudi’s father, Luigi, a future President of Italy - that Mussolini had closed down and spent several weeks in jail as a result.

He was imprisoned again in 1943, this time by the Germans, after the illegal political party of which he was a member, the Partito d’Azione - the Action Party - became involved in resistance activity. Arrested in Padua, he was released after three months.

The party - for a while the main non-Communist opposition group - lacked popular support, however, and Bobbio failed in his bid for election to the assembly of the new Republic in 1946, after which he devoted himself to his academic life, taking positions at various universities teaching the philosophy of law.

Throughout his intellectual life, he was a strong advocate of the rule of law, and although by nature a socialist, he was opposed to what he perceived as the anti-democratic, authoritarian elements in most of Marxism. He was a strong supporter of the so-called 'historic compromise' - the proposed coalition of the Italian Communist Party and the Christian Democrats in the strife-torn 1970s - and a fierce critic of Silvio Berlusconi, whom he accused of presiding over a moribund political system that lacked idealism and hope.

Turin is famous for its beautiful royal palaces
Travel tip:

Turin was once the capital of Italy. It has a wealth of elegant streets and beautiful architecture, yet over the years has tended to be promoted less as a tourist attraction than cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice, possibly because of its long association with the Savoy family and subsequently the Italian royal family, who were expelled from Italy in disgrace when Italy became a republic at the end of the Second World War, their long-term unpopularity with some sections of Italian society compounded by their collaboration with Mussolini’s Fascists. Yet there is much to like about a stay in Turin. Aside from the splendour of the royal palaces, it has an historic café culture, 12 miles of arcaded streets and some of the finest restaurants in northern Italy.


Rivalta di Torino, looking towards the castle
Rivalta di Torino, looking towards the castle
Travel tip:

Norberto Bobbio was laid to rest at the cemetery in Rivalta di Torino, a small town in Piedmont, located about 14km (9 miles) southwest of Turin in the Sangone valley.  It is home to a medieval castle, which formed the heart of what was then a village in the 11th century. The castle and the village were owned by the Orsini family - long-standing Italian nobility dating back to medieval times - until 1823. In 1836, the French writer Honoré de Balzac was guest at the castle of its new owner, Count Cesare Benevello, as is recorded in an inscription on the wall.


More reading:

How Cesare Pavese introduced Italian readers to the great American novelists

Why the murder of Aldo Moro ended hopes for a 'historic compromise'

Giulio Einaudi - the publisher who defied Mussolini

Also on this day:

1878: The death of King Victor Emmanuel II

1878: Umberto I succeeds Victor Emmanuel II

1944: The birth of architect Massimiliano Fuksas


Home

9 September 2017

Cesare Pavese - writer and translator

Author introduced great American writers to Fascist Italy


Cesare Pizzardo translated the works of many American novelists
Cesare Pavese translated the works
of many American novelists
Cesare Pavese, the writer and literary critic who, through his work as a translator, introduced Italy to the Irish novelist James Joyce and a host of great American authors of the 20th century, was born on this day in 1908 in Santo Stefano Belbo, a town in Piedmont about 60km from Turin.

Pavese would become an acclaimed novelist after the Second World War but was frustrated for many years by the strict censorship policies of Italy’s Fascist government.

It is thought he devoted himself to translating progressive English-language writers into Italian as the best way by which he could promote the principles of freedom in which he believed.

Pavese’s translations would have given most Italians they first opportunity to read writers such as Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos and Daniel Defoe, as well as Joyce, who would ultimately spend many years living in Italy.

The son of Eugenio Pavese, an officer of the law courts in Turin, Cesare had a fractured childhood. His father died when he was only six and his mother, Consolina, is said to have shown him little affection, as a result of which he grew up learning how to fend for himself.

He was born in Santo Stefano Belbo, situated in a picturesque vine-growing area east of Alba in southern Piedmont, because his parents were staying at their holiday home there when his mother went into Labour.  As soon as he was old enough, he moved to Turin and attended the lyceum – the Licio Classico Massimo d’Azeglio – where he was taken under the wing of the Italian anti-Fascist intellectual Augusto Monti.

Pavese hid in the hills outside Turin during the Second World War occupation of the city by German soldiers
Pavese hid in the hills outside Turin during the Second
World War occupation of the city by German soldiers
Monti was later imprisoned by the regime for his vociferous opposition, a fate that would befall Pavese not long after he had left the University of Turin, where he was mentored by Leone Ginzburg, husband of the author Natalia Ginzburg.

He had begun an affair with Tina Pizzardo, a young Communist he met at the sparsely-attended anti-Fascist meetings he used to frequent, and agreed for her to use his address as somewhere to which she could have correspondence delivered because her own movements were under surveillance.

However, when the authorities intercepted letters from Altiero Spinelli, a jailed anti-Fascist dissident, and found they were addressed to Pavese’s apartment, he was arrested and sent to a prison at Brancaleone in Calabria, almost 1,400km (870 miles) from Turin.

Pavese later wrote a book about his ordeal, although for many years his work remained unpublished by his own choice, rather than it be censored.  When a volume of his poetry was published during his incarceration, a number of poems were deleted by the Fascist authorities.

On his return to Turin after a little more than a year in jail, he found that Pizzardo had begun another relationship and countered his sadness by throwing himself into his work, again mainly in translating.  He became a close associate of Giulio Einaudi – father of the pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi and son of the politician Luigi Einaudi – with whom he helped establish the Einaudi publishing house. Natalia Ginzburg also worked there.

The young communist Tina Pizzardo, with whom Pavese had an affair
The young communist Tina Pizzardo,
with whom Pavese had an affair
Pavese was conscripted to fight in Mussolini’s Fascist army but avoided front-line action because he suffered from asthma. Instead, he was confined to a military hospital for six months.

In his absence, German troops occupied Turin and on returning to civilian life when he was discharged on health grounds Pavese went into hiding in the hills around Serralunga di Crea, near Casale Monferrato, where he remained between 1943 and 1945.

Most of Pavese’s work, mainly short stories and novellas, was published by Einaudi, appearing between the end of the Second World War and his death. In that time he was a member of the Italian Communist Party and worked on the party’s newspaper L’Unità.

The main character in many of Pavese’s stories was often a loner, whose relationships with both men and women tended to be short-lived. The stories are often bleak yet he was admired for the tautness of his prose, which was favourably compared to that of Ernest Hemingway.

They tended to draw comparison with his own life. As well as his affair with Pizzardo, whom he felt deserted him, he had a brief relationship after the war with Constance Dowling, an American actress, but that too failed and is seen to have been a contributory factor in his death at the age of only 41.

It came at a moment when he appeared to be at the height of his career, hailed as one of Italy’s greatest living writers.

Works such as La casa in collina (The House on the Hill) and Il carcere (The Prison), which were published as a two-novella volume entitled Prima che il gallo canti (Before the Cock Crows) and based in his experiences in prison, were regarded as confirming his genius, as were Il Compagno (The Comrade), Dialoghi con Leucò (Dialogues with Leucò) - philosophical dialogues between classical Greek characters – and La luna e i falò (The Moon and the Bonfires), which he dedicated to Dowling.  

In 1950, he won the prestigious Strega Prize but two months after receiving the honour he was found dead in an hotel room in Turin, having swallowed an overdose of barbiturates.  Entries in his diary indicated that he had been profoundly depressed following his break-up with Dowling, which he took as a sign that he would never find happiness in marriage, or with other people.

The village of Santo Stefano Belbo
The village of Santo Stefano Belbo
Travel tip:

Pavese’s life is commemorated in several ways in Santo Stefano Belbo, where there is a museum housed in the house his parents owned in what is now Via Cesare Pavese, while the Cesare Pavese Foundation, which was established in 1973 and has its headquarters in Piazza Confraternita off Via Cavour, promotes not only the work of Pavese but encourages and supports other writers.

A plaque marks where Cesare Pavese lived in Turin
A plaque marks where Cesare Pavese lived in Turin
Travel tip:

In Turin, Pavese lived in the same building for 20 years on the Via Alfonso Lamarmora, one of the elegant residential streets in the grid of criss-crossing thoroughfares that characterises the centre of the city.  Via Lamarmora links Corso Stati Uniti with Via Sebastiano Caboto, bisecting the busy Corso Luigi Einaudi. There is a wall plaque marking the building that contained his apartment.