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Cesare Pavese

(9 September 1908 – 27 August 1950 / Santo Stefano Belbo)

Quotations

  • ''Will power is only the tensile strength of one's own disposition. One cannot increase it by a single ounce.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for Jan. 15, 1938 (1952, trans. 1961).
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  • ''Literature is a defense against the attacks of life. It says to life: "You can't deceive me. I know your habits, foresee and enjoy watching all your reactions, and steal your secret by involving you in cunning obstructions that halt your normal flow."''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for May 5, 1936 (1952, trans. 1961).
  • ''If it were possible to have a life absolutely free from every feeling of sin, what a terrifying vacuum it would be!''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for March 17, 1940 (1952, trans. 1961).
  • ''One does not kill oneself for love of a woman, but because love—any love—reveals us in our nakedness, our misery, our vulnerability, our nothingness.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for March 25, 1950 (1952, trans. 1961). See also Pavese's comment under "suicide."
  • ''No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. Journal entry, March 23, 1938. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1950, trans. 1961). Suicide was a continuing theme in Pavese's diaries; he took his own life on Aug. 27, 1950, shortly after being awarded the Strega Prize for literature.
  • ''A man is never completely alone in this world. At the worst, he has the company of a boy, a youth, and by and by a grown man—the one he used to be.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, Winter 1941-1942 entry (1952, trans. 1961).
  • ''Love is the cheapest of religions.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for December 21, 1939 (1952, trans. 1961).
  • ''Reality is a prison, where ... one vegetates and always will. All the rest—thought, action—is just a pastime, mental or physical. What counts then, is to come to grips with reality. The rest can go.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for Dec. 28, 1936 (1952, trans. 1961).
  • ''At great periods you have always felt, deep within you, the temptation to commit suicide. You gave yourself to it; breached your own defenses. You were a child. The idea of suicide was a protest against life; by dying, you would escape this longing for death.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian poet, novelist, translator. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for Jan. 1, 1950 (1952, trans. 1961).
  • ''Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. It means involving oneself in a complicated chain of circumstances.''
    Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Italian author, poet. The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950, entry for May 5, 1936 (1952, trans. 1961).

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Habits

On the asphalt of the avenue the moon makes
a quiet lake and my friend remembers other times.
A spontaneous encounter used to be enough for him
and he was no longer alone. Looking at the moon,
he breathed in the night. But the freshest scent
was of a woman encountered, the brief adventure
on unsure steps. The quiet room
and a fleeting desire to live there forever
filled his heart. Then, under the moon,

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