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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Wednesday
Jan132010

« In Which One Is Bound To Throw A Woman Over Sooner or Later »

An Expressive Indication

by CESARE PAVESE

The diaries of Cesare Pavese are a treasure trove of insights into the relationships between man, art, and women. When he is a misogynist he is kinder than any before him, when he is naive he is consistently instructive in his ignorance. Most of all, he is so perceptive that his private writing, never intended for publication, ascends to the greatest heights of literature. The following excerpts from his diaries in the years 1939-1941 were translated by A.E. Murch.

16th May

Bachelors regard matrimony more seriously than married people do.

18th May

The man who avoids having children because he does not want to support them, will have to support other men's children.

20th May

It is natural that a woman, compelled by the circumstances to submit to the intrusion of another's body into her own (leaving out of her social subjection) should have developed a whole technique of escape within herself, eluding man, nullifying his conquest of her. Quite apart from her other weapons - deceitfulness and the game of social life.

Man is, at most, the slave of vice, but the woman, after coition, is the slave of the probable consequences: hence her terribly practical attitude to these things.

12th June

Since one is bound to throw a woman over, sooner or later, it is as well to do it quickly.

7th July

An experience that seemed to you commonplace - let time pass, and you will see it with fresh eyes. It will be amazing.

5th November

Why do we find any new writer tiresome? Because we do not yet know enough about him to visualize him in a social environment we would feel confident in sharing.

26th November

In his Purgatorio, Dante never turns back to survey the panorama, for the reason that he is not realistically describing a journey, but expounding a creed, using the scene and making it visible only in so far as it serves to give his ideas a bodily form. Thus he is not obliged to respect the naturalistic logic of reality.

At the end of the century, the theme of the discord between art and life - the artist who feels ineffectual and out of touch with reality - put a stop to all the romantic autobiographies that seemed inadequate after the wild outburst of genius and folly in the eighteen hundreds.

21st December

Love is the cheapest of religions.

3rd January

There is a type of man accustomed to thinking that life owes him nothing, not even on the score of work he has done or an ordeal he has endured: nothing from anyone on any pretext whatever, not even from those he has helped. Consequently he gives nothing to others except for his own pleasure. Myself exactly.

9th February

In general, the man who is readily disposed to sacrifice himself is one who does not know how else to give meaning to his life.

The profession of enthusiasm is the most sickening of all insincerities.

19th February

The characters in your poems tend a little too much to have odd, i.e., picturesque, ways of earning a living.

22nd February

The interest of this journal would be the unforeseen profusion of ideas, the periods of inspiration that, of themselves, automatically, indicate the main trends of your inner life. From time to time you try to understand what you are thinking, and only as an afterthought do you go on to link your present ideas with those of days gone by. The originality of these pages is that you leave the construction to work itself out, and set your own spirit in front of you, objectively. There is something metaphysical in your confidence that this psychological sequence of your thoughts will shape itself into a well-constructed work.

7th April

One man may seem to you older than his age, and another always appears younger than his actual years. They are two distinct types of men; probably they have other differences. You belong to those who are younger than their years. At thirty, you do not believe you are so old.

28th May

Faulkner's figures of speech (Sanctuary) are dialectic and imaginative: for example, "crazy as a cow on a bicycle," or when he describes the eyes of a deaf old man as being "turned inwards to show the backside of the eye-balls," or Temple who thinks about becoming a man and feels like a tube fallen over as does the finger of a glove - flop! They are all Elizabethan metaphors; "Fate is a spaniel; we cannot beat it from us"; narrative images, not contemplative, substituting for the object an expressive indication; the images that create a language.

1st June

Why do people adopt poses, play the dandy, the skeptic, the stoic or the careless trifler? Because they feel there is something superior in facing life according to a standard and a discipline they have imposed on themselves, if only in their mind. And, in fact, this is the secret of happiness; to adopt a pattern of behavior, a style, a mold into which all our impressions and expressions must fall and be remodeled. Every life lived according to a pattern that is consistent, comprehensive and vital, has a classic symmetry.

26th July

Spent the day with Gognin.

1st August

All libertines are sentimentalists. First, that stems from their long, verbal pretense to be so; then, from their contact with women, which makes them used to all that is delicate, soft and formal; but above all it arises from considering the relations between men and women as a field, not of duties, but of emotions. The cure for sentimentalism is to become, not cynical, but serious-minded.

5th August

We must never say, even in fun, that we are disheartened, because someone might take us at our word.

It is a certain sign of love to want to know, to relive, the childhood of the other.

14th August

A man succeeds in completing a work only when his qualities transcend that work.

17th August

Gognin's way of talking at random, capriciously putting a subject aside and going back to it when the fancy takes her, has become a style. Anyone who accepts and adopts it she treats as a friend. She likes doing it and makes a habit of it. The power of a style!

6th September

As for love affairs, we can only tolerate our own.

30th September

The best defense against a love affair is to tell yourself over and over again till you are dizzy: "This passion is simply stupid; the game is not worth the candle." But a lover always tends to imagine that this time it is the real thing; the beauty of it lies in the persistent conviction that something extraordinary, something incredible, is going to happen to us.

My affair with Gognin (provided it is all over) has been a repetition of '34-'38.

5th October

No, it is not all over.

7th October

Can it be true that you fall in love only with women who are very popular (the ballerina, Gognin) and that what pleases you about them is that they are desired by everyone, that you suffer because you are not the only one to possess them? The really clever thing, in affairs of this sort, is not to win a woman already desired by everyone, but to discover her while she is still unknown. (Cinderella.)

12th October

Love has the faculty of making two lovers seem naked, not in each other's sight, but in their own.

14th October

To see again the woman you have been desperately longing for, the one you have been thinking of every single moment for a fortnight, has almost the effect of disillusionment. The real woman is different from the one you have been dreaming of, more definite, yet more evasive.

Women are utterly, fundamentally, indifferent to poetry. In this they are like men of action, and all women are "men of action." It seems that they are interested in it, from adolescence, for one subtle reason only: poetry is born of a bacchanalian exaltation, an exaltation that lies at the root of all that women regard as real. Even when they are inexperienced or superficial, women never confuse any other emotion with the real, active, vital emotion that seizes them when confronted with life itself.

Great lovers will always be unhappy, because for them, love is of supreme importance. Consequently they demand of their beloved the same intensity of thought as they have for her, otherwise they feel betrayed. It does not please a woman that a man thinks of her day and night, for she does not think of him all the time.

15th October

We obtain things when we no longer want them.

Classification of women: those who exploit others, and those who let others exploit them. Classification of men: those who love the first type, and those who love the second.

5th July

I do not know what to do with women who belong to other men.

Cesare Pavese killed himself in August of 1950. You can purchase his diaries here.

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Reader Comments (2)

i have no idea who Cesare Pavese was, but this stuff is great. thanks for bringing it to my attention, enjoyable read, and though at times ludicrous, other times rather insightful

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames

Wonderful. UGK's such a good look for this - transparent, naive emotionalism.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentere

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