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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in cesare pavese (6)


In Which He Would Like To Be Made Of Fog So No One Could Find Him

The Notebooks of Elias Canetti

The notebook is the perfect literary form for the eternal student, someone who has no subject or, rather, whose subject is 'everything.'

- Susan Sontag

The notebooks of Elias Canetti are inspired by the similar writing of Cesare Pavese. Born into a family of Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria, Canetti grew up in Vienna, did his writing in German, and spent most of his days in England. He perfected the science of aphorism, which consists of making an apparently profound statement that doesn't hold up quite as well upon closer examination. His personal writings are at the same time magically perceptive and entertainingly naive. Collected together they form a total greater than the sum of their individual parts. These notebooks were translated from the German by John Hargraves. - A.C.

It all depends on this: with whom we confuse ourselves.

Everyone there has just the amount of space that fits under an umbrella. No one goes out without one, and everyone puts his up. No one comes too close to anyone else. A distance is preserved. There is freedom everywhere. When acquaintances meet, the umbrellas are made to bow. How dignified are these greetings from umbrella to umbrella.

To have someone happy at home, so you can be happy elsewhere.

In that country, everyone sees themsleves when speaking to others, as if blind to all but their own images. Thus they are all very polite; they couldn't be more pleasant. Indeed, they are in a state of enthusiasm for everyone else, an enthusiasm only somewhat mitigated by their monotonous similarity. It is enchanting to see how they bow to everyone, when you know that they see themselves in everyone else.

in marrakech
I love to tell people who they really are. I am proud of my ability to instill in them a belief in themselves. I show them their own efforts. But I succeed only when I put myself into the effort. From my efforts their own take shape.

What I find most repulsive about people are their plans.

The figure of a lover who suddenly is struck with the horrible realization that others are lovers too. The minute he can no longer deny the truth of this, his own emotion dissolves.

The story of the man who finds women to whom he delegates all the activities he has taken upon himself to do. I call him the slaveholder. He is a nice, friendly man, but what happens to them is that they become so swollen with all his tasks that they burst.

Kafka: I grovel in the dust before him; Proust: my fulfillment; Musil: my intellectual exercise.

Now the planetarium has become a terrarium, and we cannot gaze upon the planets without feeling somewhat confined and oppressed by their attainability.

It is a great pleasure to listen to people who have nothing to say. They ought to be what they are and not be judged for it; still less should one try to influence them. Keep your eyes wide open and let it all flow in, in all its senselessness, disorder, and futility. You can make sense of it only later, in your own imagination.

He gives the impression of being quite experienced, for he makes up all the experiences himself. He never wears disguises. He is never interested in the outcomes of his plots; he needs newer, bigger conspiracies and, in the end, is gladly brought down by their consequences.

A strong passion is useful in that it compels people to outwit it at the same time as they get to know it in its every detail.

He loves her; he can't be as careful with anybody else.

The vilest letters he answers conscientiously. To serious ones he makes no reply at all. And why does he so carelessly squander the rare respect of their authors? He is totally fascinated by those who hate him. He counts his haters in every country and carefully decodes for himself what they have against him. How much he agrees with them! How much he understands them! They make him feel proud: how dangerous he is! He hears their words in seven dozen languages and translates them into his own. There are never enough: he is always hoping for more.

He said "we" when he meant "I." But in return he always said "I" for "you."

A woman who knew all the great men and outlived them. One of them will not die. Her desperation.

I am sick of longing for places I already have an image of. I am sick of being astonished by words because they are inscrutably splendid. I want to seek something that I, and only I, will find. I want to feel that nothing is certain until I have it. I can't bother with stones someone else has already piled up. Leave these games to the fair, who forget themselves in their self-assurance, to the dancers who only recognize themselves in front of mirrors, to the consumers, the travelers, the inheritors and celebrities.

He collects his writers like butterflies, and under his care they turn into one great caterpillar.

Fear not your treasures turning to dust. They will decay only if you stand watch over them. Go ahead, quivering and uncertain. What you don't know will preserve what you do.

Pavese was my exact contemporary. But he started working earlier and took his life ten years ago. His journal is a kind of twin to mine. He cared mostly about literature, unlike me. But I happened onto myths and ethnology earlier. On December 3, 1949, eight months before his death, he wrote the following in his journal:

"I have to find

W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd, Specimens of Bushman Folklore, London 1911."

This book has been in my possession for sixteen years, since 1944. I have often considered it the most important book: I have learned the most from it, and it is still not exhausted. This book, which Pavese turned to just before his death, is what we have most in common, and I wish I could give it to him.

On March 14, 1947, there is this sentence; "Hemingway is the Stendhal of our time."

I find this appalling and outrageous. Perhaps there is something to it, but I am too upset about the statement to judge. I am horrified that anyone could make it. It is as if someone wanted to dispel the mystery of Stendhal, the source of his greatness, with a cheap and obvious Americanism. Pavese was an admirer of Amreicanism; I am not. Thus Pavese could be called a modern writer; I could not. I am a Spaniard, an old Spaniard of today...

It is very odd that I feel such a kinship with Pavese, of whom I know nothing outside his journals. I feel so related to him that such an unexpected utterance angers me profoundly.

I am under the impression that he destroyed himself for an American woman.

"26 April. Wednesday. Certainly in her is contained not only herself but my entire past life, an unconscious preparing - America...."

Strictly speaking, I have actually hidden myself from America up till the present. Its only real influence on me has been Poe, whom I read very early, perhaps at twenty. In this respect I am not different from many nineteenth century writers. Hemingway rolled off me like water.

From 1942 to 1950 Pavese's journals run parallel to my own. Never before have I been so astonished by such parallelism. But I must assemble my earlier, spare writings and bring them into some kind of order. Even prior to 1942 I was not mute, just less resolute.

Nothing is so antiquated as power. Even faith is more modern.

Learn to speak again at fifty-five, not a new language but speech itself. Discard all my prejudices, even if nothing else is left. Reread the great books whether I've actually read them before or not. Listen to people without lecturing them, especially those who have nothing to teach me. Stop validating fear as a means of fulfillment. Struggle against death without constantly pronouncing its name. In short, courage and justice.

If prayers were to be answered, they could not be retracted: a highly alarming state of affairs.

I have read my old sentences again; they are no longer mine. Since they were printed a piece of my life has fallen away from me. The public sucks the blood from a man's soul, and what is left is just a shadow, which bows down to them.

Pavese's journals: all the things that preoccupy me, crystallized in another way. What luck! What a liberation!

His death prepared for: but nothing is abused, no emotion for him aroused. It just comes as if it were natural. But no death is natural. He keeps his death to himself, private. We hear about it, but it sets no example. No one would kill himself because he did.

And yet last night, when in my deepest depression I wanted to die, I reached for his journals, and he died for me. Hard to believe: through his death, today I am reborn. This mysterious process should be looked into, but not by me. I will not touch it. I want to keep it a secret.

He saw them as fishes swimming among one another, mouths of all sizes, totally at each other's mercy.

The sycophant tries with every means to conceal how much he values the scrap that has fallen to him.

I will never succumb to adjectives, especially in threes. They are Proust's Orientalism, his love of jewels. These say nothing to me, for I love all stones. The "precious" stones for Proust are the aristocrats among his characters. My "aristocrats" are those unknown people of "the beginning": bushmen, Aranda, Tierra del Fuegans, the Ainu. My "aristocrats" are all those who still live by myths, who would be lost without them. (And now they are, mostly.) The society in which Proust made his way, his snobbishness, was his way of experiencing the world. That world leaves me cold. I am only interested in it when I read him or Saint-Simon.

She said that even the English can show grief about death and gave me many examples of mourning for dogs.

Your actual affection for people overcomes you when they are no longer around.

Read two consecutive sentences of Kafka and you feel smaller than you ever have before. Kafka's passion for making himself insignificant is transmitted to the reader.

What can we do with the people from our pasts, with all those we have known? They keep turning up, more and more of them, a kind of transmigration, not of soul but of faces and not in the hereafter but here. Years ago I was so astounded by their turning up in totally new places, with different ages, jobs, languages, that I was determined to write down every occurrence of this phenomenon. But I did so only rarely, and they have gotten more and more numerous. Now they are proliferating so fast that I could never record them all. What is it about these constantly recurring people? Is there really only a limited number of possible faces? Or can our memories be organized only with the help of such resemblances?

What if it were all just an overture and no one knew to what?

Elias Canetti died in 1994. He was the 1981 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"Our Get" - White Denim (mp3)

"Shy Billy" - White Denim (mp3)

"Through Your Windows" - White Denim (mp3)


In Which This Concludes The List of Phrases You Sent Me

Green Bay to Turin

The correspondence of Cesare Pavese, here with his American friend and distinguished conductor Antonio Chiuminatto, betrays a man living in an increasingly fascist country whose interactions with America constitute the major part of his optimism. For men of his and various succeeding generations, the freedom of America represented an ideal contrast to a growing climate of censorship that pervaded Europe and Russia at the time. Forced by the barest offerings of Italian libraries and bookstores to beg Antonio for English language editions of contemporary writing, Pavese had an insatiable desire to learn more about the United States. Chiuminatto even made lists of American slang words in books from authors like Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner.

Green Bay, WI

December 26th, 1929

Dear Mr. Pavese:

This concludes the list of phrases you sent me. You will probably note that there are two or three phrases that I have not explained, but there are reasons, to be sure. I noticed that these two or three phrases which I omitted are of no importance to slang, and by this, I mean that they are phrases used in one instance only - and as such I was unable to find a solution. I hope you will pardon my lack of English, at least, in this case! I shall remember these phrases, though, and if ever I come to know what they mean, be sure that you will hear from me about them. Negro slang is about the hardest to understand, for we hear so little of it and on the other hand we get so much of it in writing!

This kind of slang would be as well known to me as the pure American slang were I a resident of the negro states, such as Missouri or Alabama. Even at that, though, I consider myself fairly well versed in it - and am always glad to be of some service to you.

I shall finish my letter here in slang. See if you can translate it.

Say, darby, your letter was a card; you know it? Your scratching is about as bad as mine and that is why I use a machine. Don't let this remark get your nanny, though; I was perfectly able to wad right through your whole letter!

Christmas is over at last and, ye gods, I'm perfectly tickled to death. I called on a few of my friends yesterday afternoon and managed to burn some sigars and some candy. I suppose Max struck you for a present, too, didn't he? But did he get it, that's the question! On Christmas Eve I was over town but there was so little doing that around ten thirty I began to mosey home. (Say, I hope you don't get all balled up now!) On the way home I met a couple of keen mamas and took them home and then I came straight home myself to tune in on the radio a while! Talk about your damn tommyrot!! All Christmas carols which sounded like sleep-songs to me! And so I hit the bed!

I just mailed your other comments and the book so you'll be getting this all in a pile! Well, you see, I'm a fast man when it comes to friends like Mr. Pavese! Ya! I hope it'll be O.K. with you, though; at that you'll be down to brass tracks. By the way, if you run across that book entitled All Is Well on the Western Front by some Frenchman, try to send me it, will you? Gee! yes, in French.

Well, Mr. Pavese, so long, for this time! Write me again as soon as you can and tell me how you came out with these comments. I hope you get them straight alright! Best wishes to Max and you from your friend

Antonio Chiuminatto


January 12th, 1930

Dear Mr. Chiuminatto:

I'm befuddled, all in a daze, with your titanic kindness. I'm now seeing the world only through a veil of 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! And how ... so on. My whole existence has got a slang drift now. You could almost say I'm a slang-slinger. (Ha!)

But I must, for the first thing, give utterance to a whole row of thanksgiving for your long-yearned, hard-hoped, fast-sent and all-surpassing answer to my criminal letter. Criminal and murderous, I say, was that letter, with all its flippancy and hardboiled guyness, but you were so widely christian as to ship your hand, to the poor sinner hearkening to him.

I repeat, I'm yet befuddled, all in a daze, with your kindness.

Certainly, all your explanations are quite, well, easy, clear, better than any would have dream'd of (I'm studying them by heart), but I wonder, whence did you get the time to put them down? And, more, being such a work intended for a fellow you remembered scarsely perhaps? There is something of witchcraft in it. I can only stare at such a sight, bruit aloud your praise, go capering about and ... continue to get the most out of you. I'm sure I'll find no bottom.

Really, I went capering the day before yesterday on receiving your letter and yesterday on receiving the comments. Forewarned by the former, I was already thinking about something wonderful, darby, whizy and what not, but the latter, when on my desk here, got me flabbergasted.

All is useful and masterful in your items, and so abundant is the treasure there one is almost dumbfounded, not by lack of clearness but by dint of wealth. I've not to pardon you, as you say, for your shortcomings - certainly you cannot be acquainted with the queerest phrases a writer was contriving, the more so having you got these phrases detached from the context - but rather I must thank and thank again and praise you for your kindness and skillfulness and sound knowledge. Besides, you'll better understand my full satisfaction thinking (the scoundrel!) what impudent hurry I'm sending you another list.

But we are agreed - you'll explain and send it only when, and if, you'll be able.

Now, proceeding, I'll tell you that reading your letters I got an idea should like to let you know.

You speak always of slang as of a special language or dialect, which exists by itself and is spoken only on certain occasions or places and so on. Now, I think, slang is not a diversified language from English as, for instance, Piedmontese is from Tuscan, so that a word or a phrase can be told to belong to a class or another.

You say: this word is slang, and this is classic. But is not slang only the bulk of new English words and expressions continually shaped by living people, as for all languages in all times? I mean, there is not a line to be drawn between the English and the slang words, as two different languages usually spoken by different people and only in certain cases used together.

That book you know, Dark Laughter, for instance is written in English but there are numberless slang-expressions in it and they are not as French words in an Italian book, but they are a natural part of that language. And I said always English, but I should have said American for I think there is not a slang and a classic language, but there are two diversified languages, the English and American ones. As slang is the living part of all languages, English has become American by it, that is the two languages have developed themselves separately by means of their respective slangs.

My conclusion is then that there are not a slang and a classic language but there is an American language formed by a perfectly fused mixture of both. Have I succeeded in getting this before you? Write me something about this also, if you'll have the time.

I should also like, were it possible, to have something written down by the curious young lady-friend of yours, about American literature or whatever else there is of common interest. Would she be interested in it, I would gladly inform her about our modern Italian writers and culture. As for me, I would have her speaking about Edgar Lee Masters or Vachel Lindsay whose works also (Spoon River Anthology by the former, and methinks The Congo - The Chinese Nightengale - The Golden Whales of California by the latter) I should pray you to look for, whether there is a cheap edition of them.

But there are other troubles for you. Would you be so kind as to go fetch them, I should pray you to send me a copy of Waldo Frank's City Block and something of Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises - Men Without Women - Farewell to the Arms) or whatever else is attainable of him. Especially about the latter there is much talk now here, but no editions of it are seen.

And still there are scores of modern American books I should like, someone really I need: by J. Dos Passos, by E. Cummings, by W. Carlos Williams, by Countee Cullen, by Eugene O'Neill, by Robinson Jeffers, by Carl Sandburg, by Sherwood Anderson, etc. They are numberless. To buy them by means of an Italian bookseller, there is the danger of finding himself gratified with a cheap edition of five dollars. You see how you christian help is here necessary for me. We'll digest those books little by little, in future letters. Each time one or two among them, and you'll seek for and mail them, together with your bill. Now let us begin with Frank and Hemingway.

Do you know? I found an American library in Rome very rich with American works such as historical and critical ones. Some classics also, such as Thoreau and Howells. I'm borrinwg two volumes a fortnight by it. But as for modern, living productions, there is nothing. There is only your help there yonder.

Accordingly, I send you now the Drolarie by Arnulfi, you wrote about and A l'ouest rien de nouveau, which you are wrong in believing a French book. It is by a German author, as you'll see perusing it, for it is worth while. As I don't know whether you are conversant with German language, I don't send you the German text, nor the Italian translation which does not exist by way of a legal prohibition. It seems that this book has the wrong to describe the war how it is really, an atrocious thing, and naturally we Italian babies are defended to know it by means of a direct translation. We could become too moody and refuse the next war. Mr Chiumminatto, we also wonder how Fascism will fan out.

But I must leave off. I wind up my yarn with a final thanksgiving for the book you kindly sent me. I'm waiting for it, and I assure you hardly I'll have received it, by the by, I'll read it notwithstanding my many scholarly occupations and I'll write you something about it.

And still I beseech you to undergo the expounding of my shameful Babbitt-list only when you'll have nothing else, really nothing else to do. You're so kind I should feel sorry to bother you again.

Now I'll slip you the accustomed glove and am

Yours sincerely

Cesare Pavese

October 7th, 1930

Ciau Cesare

Say, Max got me all wrong my feelings towards America. I merely wrote him my impression of Chicago and life as it is here. I have no kick to make personally save in a very general way. What Anderson says of America, what you say and what I said is all perfectly true - but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm disatisfied. I'm merely looking at the condition from a cultural standpoint, if I may be permitted to say so. To be personally dissatisfied would be an injustice to thousands of real people, thousands of educated people, thousands of artistic souls right here in Chicago!

I'm all hot and bothered about these damn Sicilian gunmen who have never done a damn thing but ruin the reputation of Italy. They are pimps, procurers and brothel keepers; they are assassins, usurers and musclemen, which means that they use threatening means to an end; they have become listed in America as 'public enemies.' Racketeers, just about all of them, they traffic in dope, liquor, women and whatnot!

It's all well and good for you to remind me that Italians are distinctly in two classes, the Northern and the Southern. But who the hell knows that but us Italians and about 10% of Americans? The general conception of the Italian in Chicago today is not so pleasant; people look at you askance when they know you are Italian, as much as to say, look out! And the general run of America will tell you that they are afraid of Italians, that they would not even rent rooms to an Italian. How do you like that, eh?

Last week I was beyond myself with indignation, damn it! The police department openly published a list of 26 public enemies who were to be arrested on sight - and believe it or not, Buddy, old boy, 22 of them were Italians. And this is the case in every metropolis in America. I have the list here which I am going to send to Miss Franchi, as usual, but I'll quote it to you with the qualifications. Here goes:

'Scarface' Alfonso Capone - Commander-in-Chief of Chicago rackets and responsible for at least fifty gang killings.

Antonio Volpe - Capone gangster with several killings to his credit.

Ralph Capone - brother of Al and beer boss of Cicero, Illinois.

Fracesco Rio - a Capone watch-dog and notorious hoodlum.

Giacomo Gherbardi - Capone machine-gunner.

Giacomo Belcastro - Capone pineapple-man.

Rocco Fanelli - Gunman and bomber, a terrorist.

'Wop' Lorenzo Mangano - Boss of the Capone gambling syndicate

Giacomo Mondi - Secretary of the Capone gambling interests.

Giuseppe Gennaro - proficient murderer, hi-jacker, bomber and what have you?

Samuele Campagna - One of Capone's toughest.

Filippo D'Andrea - City Hall agent of Capone.

Carlo Fischetti - a Big Shot in rackets.

Giovanni Gennaro - brother of Giuseppe and of the same caliber.

Solomone Visione - Graduate of the Giacomo Zuta school of hotelkeeping.

Francesco Nitti - Director of the Capone murder squads.

Domenico Aiello - Lieutenant of the booze rackets.

Giuseppe Aiello - brother of Domenico and boss for the Moran gang.

Ernest Rossi - another two gun man of Capone.

Giovanni Armondo - A pleasant boy from Maxwell Street at anyone's orders.

Domenico Bello and Domenico Brancato - Aiello gun-men.

Hot stuff, isn't it, eh? And the list keeps growing day by day with the lovely surprises that two out of every additional three are Italians. Isn't that a swell list, though, with swell recommendations, to be published in every newspaper of prominence in America? Who wouldn't feel hurt - indignant? This is why I kick to Max - and not for myself.

There is no deep cultural atmosphere, here, either, of which I probably kicked a little in writing to Ma, too, but that did not mean that I was dissatsfied. I was merely commenting. My possibilities in Chicago are very promising, to say the least, and I love the city for its opera, its concerts, its lectures, its debates, its museums, its library - and God knows for what else! Mine was merely the indigination of an Italian over what I have just told you.

Anthony Chiuminatto

From Chiuminatto's February 1932 letter to Pavese:

I had to buy a copy of As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, since it was impossible to get a copy in any other way. I still have some forty pages to read and then I'll mail it to you. The reason why I am reading it is because I discovered that you're going to need some comments on the English, which is all in the Southern drawl, dialect - and poor English, at that! Southern conversational English, is what it is!

While the rest of the world may accuse Faulkner of being a genius, I can't say that I DO! not from this single reading, st least. I consider him an excellent writer - even profound - but I don't like his choice of subject matter. However, that's for you to decide! Books are an avocation for me - not a profession!

Cigar store Indian - busto di pelleroso in legno che trovavasi sul marciapede davanti al tabaccaio. Quasi sempre una figure di vecchio pellerosso austero, solenne. Da lontano si vedeva cosi il tabaccaio. La figura si usava allora forse perche nei primi tempi furono i pellirossi a fumare - che gia conoscevano l'uso del tobacco.

say-so - il dire

'On my say-so' (sul mio dire - sulla mia parola)

Swapped - da 'to swap' (fare lo scambio)

tom-boy - dicesi delle donne che hanno l'andamento maschile

miscue - da 'cue' che e il bastone da bigliardo. 'Miscue' si dice quando il basto scivola dalla palla, facendo un colpo irregolare.

ourn - per 'ours' (il nostro)

sho - per 'sure' (sicuro!) detto alla maniera dei negri

durn - per 'darn' - esclamativo come sarebbe 'accidenti,' ecc

dassent - il volgare per 'to dare out' (non osare) i dassent - per 'I dare not.'

durn nigh - quasi, quasi!

to aim - to adopera qui nel senso di 'fare conto di' 'I aim to do it' (faccio conto di farlo)

holp - per 'help' (aiutare)

Laid-by - messo a posto!

outen - per 'out of' (fuori di).

Old Master - Old Master (Vecchio Padrone)

et - ate - (mangiato).

gittin' - per 'getting!'

hit - per 'it'

That ere - per 'that there' (quello la)

keer - care (cura)

sich - such

sot - set (fisso)

Paw- Pa - (papa) alla moda del Sud.

kilt - killed - (ucciso)

Git - get - come imperative vuol dire ('va!')

hit want - it wasn't

to hitch the team - metter la coppia dei cavalla [sic] al carro.

to give someone the creeps - dare i brividi. Far paura.

swole-up way - Swollen-up way (nel modo di gonfiato).

To dicker - pasticciare, litigare per certe piccolezze


You can find more of the writing of Cesare Pavese on This Recording here.

"Basement Scene" - Deerhunter (mp3)

"Helicopter" - Deerhunter (mp3)

"Fountain Stairs" - Deerhunter (mp3)


In Which We Live Like The Most Contemptible Wastrels

A Well-Constructed Work


The diaries of Cesare Pavese were written in Italy, starting in 1935 until 1941. In 1935 Pavese was an antifascist and was arrested that year from having letters from a political prisoners. He was sent into exile in Southern Italy. Once back in Turin, Pavese worked for a publisher as an editor and translator. All the while, he wrote his diary. These entries comprise a treasure trove of insights into the relationships between man, art, and woman. 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 was translated from the Italian by A.E. Murch.

10th November

Why am I forever insisting that the subject in my poem must be treated exhaustively, ethically, critically? I, who cannot feel it is right for one man to judge another? This pretension of mind is nothing more than a vulgar desire to "have my say." Which is far from dispensing justice. Do I live justly? Does justice mean anything to me in human affairs? Then why claim to pass judgment on matters of poetry?

If there is any human figure in my poetry, it is that of a truant running back, full of joy, to his own village, where to him everything is picturesque and full of color; a man who likes to work as little as he can; finding great pleasure in the simplest things; always expansive, good-natured, set in his views; incapable of deep suffering; happy to follow nature and enjoy a woman, but also glad to be free and on his own; ready every morning to start life afresh. As in Mari del Sud.

20th December

Of the two things, writing poetry and studying, it is the second that gives me greater and more constant comfort. However, I do not forget that my pleasure in studying is always with a view to writing poetry. But, fundamentally, writing poetry is an ever-open wound whence the health-giving life blood drains away.

15th March

Today my imprisonment ends.

10th April

When a man is in such a state as I am, there is nothing left for him to do but examine his conscience.

I have no grounds for discarding my own firm conviction that whatever happens to a man is conditioned by his whole past. In short, it is deserved. Evidently, I must have been an utter fool to find myself at this point.

First, moral irresponsibility. Have I ever really asked myself what I ought to do according to conscience? I have always followed sentimental, hedonistic impulses. Of that there is no question. Even my period as a woman-hater (1930-1934) was in essence self-indulgent. I wanted to avoid becoming involved and the pose pleased me.How spineless that attitude was soon became apparent. And even when my work is concerned, have I ever been anything but a hedonist? I enjoyed working feverishly by fits and starts, under the spur of ambition, but I was afraid, too; afraid of getting tied up. I have never really worked and in fact I have no skill in any occupation.

Another fault is quite apparent. I have never been a single-minded, easygoing sort of fellow who enjoys his pleasures without a second thought. I haven't the nerve. I have always flattered myself with the illusion that I am a man of moral sensibility because I spend delicious moments - that's the right term-inventing conscientious scruples without pluck enough to solve them by action. I have no wish to resurrect the complacency that at one time I felt at this moral cowardice from aesthetic motives - hoping it meant my career would be that of a geniuis - but I still have not yet passed that stage.

Having reached such utter abjectness, morally, the thought seems to me that there should be material abjectness, too. How fitting it would be if, for example, my shoes were in holes!

Only so can I explain my actual suicidal urge in life. I know that I am forever condemned to think of suicide when graced with no matter what difficulty or grief. It terrifies me. My basic principle is suicide, never committed, never to be committed, but the thought of it caresses my sensibility.

24th April

The self-destroyer is a different type, more despairing but more practical. He has a compulsion to discover every fault, every baseness in his own nature; then he views these tendencies so leniently that they become mere nothings. He looks for more, enjoys them, finds them intoxicating. He is more sure of himself than any conqueror of the past, and he knows that the thread connecting him with tomorrow, with the potentialities of life, with a prodigious future, is a stronger cable - when it comes to the ultimate strain - than any faith or integrity.

25th April

Today, nothing.

27th April

He says: "She told me, one day, how she would have treated me. We were at that uneasy stage when nothing had happened, but was likely to. I made her talk about her past, so eager was I to know all I could about her, to amplify my daydreams.

"She was talking of a nice young man who made a pass at her in a train. She described him as common and persistent, and without much trouble she infatuated him. With words and actions. (She went on a trip with me, too.) Then she broke off, giving him a false name.

"And the young man had written asking her to marry him."

8th January

Mistakes are always initial.

3rd August

A woman, unless she is an idiot, sooner or later meets a piece of human wreckage and tries to rescue him. She sometimes succeeds. But a woman, unless she is an idiot, sooner or later finds a sane, healthy man and makes a wreck of him. She always succeeds.

31st October

One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one's trouble does not make it better.

16th November

Surely all his destiny is revealed when a child of three, while being dressed, wonders anxiously how he will manage to dress himself when he is grown up, he who does not know how?

To possess something or someone, we must not surrender ourselves to it completely or lose our heads; in short, we must remain superior to it. But it is a law of life that we can enjoy only what we can give ourselves up to completely. Those who invented the love of God were pretty shrewd; there is nothing else we can possess and enjoy at the same time.

28th November

In love, all that counts is having a woman in one's home, in one's bed. All the rest is a pack of nonsense, pernicious nonsense.

The most commonplace kind of love is fed by what one does not know about the loved one. But what can surpass a love based on what one does know?

I knew an idiot who refused to learn the rules of the game when he was young, lost as he was in fantasies. Now the fantasies are vanishing and the game is shattering him.

Problem: woman is she the prize of the strong or the prop of the weak, depending on how the men want her?

The irony of life: woman gives herself as a prize to the weak and as a prop to the strong. And no man ever has what he should have.

1st December

I should be perfectly happy if it were not for the fleeting pain of trying to probe the secret of that happiness, so as to be able to find it again tomorrow and always. But perhaps I am confused and my happiness lies in that pain. Once more I find myself hoping that, tomorrow, the memory will suffice.

2nd December

Today you have talked too much.

13th December

Try to do someone a good turn. You will soon see how you will hate his radiant, grateful face.

25th January

Actually, I am living like the most contemptible wastrels that ever roused my scorn when I was young.

19th February

Those philosophers who believe in the absolute logic of truth have never had to discuss it on close terms with a woman.

24th May

It is a fine thing when a young fellow of eighteen or twenty stops to think about his confused state of mind, clenches his fists and tries to grasp reality. But it is not so good to be doing it at thirty. And doesn't it turn you cold to think you will still be doing it at forty or later?

14th July

To understand why a woman seems thoughtful, embarassed and apologetic when she is with several young men, think how you feel yourself among five or six prostitutes, all watching you and waiting for you to make your choice.

7th August

A really lovely bosom consists of the entire chest, culminating in two peaks whose roots spring from the ribs. They are beautiful additions, but beneath them lies the chest.

16th October

It is not the actual enjoyment of pleasure that we desire. What we want is to test the futility of that pleasure, so as to be no longer obsessed by it.

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.

constance dowling

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.

1st January

Rome is a crowd of young men waiting to have their shoes polished.

A morning walk. Bright sunshine. But where are the impressions of '45-'46? After some effort I found what inspired me then, but nothing new. Rome is silent. Neither the stones nor the trees tell me anything more. This amazing winter; under the clear, cold sky, the berries of Leuco. The usual story. Even grief and suicide were part of life, shock, tension.

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.

3rd January

The directions that destiny can take are not subject to variation. We may affirm that a certain undertaking (sometimes? always?) is good, that it welds together all our days in a planned development - but it was, initially, a bud that had to take its own course and come into existence.

4th January

Now I see, I realize, what is so wrong with Rome. Easy friendliness, taking life as it comes, money earned and spent without a thought, yet everyone's standards, tastes, desires are wholly subjugated to money-making.

Even your thirties are beginning to seem to you like infancy, adolescence. Now the culture you acquired then can be used in your novels. Virility becomes a matter of intuition ("fiction-writing") when it seems a part of your adolescence.

When one has absorbed an experience and can view it with detachment, it takes like a childlike ingenuousness. Great poetry is ironic.

14th January

I am filled with distaste for what I have done, for all my works. A sense of failing health, of physical decadence. The downward curve of the arc. And your life, your loves, where are they? I retain a certain optimism: I do not accuse life, I find that the world is beautiful and worthwhile. But I am slipping. What I have done I have done. Is it possible? Desire, longing, the urge to take, to do, to get my teeth into something new. Can I still do it? (All that because of a flood of unfavorable reviews of Diavolo sulle colline.)

Thinking again of the sisters D., I know that I have lost a great opportunity of playing the fool. Rome grows more colorful as I look back.

9th February

Corollary. The theme of a work of art cannot be a truth, a concept, a document etc, but only, once again, a myth. From myth directly into poetry, without passing through theory or action.

26th February

A trip to Tuscany and Emilia. I thought of my essay on poetry and popular culture; thought, above all, of the connection between the countryside and culture, of the natural (botanical and mineral) roots of art. At Florence (Rovez-zano) in Val Pesa, Elsa - Siena - you felt why that land has given birth to art. The country expresses the grace of Florence and Siena. But when a civilization is no longer linked with the country, what will be the radical sources of its culture? Are we henceforward to be cut off from the influx of botany, minerals, the seasonal changes of the countryside upon art? It would seem so.

27th February

I saw S. Asciutto again, hard, taciturn, weary. He spoke of his pleasures, his trips into the country and up the mountains after coleoptera, in the rain; he listened absentmindedly and in silence to my talk about Tuscany, my vivacity, my poses. He never made a comment. The embarrassment I felt would at one time have been disastrous, tragic. What sustains me? The work I have done, the work I am doing.

6th March

This morning at five or six o'clock. The morning star, huge and quivering on the mountains of snow. Excitement, trepidation, insomnia. Constance was sweet and submissive, but none the less detached and firm. All day my heart has been pounding and still has not calmed down. (For three nights I have hardly slept. I talk and talk.) What is called passion, is it not simply this wild beating of the heart, this weakness of the nerves? I am much worse than I was in '34 and '38. Then I was frenzied with desire, but I was not ill.

Yet it all seems to me a passing wandepunkt. All of it. But she is a well-known figure, socially and morally. Suppose there were some misunderstanding?

And I? Am I not deluding myself as I used to do, mistaking for human values those simple accessories of distinction, glamour, adventure, the fashionable world? America itself, its sweet, ironic return to my life in terms of human values? Can it be true?

9th March

My heart throbs; I tremble, I cannot stop sighing. Is it possible at my age? What is happening is the same as when I was twenty-five. Yet I feel confident and (incredibly) serenely hopeful. She is so good, so calm, so patient. So made for me. After all, it was she who sought me out.

But why did I not dare, on Monday? Was I afraid? ... It is a terrible step to take.

16th March

It was a terrible step, yet I took it. Her incredible sweetness, her "Darlings," her smile, her long-repeated pleasure at being with me. Night at Cervinia, nights at Turin. She is a child, an unspoiled child. Yet she is herself - terrifying. From the bottom of my heart, I did not deserve so much.

20th March

My heart is still with you. A condescending phrase from a superior to an inferior. Why should I be so pleased about it? Obviously, I am receiving favors, not bestowing them. How can one possess without being possessed? Everything depends on that.

From the talk I had this evening it seems clear that I am “possessed” because I enjoy playing the interesting role of a man who “belongs” to a woman. I ought to be the master and take my pleasure calmly, as though by right. I shall be loved more. Only so shall I be truly loved. But shall I enjoy it more? Whenever I have been the possessor, I have had no pleasure at all. The old story.

Then I must be possessed without showing it. But is it possible to make love with a prudent awareness, a predetermined self-control?

22nd March

Nothing. She has written nothing. She could be dead. I must get used to living as though this were normal.

There are so many things I have not told her. Deep down my terror at the thought of losing her now is not a longing for "possession," but the fear that I shall never more be able to tell her those things. What they may be I do not now know, but they would pour out like a torrent if I were with her. That is creation. Oh God, make me find her again.

23rd March

Love is truly a great manifesto; the urge to be, to count for something, and, if death must come, to die valiantly, with acclamation - in short, to remain a memory. Yet my desire to die, to disappear, is still bound up with her: perhaps because she is so magnificently alive that, if my being could blend with hers, my life would have more meaning than before.

25th March

One does not kill oneself for the love of a woman, but because love - any love - reveals us in our nakedness, our misery, our vulnerability, our nothingness.

26th March

Before leaving for Milan. Nothing. Still nothing. How can I bear it? Now, in the street, by myself, I speak excellent English.

27th March

Nothing. I have a live coal in my breast, embers glowing under the ashes. Oh Constance! Why? Why?

28th March

Good. She has written. I have talked to her long distance. She does not want me at once. Oh well, that is fine. Work.

26th April

Beyond doubt, there is in her not only herself, but all my past life, the unconscious preparation - American, my ascetic restraint, my intolerance of trifling things, my work. She is poetry, in the most literal sense. Is it possible that she has not felt it?

Curious, this procession of women - I., L., R., L., and all unawares, V. and D. They all know or guess that a sacred mystery is taking place within me, and are filled with wonder.

The opinion of all those who know is that she has been very impressed by me, that she thinks more of me than I imagine. Can they all be wrong? They are women.

27th April

And now. Everything is happening at once. Truly, to him that hath shall be given. But he that hath, does not take. The old story.

8th May

The cadence of suffering has begun. Every evening, as dusk settles, my heart constricts until night has come.

10th May

The idea is dawning on me, little by little, that, even if she does come back, it will be as though she were not here. “I’ll never forget you,” is what is said to someone one means to leave. Anyway, how did I act myself towards women who weighed me down, bored me, women I did not want? Exactly like that. The act - the act - must not be a revenge. It must be a calm, weary renunciation, a closing of accounts, a private, rhythmic deed. The last remark.

27th May

My happiness of '48-'49 is paid for in full. Behind that Olympian contentment lay my impotence and my refusal to become involved. Now, in my own way, I have gone down into the abyss: I contemplate my impotence, I feel it in my bones, and I am caught in a political responsibility that is crushing me. There is only one answer: suicide.

Dilemma. Should I act in perfect amity, doing it all for her own good, or diabolically explode? A pointless question - already settled by my whole past, by fate: I shall be a diabolical friend, gaining nothing by it - but perhaps I shall have the courage. The courage. Everything will depend on having it at the right moment - when it will do her no harm - but she must know it, she must know it. Can I deny myself that?

Certainly, I know more about her than she does about me.

20th July

I cannot finish with style. How she still attracts me.

18th August

The thing most feared in secret always happens.

I write: oh Thou, have mercy. And then?

All it takes is a little courage.

The more the pain grows clear and definite, the more the instinct for life asserts itself and the thought of suicide recedes.

It seemed easy when I thought of it. Weak women have done it. It takes humility, not pride.

All this is sickening.

Not words. An act. I won't write any more.

Cesare Pavese took his own life in 1950. You can purchase his diaries here.

"Slave to the Heat Vent" - Selfish Lovers (mp3)

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