Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

In October, 1935, Cesare Pavese made the first entry in his diary; he wrote his last note on August 18, 1950. He began the diary while imprisoned by Italian Fascists and ended it a few days before his long-contemplated suicide. During those years, his literary interests shifted from writing poetry and translating American fiction to writing novels. He rose from the obscurity of his early life to achieve national recognition of his literary accomplishments by the end.

Readers interested in Pavese’s life will not find in his diary a record of his daily activities. He said that it contained the “shavings” spun off as he shaped his creative works. In his diary, he reflected on the theory and nature of poetry and prose composition, recorded his thoughts on the works of other writers, ancient and modern, and contemplated his own life as he searched for the sources of his creativity.

Despite Pavese’s characterization of his diary, it is more than the intellectual and abstract “shavings” thrown off as he polished his poems and novels. His diary entries were not important as a record of his activities, he noted, “but for the insight they give into the way I unconsciously live. What I say may not be true, but the fact that I say it betrays my inner being.”

The diary reveals much about Pavese’s “inner being,” and does so partly by its surprising omissions. It contains almost no description of his daily existence....

(The entire section is 570 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Biasin, Gian-Paolo. The Smile of the Gods: A Thematic Study of Cesare Pavese’s Works, 1968.

Fiedler, Leslie A. “Introducing Cesare Pavese,” in The Kenyon Review. XVI (Autumn, 1954), pp. 536-553.

Lajolo, Davide. An Absurd Vice: A Biography of Cesare Pavese, 1983.

O’Healy, Aine. Cesare Pavese, 1988.

Thompson, Doug. Cesare Pavese: A Study of the Major Novels and Poems, 1982.