Cesare Pavese Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Cesare Pavese was born to parents Eugenio and Consolina Pavese in 1908, at their family vacation spot in the Piedmont region of Italy. The family, which included an older daughter, lived in Turin. His father worked as a bailiff in the court system. When Cesare was six years old, his father died. He started writing poetry while still in secondary school. In 1923, Pavese entered the Liceo Massimo d’Azeglio to complete his high school studies. Agusto Monti became his teacher and mentor. In 1926, Pavese entered the University of Turin. It was here that he began his lifelong interest in American literature. He did his thesis work on Walt Whitman, getting a degree from the university in 1930. His mother died the same year. He also started work on a cycle on poems that would become part of Hard Labor.

To help support himself during his postgraduate years, Pavese translated Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), as well as works by James Joyce, John Dos Passos, and Sherwood Anderson. Pavese also joined anti-Fascist groups; in 1935, he was arrested for holding letters of a jailed anti-Fascist which he received from his girlfriend Tina Pizzardo, who was a member of the Communist Party. Pavese served seven months of a three-year sentence under house arrest and in exile.

His first book, Hard Labor, was published in 1936, but censors reduced the number of poems by four. Pavese would later publish this volume in a much larger edition. After his arrest, Pavese continued to write but stopped publishing for some time. His friend Guilio Einaudi restored a publishing company, and Pavese worked for and published most of his works with this publishing house. In 1941 and 1942, Pavese published two novels, as well as a translation of William Faulkner’s The Hamlet. He left Turin in 1943, when the city fell under Nazi control. After the war, he returned to Turin and joined the Communist Party. After the war, Pavese published three books, Feria d’agosto (1946; Summer Storm and Other Stories, 1966), La terra e la morte, and Dialogues with Leucò, which is considered one of his masterpieces. In 1949, Pavese met and fell in love with the American actress Constance Dowling. Their affair lasted a year. Pavese was known as a troubled person. He seemed to embody the modern existentialist despair of his day. In August of 1950, despondent over a broken love affair, Pavese killed himself with an overdose of sleeping pills.

Cesare Pavese Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Cesare Pavese was born on September 9, 1908, in his family home in the village of Santo Stefano Belbo. He grew up there and in the industrial city of Turin, where his father, Eugenio, was a clerk in a law court. After his father died, his mother, Consolina, provided him with the best education available. In high school, he was enthralled by the ideas of Benedetto Croce and Antonio Gramsci and by the aestheticism of Giacomo Leopardi. At the University of Turin, he became captivated by American literature and wrote his thesis on Walt Whitman.

After his graduation in 1930, Pavese began teaching, which required him to join the Fascist party. The Fascists, however, could no more control his mind than could the Communists when he joined that party in 1945. He was arrested for anti-Fascist activities and sentenced to internal exile in rural southern Italy. He was released in March, 1936. Pavese’s conviction ended his teaching career. After he returned from exile, he scraped out a living by writing and by working part-time at the Einaudi Publishing House.

Depression and anguish were Pavese’s constant companions. He was emotionally devastated in 1936 by the failure of his relationship with the antifascist activist Battistina Pizzardo. With astute self-knowledge, he wrote in his diary: “Now I see the reason why I isolated myself until ‘34. Subconsciously I knew that for me love would be a massacre.” His earlier distrust and fear of women was...

(The entire section is 488 words.)

Cesare Pavese Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Cesare Pavese was born on September 9, 1908, in Santo Stefano Belbo, a small rural community in the hilly Langhe district of Piedmont, a province in northwestern Italy. His father, who was a minor official in the municipal court of Turin, died in 1914, when Pavese was six. His mother, whom Pavese described as strict and authoritarian in bearing, rarely showed either himself or his sister, Maria, who was six years older, any parental affection or support. Despite this fact, Pavese seems to have been strongly attached to her, and he continued living with her in the family home, remaining unmarried. Following her death in 1930, he moved to his sister’s home, where he lived for the remainder of his life, entertaining friends and callers in the single room that served him as bedroom, study, and parlor.

Though Pavese’s family belonged to the middle class, after the death of his father, the family had to sell the few assets it had to maintain this position. Nevertheless, Pavese received an excellent education. During his early years, he attended school in Turin, spending every summer in the country at the family’s farm in Santo Stefano Belbo, where he had been born. By 1918, however, only four years after the death of his father, the family could no longer afford the privilege of a second home, and the farm was sold, ending what Pavese saw as a vital part of his childhood experience. With the loss of the farm, his direct, personal contact with the simple peasants of the region and the renewing forces of the natural environment, which were so entwined with their agricultural lifestyle, was severed.

In 1923, Pavese entered a Turin liceo, or secondary school, where he received the classical education that was to form him into that special type of scholar, the humanistic intellectual. In 1927, he entered the University of Turin, from which he took his degree in letters in 1930 with a dissertation on Walt Whitman. The interest Pavese developed in American literature during this period had an important effect on his later development as a writer. This interest in American literature, which was not well known in Italy at the time, seems to have been stimulated in part by his friendship with Antonio Chiuminatto, a young Italian American who came to study at the University of Turin in the summer of 1929. In any event, Pavese’s interest in American literature and culture is clearly evident in his choice of Walt Whitman for his dissertation topic—against the counsel of his advisers.

Following his graduation, Pavese remained in Turin, making his living by teaching and tutoring. Because of the increasing power of the Fascist Party—which, by the time he graduated, was in complete control of all levels of government bureaucracy—Pavese joined in 1932, as did everyone who wished to secure or maintain any position controlled by the government. That this action was a matter of convenience, not conviction, is attested by the fact that Pavese was one of the first contributors to the leftist journal La cultura, which was produced by the newly formed Einaudi publishing house, founded in 1933 by one of Pavese’s university friends. During the next two years, Pavese became increasingly involved with La cultura and its publisher, Einaudi, as well as with those who shared its leftist, and therefore anti-Fascist, sympathies.

In 1934, Pavese took charge of La...

(The entire section is 1395 words.)

Cesare Pavese Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The rugged hill country of the Italian Piedmont was not only the region where Cesare Pavese (pah-VAY-say) was born and spent his childhood but a source for the writer’s imagination throughout his brief career. When Pavese was only six years old, his father died, leaving him and his older sister to be raised by a mother who, the writer implies in his journal, was domineering and abusive. Later, critics were to question this picture of his mother, suggesting that Pavese dramatized his account in a journal he meant ultimately to be published. In any case, his mother saw to it that Cesare was given a good education in first-rate schools in Turin.

The young man proved a scholarly and creative student, though his teacher and mentor, Augusto Monti, was quick to discern a streak of morbidity, an unhealthy melancholy, in his star pupil. Already at fifteen, Pavese was becoming depressed and solitary. He read widely, especially the Romantic poets of the period.

By the time Pavese entered the University of Turin at the age of eighteen, he had become convinced that suffering was necessary to the production of art. A writer, he believed, confirms his or her art by the act of pain, emotional, intellectual, and physical. At the university he was attracted to American literature. Though the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini ignored American studies for political reasons, Pavese was a private, self-absorbed intellectual, indifferent to politics. He enjoyed the colloquial breeziness of American English and among his favorite writers were Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Ernest Hemingway. He also read heavily in the Greek and Roman classics.

Pavese’s mother died in 1930. Pavese considered going to the United States but never pursued the idea. By the early 1930’s, he had joined the Fascist party—not out of a sense of political conviction but from a need to earn a living. He wanted to teach and needed a state-approved license.

Of more significance, however, was Pavese’s association at this period with a circle of intellectuals, among whom were his old mentor, Monti, and a group of editors and writers. Antifascists, they favored the advancement of Italian culture through exposure to foreign...

(The entire section is 911 words.)

Cesare Pavese Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cesare Pavese plumbed his own experiences for the core of his material. His works could readily be understood in the context of the lonely, despairing personality of his journal and letters. Pavese was not, however, simply an autobiographical writer. His solitary protagonists seeking meaning in a violent world express the doubts and anxieties of many, while his colloquial style and poetic evocation of landscape give his work a timeless, universal quality. The secret of his art is its honesty, the fusion of personal anguish with the unflinching rendering of objective reality.

(The entire section is 91 words.)

Cesare Pavese Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cesare Pavese (pah-VAY-say) explored the central existential concerns of twentieth century humanity, making him one of Europe’s foremost post-World War II literary figures. Pavese was born to Eugenio, a law clerk, and his wife, Consolina, at the family summer home in Santo Stefano Belbo, a small village in the Piedmont hills. The family had their permanent home in Turin, a northern industrial city that, along with the hills and peasantry of the Piedmont, provided inspiration for Pavese’s literary work.

After his father’s death in 1914 Pavese’s austere and stern mother reared him. She sent him to the best private schools and, in 1927, to the University of Turin. In the 1930’s he was imprisoned for...

(The entire section is 706 words.)

Cesare Pavese Biography

(Poetry for Students)

Cesare Pavese was born September 9, 1908, in Santo Stefano Belbo, Italy, a southern town where his family spent summer vacations. The family...

(The entire section is 494 words.)