Cesare Pavese Additional 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...

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(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...

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(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.


(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...

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(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.)