War raises the tone of life

Cesare Pavese

In August of 1950, shortly after receiving the distinguished Strega Prize for his literary contributions, Italian novelist, poet, and translator Cesare Pavese tragically ended his life. He was just forty-one. Among his personal effects was found a deeply introspective diary that began in October 1935, at which point he was under house arrest for his anti-fascist activities, and ended a week before his death, its final entry ending, “I am sickened by all this. Not words. Action. I shall write no more.” Titled, Il Mestiere di Vivere (‘The Business of Living‘). On 12th June 1940, two days after Italy declared war on France and Great Britain, Pavese wrote the following entry.

The Diary Entry

12th June

War raises the tone of life because it organizes everyone’s personal, inner life in accordance with a very simple pattern-the two opposing camps-giving one the idea that death is imminent and so investing the most banal actions with an air of importance more than human.

Further Reading

Il Mestiere di Vivere was first published in 1952, in Italian. An English language edition came in 1961 with the title, The Business of Living, translated by Alma Murch. The most recent edition was published in 2009 by Routledge, with an introduction by John Taylor.

You can read some of Pavese’s poetry on the Poetry Foundation website.

Cesar Pavese at Wikipedia.

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