Cesare Pavese

#1947 Club

I’ve been a silent observer of Club’s activities during the previous two readings. The main reason was my inability to commit to writing.

It had always been the most difficult thing to do – no matter the language or the subject, the form or the purpose. My brain distils information and observations into short notes, and notes (as far as I know) don’t make a text.

One might argue that a blog post can contain notes only, that it doesn’t have to be a text. Well, I want it to be a text – so I struggle. It takes me hours, sometimes even days, to stretch and to mold notes into full, connected sentences, to form a short text with which I am generally nowhere near satisfied.

But, enough about the problem. On to the book – for I decided to join in and to struggle on. Thanks to Karen and Simon for coming up with the idea and for hosting the 1947 Club.

 

The Comrade. Cesare Pavese

It’s a bildungsroman of sorts, focusing on a formative year in a life of Pablo.

The first half of the book feels rather stale and static despite the events that take place. Pablo is helping in a family tobacco shop during the day, at night he’s out with friends and his guitar. He doesn’t know much about anything, he has no ambitions nor interests (besides the guitar), but he wants some kind of change because he’s tired of the routine he’s been living in.

Amelio, one of the friends to whom he could always talk to, has had a motorcycle accident and is now paralyzed, tied to bed. Pablo is paying him visits and thus meets Linda. He falls in love (never had a girlfriend), forgets about Amelio (and the shop) and spends his days wandering around town with her.

Like cold, rainy and foggy Turin, Pablo’s relationships are shapeless and shallow. He never knows where’s he at with Linda nor with any of the people he meets thanks to her. Conversations are often broken, unfinished, cut short with shrugs, jokes, dances, drinks or plain silence. He feels lonely as a dog. The one time he sets out to express his thoughts and feelings it happens off page. Pablo only tells us this much (he’s the narrator): ‘I told her everything.’

It’s not a surprise that he ends up heartbroken.

Acting upon a suggestion of an acquaintance, he sets out to Rome. The city is bright, the air is lighter, the sea is close and its influence on the city people benevolent. It’s a strong contrast to Turin. Pablo finds a job as a bicycle mechanic, he starts reading newspapers seeking a deeper understanding of the country’s politics. He gets involved with anti-fascist movement and, in the process of learning and questioning, recognizes himself as a communist.

There’s much more to the book, of course. This is just an outline of Pablo’s maturation. Linda is a very interesting character. Amelio returns into the story near its end. It becomes clear that he and Pablo mirror each other in a way.

The first sentence is effective and puzzling:

Mi dicevano Pablo perché suonavo la chitarra.

(They called me Pablo because I played guitar.)

I am clearly missing a reference…

This is the first Pavese I’ve read, but I am getting the feeling that he’s one of the writers with a particular field of interest, a particular subject; that his books speak of each other and therefore need to be read and understood in a tight relation to each other if one wants to get the most of them. I also have a feeling that he often writes about essentially the same character. We shall see if this is true since I intend to read more of his work.