Cesare Pavese is one of my favourite writers and Feria d’agosto is perhaps a masterpiece representing his most poetic and heterogeneous writing style. We are in August 2016. Ironically, this month I have started re-reading his book Feria d'agosto (August Holiday). We have been experiencing a very hard year considering a crescendo of frustration about uncertainty and safety in the future. These are the difficult times that belie an ugly truth of the fragility of human being. Pavese’s first page in the Le Case -The Houses- section of the book explicates the entwinement of maturity and inexperience; the yearning for comradeship and the fear of being alone. I wanted to share his writing while we are all engaging in refreshing moments this August.
I wrote down the original text in Italian and translated it to English in the following paragraph.
“Sono un uomo solo che lavora, e tutte le settimane aspetto la domenica. Non dico che questo giorno mi piaccia, ma faccio festa come tutti perché un riposo ci vuole. Una volta, quand'ero ancora ragazzo, pensai che, se avessi lavorato anche la domenica, sarei diventato uomo più presto degli altri, e mi feci dare la chiave dell'officina. Tutte le macchine erano ferme, ma io preparavo il lavoro del lunedi in poco tempo, e poi giravo nello stanzone vuoto, tendendo l'orecchio e godendomela. Mi piaceva specialmente che potevo andarmene quando volevo e non facevo come i miei colleghi che in quell'ora giravano in bicicletta, all'osteria o in collina…C'è sempre qualche via più vuoto di un’altra. Alle volte mi fermo e guardarla bene, perché in quell’ora, in quel deserto, non mi pare di conescerla. Basta che il sole, un po’ di vento, il calore dell’aria siano cambiati e non so più dove mi trovo.”
“I am a man who keeps to himself and goes to work, and every week I look forward to Sunday. I cannot say I like the day, but I take it off like everyone else because one must have a rest. Once, when I was a still a boy, I thought if I worked on Sundays as well I should grow up to be a man more quickly than other people, and I got them to give me the key to the workshop. All the machines were still, but I got Monday’s work ready in no time and then wandered about the huge empty place with my ears pinned back, enjoying myself. What I liked specially was that I could go just when I wanted to, and that I was not doing what my mates were doing at that moment, riding their bikes either on their way to the pub or up the hill…There is always some street that is emptier than others. At times I have a good look because at that hour, in that desert, I do not seem to recognize it. It is enough for the sun, a slight breeze, the colour of the air to have changed and I do not know where I am any more.”
Have a nice late summer!