Cesare Pavese (1908–1950) was born on his family’s vacation farm in the country outside of Turin in northern Italy. He graduated from the University of Turin, where he wrote a thesis on Walt Whitman, beginning a continuing engagement with English-language literature that was to lead to his influential translations of Moby-Dick, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Three Lives, and Moll Flanders, among other works. Briefly exiled by the Fascist regime to Calabria in 1935, Pavese returned to Turin to work for the new publishing house of Giulio Einaudi, where he eventually became the editorial director. In 1936 he published a book of poems, Lavorare stanca (Hard Labor), and then turned to writing novels and short stories. Pavese won the Strega Prize for fiction, Italy’s most prestigious award, for The Moon and the Bonfires in 1950. Later the same year, after a brief affair with an American actress, he committed suicide. Pavese’s posthumous publications include his celebrated diaries, essays on American literature, and a second collection of poems, entitled Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi (Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes).
The Moon and the Bonfires is a novel of intense lyricism and tragic import, a masterpiece of twentieth-century literature that has been unavailable to American readers for close to fifty years.
Now there can be no excuse for not reading Pavese, one of the few essential novelists of the mid-twentieth century. The new translations and the introduction by R.W. Flint are admirable. —Susan Sontag