Friday, 5 August 2016

The Moon And The Bonfires by Cesare Pavese

The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese
First published in Italian as La Luna e i Falo in 1950. English translation by L Sinclair published in 1952 and the more readily available translation now is by R W Flint.

This book is my 1950s read for the 2016 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge and one of my WorldReads from Italy.

I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing

How I got this book:
Purchased second-hand from Totnes Community Bookshop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anguilla, who we only ever know through his childhood nickname meaning 'the eel' was an orphan, raised in poverty by foster parents in a relatively remote Italian valley. As a child he seems to have accepted his lowly status, but never felt as though he fitted in and really belonged. As the book starts, Anguilla is returning to the valley after years spent away travelling and making a relative fortune in America. He is self-consciously aware of his new position in society and wanted his return to make waves. However lives and deaths have happened in his absence and the people he imagined himself impressing are no longer around to witness his triumph.

I wasn't overkeen on Pavese's writing style and especially not his frequent derogatory remarks about women although I expect these could be explained away by the era of the writing. However, as the story progresses and Anguilla reminisces about his childhood and adolescence, I was drawn more into the tale. Pavese's descriptions of everyday deprivation and poverty are shocking and I understood how this could result in routine violence and tragedy. The Moon And The Bonfire takes its title from local superstitions which lead Anguilla, despite his early contrary protestations, to realise that this simple valley is where he truly belongs, even lacking a known family history to back up that knowledge. Anguilla feels the passing of the seasons and the rhythm of the rural year although modernity and wartime suspicions have destroyed much of what he expected to return to. The Moon And The Bonfire is ultimately a moving tribute to a lost way of living.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Cesare Pavese / Novellas / Books from Italy

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