Metamorphosing DanteAppropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First CenturiesVienna: Turia + Kant, 2010
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Cite as: Tristan Kay, ‘‘Una modesta Divina Commedià’: Dante as Anti-Model in Cesare Pavese’s La luna e i falò’, in Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, and Fabian Lampart, Cultural Inquiry, 2 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2010), pp. 101–22 <https://doi.org/10.25620/ci-02_07>

‘Una modesta Divina CommediàDante as Anti-Model in Cesare Pavese’s La luna e i falòTristan Kay

Keywords: Alighieri, Dante – Divina Commedia – Inferno; Alighieri, Dante – Vita nuova; productive reception; Pavese, Cesare – La luna e i falò

In a 1949 letter, Cesare Pavese describes with great zeal the genesis of a new work — one he compares, albeit with a certain amount of irony, to Dante’s Commedia:

Io sono come un pazzo perché ho avuta una grande intuizione — quasi una mirabile visione (naturalmente di stalle, sudore, contadinotti, verderame e letame ecc.) su cui dovrei costruire una modesta Divina Commedia. Ci penso sopra, e tutti i giorni diminuisce la tensione — che alle visioni siano necessarie le Beatrici? Bah, si vedrà.

This embryonic project would quickly become the novel La luna e i falò, completed in less than two months and published shortly before Pavese’s suicide in 1950. On the surface, there would seem little reason to take seriously the analogy drawn by the author between La luna and the Commedia, for the novel in question contains no explicit references to the medieval poet. I shall argue in this essay, however, that the presence of Dante in La luna is both more pervasive and more significant than has previously been suggested. While critics have noted in passing several narrative and structural parallels between the two texts, which I detail in Section II, no attempt has been made to consider their wider significance in our understanding of Pavese’s novel. What follows is a reading of La luna which shows that the Commedia functions not simply as a formal model for Pavese, but, more importantly, as an ideological anti-model, in dialogue with which the author articulates his deeply pessimistic understanding of the human condition.

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