|The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese|
The Moon and the Bonfires (1952)
by Cesare Pavese
Translated by R.W. Flint
Introduction by Mark Rudman
New York Review of Books Classics Edition
The introduction written by Mark Rudman compares the atmosphere in Cesare Pavese's The Moon and the Bonfires to Michelangelo Antonini's classic 1960 film L'Avventura and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. In other words, melancholic existentialism is in order. It's a book where periods of languorous inactivity are interspersed with sepia toned flashbacks of personal history. Anguilla ("the eel") is the nameless protagonist, a man who has returned to his small Italian home village after achieving financial success in the United States. The Eel's childhood was not a happy one, abandoned by his unknown mother on the steps of the church, he was raised by a poor farmer who took him only for the weekly stipend paid to those who provided such services.
Upon his return, the Eel finds an old friend, but no answers. The climax of the novel is the Eel's recollection of a young woman he loved who died from an illegal abortion and a modern day murder/suicide/arson that presumably provides the inspiration for the title. Also notable are the Eel's recollections of his time in California, with descriptions of Oakland and the California desert.