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Cesare Pavese – Death Will Come With Your Eyes


Vittorio Gassman reads Verra’ La Morte e Avra’ i Tuoi Occhi

Cesare Pavese 9 September 1908

Death Will Come with Your Eyes

Death will come with your eyes—
this death that accompanies us
from morning till night, sleepless,
deaf, like an old regret
or a stupid vice. Your eyes
will be a useless word,
a muted cry, a silence.
As you see them each morning
when alone you lean over
the mirror. O cherished hope,
that day we too shall know
that you are life and nothing.

For everyone death has a look.
Death will come with your eyes.
It will be like terminating a vice,
as seen in the mirror
a dead face re-emerging,
like listening to closed lips.
We’ll go down the abyss in silence.

Translated by Linh DINH

Cesare Pavese

Cesare Pavese is widely regarded as one of the foremost men of letters in twentieth-century Italian cultural history, and in particular as an emblematic figure: an earnest writer maimed by fascism and struggling with the modern existentialist dilemma of alienated meaning. Little known in the United States, Pavese was profoundly influenced by American literature, and, when official censorship closed his mouth, he would use his position as a translator and editor indirectly to bring into Italy messages of freedom and new ideas from English-language authors. Most Italians first encountered Herman Melville, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, and Daniel Defoe in Pavese’s translations, and also encountered their influence, and echoes of their meditations, in Pavese’s own highly accomplished body of novels, short stories, and poems.

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