A beautiful summer

I continued my Cesare Pavese read with A beautiful summer.

I enjoyed A beautiful summer much more than The political prisoner, because it’s much more expressive, full of feelings and emotions.

The novel is the story of Ginia, an young orphan that lives with her brother, and having too much responsibilities for a 16 year old: a house to keep, and a full time job. However, she is very naive about the rest of the world, about friendship, trusting people, and relationships. The book’s title is a referral to the summer that Ginia spends together with her new friend, Amelia, who is much older , 20 years old, more experienced about life and full of lust. Ginia is attracted to her lifestyle, and discovers that Amelia works as a nude model for artists. This life is at first shocking to her, but Amelia’s spell makes Ginia explore more her world.

Amelia takes her to restaurants, cafes, incites her about smoking and drinking, and presents her to various artists. Ginia is amazed at Amelia’s frankness about nude posing, and considers herself too ugly and completely not attractive to be a painter’s model, but however deep inside should would feel very pleasant if one artist would like her to pose for him. She is very attracted by paintings, and finds it a very interesting experience when an artists wants to paint her profile.

Amelia presents her to a couple of artists, Guido and Rodrigues, who live together and sometimes go out with Amelia, having fun together. Amelia looks to be fond of Rodrigues, while Ginia begins to fall for Guido, an older young main, enlisted in army, with countryside origins, but full of mystery and with a special charm.

Ginia has a lot of principles she is not willing to give up, regarding her state in society, her body, unwilling to show it or let anyone approach her physically. She is reluctant and full of mistrust in herself being a woman, still considering she is too young for a new life on her own.

Her love for Guido makes her change a lot of her mind, willing to sacrifice something in order to obtain Guido’s affection. She experiences a platonic juvenile love, while still dazzled by Amelia, which shows to be more than a model, and having bizarre behavior, when she kisses Ginia on the lips and confesses she has a female lover, while caring for Rodrigues as well. Later, Ginia founds out that Amelia is sick with syphilis, contracted while love-making, and Ginia is panicked at the thought she might have got it as well by touching Amelia. Her naiveness is very well depicted in this episode.

Guido has a much more full life, with many friends, mature women, and considers Ginia still a child. He caresses her, but out of unwillingness or by really being a good heart he refuses to take advantage of Ginia’s love and falls asleep when they spent a night together, both undressed, and Ginia being ready to offer herself to him.

Ginia weeps bitterly at the thought Guido will never be hers as they are not ment for each other nor their relationship would have any future. She realizes she does not know him at all, and in the same way he doesnt know her either.

The last moment together is when Ginia decides to break all her principles in a final attempt to conquer Guido, by posing nude to him, in a scene of full shyness. She manages to pose, clumsy and ashamed, only to discover Rodrigues was watching too, which makes her cry and run away, this time for good. Guido’s words, “she is a fool” are the representation of what a good girl with moral principles appear in their eyes, a society that is downfalled and full of disease, lust, and hedonism.

Ginia cries for a period, only for Amelia to come back to her, and accept her once again into her life, after being cured of her disease.

The novel is a marvelous coming of age, interaction with society, where a young person begins to experience friendship, love, moral rules, and slowly adapting to an everchanging life, might it be good or bad.

The political prisoner

Today’s topic is The political prisoner by Cesare Pavese.

Cesare Pavese tells us a story of his own imprisonment for being against the fascist regime of Mussolini in the early 20th century. His image, Stefano, is a young man who is convicted to exile by the authorities in an almost abandoned village somewhere in south Italy. The author is very lacking in information on his background, the reasons why he is imprisoned or anything whatsoever about his character. We are only presented with the situation, and how one can cope with it.

Stefano lives a solitary life, always having his suitcase ready for departure, hoping that one day his exile will be lifted and he will be happy to leave this foresaken place. He has no idea how long he will be staying, it could be a year, a decade, or just one more day. He refuses to attach himself to any of the places or of the people in the village, although we find out this is not completely avoidable.

At start, Stefano is seen as an outlier, someone who does not belong here, and he has a sleeping checkin that is dutifully done every evening by a special guard, and he has to report to it his every single move. Later, people begin to adopt him to their small community, starting with Giannino Catalano, one of the most influential people in the village, who likes Stefano for his solitude, his lack of talking and communicativeness, and appreciates his engineering skills, although he never graduated an engineering school. They begin by spending time together, swimming and hunting birds in the hills near the village. Giannino closely becomes Stefano’s best friend, and the develop a special bond, that he can’t share with anyone else.

Elena, the housekeeper of his room, is an abandoned wife, full of sorrow and regret, that tries to find comfort in the arms of another man full of sorrow and regret, Stefano. However, Stefano does not really want her, as he is trying to stay away from other people and be ready to leave at first sight. He grows fond of a servant at a neighbor’s house, Concia, a simple girl who always walks barefooted, but his fantasy is only limited to imagination, as the few words that he exchanges with her are not enough to create a relationship.

Stefano is stranded on a desert island, and tries to find connection points for his life, points that can help him cope with the situation: one is the fantasy for Concia, another is his friendship with Giannino and Elena. Later, Giannino is also imprisoned, which makes him compare his situation with Giannino’s: he is not bound by the four walls, but his freedom is just as small as Giannino’s. Another prisoner is brought up in the hill, but kept within a courtyard. This prisoner is the mirror image of Stefano, only his apparent freedom is more bound. Stefano doesn’t lack space, but lacks freedom of opinion, of life, of friends, of meeting new people and doing anything he might want to do, which is almost as bad as withing the four walls.

Stefano is released after one year spent with the villagers, returning home with a new perception over the world, and with more appreciation on freedom, no matter the form of which this is manifested.