Something is burning: house, home and homeland in Cesare Pavese's The Moon and The Bonfires
Nourit Melcer Padon
(Hebrew University, Jerusalem)
Paper short abstract:
In Cesare Pavese's novel The Moon and The Bonfires, house, home and homeland are doubtful realities but very present imaginaries. All implicate the protagonist's personal responsibility, even though he has immigrated to America, and is back in Italy, a visitor now forgotten in his "native" village.
Paper long abstract:
Having lived half his life in America, Cesare Pavese's protagonist in The Moon and The Bonfires returns to his native village in Northern Italy. The protagonist's childhood nickname, "Eel," fits him well: he has managed to adapt to each environment he lived in. Paradoxically, it is by negation that the protagonist defines his belonging to this particular village, since his natural connection by virtue of birth is undermined from the onset of the novel. A bastard, abandoned on the Church's steps, he returns to a place where he was probably not born, where his adoptive family is already dead, and where people do not remember him and only see him now as "The American." The house Eel grew up in is inhabited by another family, whose son seems a mirror image of Eel's younger self. But the situation has worsened, and while his adoptive parents had eked out a living, the new lodgers seem in worse difficulties. Ultimately, the present tenant burns down the house in despair, along with its hapless dwellers. Eel cannot turn away, and is made to face the remnants of another fire, covering a drama unknown only to him. The centripetal narrative draws him - and the reader - further and further into a rediscovery of the nature of the place he has abandoned twenty years earlier, and more importantly, into a realization of his share of responsibility in the dramatic occurrences the village experienced in WWII.
Imaginaries of home