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From Lavorare stanca by Cesare Pavese (Torino, Einaudi 1943).

Agonia  

Cesare Pavese  

Girerò per le strade finché non sarò stanca morta
saprò vivere sola e fissare negli occhi
ogni volto che passa e restare la stessa.
Questo fresco che sale a cercarmi le vene
è un risveglio che mai nel mattino ho provato
così vero: soltanto, mi sento più forte
che il mio corpo, e un tremore più freddo
accompagna il mattino.

Son lontani i mattini che avevo vent’anni.
E domani, ventuno: domani uscirò per le strade,
ne ricordo ogni sasso e le strisce di cielo.
Da domani la gente riprende a vedermi
e sarò ritta in piedi e potrò soffermarmi
e specchiarmi in vetrine. I mattini di un tempo,
ero giovane e non lo sapevo, e nemmeno sapevo
di esser io che passavo―una donna, padrona
di se stessa. La magra bambina che fui
si è svegliata da un pianto durato per anni
ora è come quel pianto non fosse mai stato.

E desidero solo colori. I colori non piangono,
sono come un risveglio: domani i colori
torneranno. Ciascuna uscirà per la strada,
ogni corpo un colore-perfino i bambini.
Questo corpo vestito di rosso leggero
dopo tanto pallore riavrà la sua vita.
Sentirò intorno a me scivolare gli sguardi
e saprò d’esser io: gettando un’occhiata,
mi vedrò tra la gente. Ogni nuovo mattino,
uscirò per le strade cercando i colori.
Agony

Cesare Pavese

I’ll wander the streets until I am dead tired
I’ll know how to live alone and look into the eyes
of every face I meet and stay the same.
This freshness that rises searching for my veins
is an awakening that I had never in the morning felt
so real: it’s just, I feel stronger
than my body, and a colder tremor
accompanies my morning.

The mornings when I was twenty are distant now.
And tomorrow, twenty-one: tomorrow I’ll walk the streets,
I still remember every stone and the strips of sky.
Starting tomorrow people will begin seeing me again
and; I’ll stand tall on my feet and can stop
and look at myself in shop windows. Mornings of long ago,
I was young and didn’t know, and didn’t even know
I was the one passing by―a woman, her own
master. The skinny child I was then
has awakened from tears that lasted for ages
now it’s as if those tears never existed.

And I want only colours. Colours don’t weep,
they’re like an awakening: tomorrow the colours
will return. Each of them will walk the streets,
each body one colour―even the children.
This body dressed in light red
after so much pallor will have its life back.
I’ll feel the looks slide all around me
and I’ll know it’s me: casting a glance,
I’ll see myself in the crowd. Each new morning,
I’ll walk the streets looking for colours.



Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2021

Although the title of this poem is Agony, it expresses, in fact, quite the opposite: these verses speak of rebirth, of hope, seen as colours. Sadness, depression will be left behind; her new life will be lived among others and, finally, she will be able to see herself there; she will search for colours when she goes out on the street on her twenty-first birthday, and they will cure her agony. The conscious decision the protagonist of the poem makes to win er depression was, unfortunately, not so easy for Cesare Pavese who took his own life in August 1950.

The poem is from the collection Lavorare stanca, 1936.

It can be found here: https://www.liberliber.it/mediateca/libri/p/pavese/lavorare_stanca/pdf/pavese_lavorare_stanca.pdf


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

One thought on “Cesare Pavese: Agonia/ Agony

  1. And Cesare Pavese,
    While hearing and reading you,
    Your free and open Agony,
    With our friend Matilda,
    I find myself alongside you,
    With you both
    Seeing those stones and
    strips of sky,
    Myself wanting a slower pace – and —
    To find the same freshness,
    Escape the pallor,
    While all the color
    Still runs with that
    freshness that rises searching for my veins

    Liked by 1 person

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