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The Moon and the Bonfire

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  7,812 ratings  ·  389 reviews
Anguila, the narrator, is a successful businessman lured home from California to the Piedmontese village where he was fostered by peasants. After 20 years, so much has changed. Slowly, with the power of memory, he is able to piece together the past, and relate it to what he finds left in the present. He looks at the lives and sometimes violent fates of the villagers he has ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published 2002 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1950)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  7,812 ratings  ·  389 reviews

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Steven Godin
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italy, favourites, fiction
Pavese's final novel, which was published in 1950 (the same year he took his own life), is a moving and atmospheric meditation on loss and ageing, and how the simplicity and innocence of childhood years lived is eventually crushed by the passage of time. Told in a spare prose, and filled moments of such stark beauty, Pavese again utilises his own knowledge and experiences of the northern Italian countryside to write a haunting tale in which the narrator, after years spent in America, returns to ...more
another great book in the extremely excellent series of nyrb classics. they are probably my favorite publisher...i own 120 of them. i know because i just counted them. i basically now buy every new one as soon as they release them. everybody on goodreads should be buying at least some of their books to support them, as usually publishers who try and release the kind of books that they do, foreign books in translation and obscure and out of print books in english, have a habit of going under shor ...more
J.M. Hushour
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ah, a tremendous work, dark and with a subtle vein of concision that never appears simple. Pavese is the master of the long-simmering gotcha! that eludes even the best of authors. This novel is about a Piedmontese guy who grew up as a bastard peasant child in a little village working the farms and vineyards. As an adult, he ran away to America and made his (vague) fortune. The bulk of the story involves him returning to his village years later, taking up with an old friend who never left (an ex- ...more
Sep 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hobo bonfires
Recommended to Mariel by: the moon is out yet it is day
"One needs a town, if only for the pleasure of leaving it."

Anguilla has returned to his Italian valley in half moon measures. The fog is willed and of time and that kind of memory shit. Howling at that crescent shape for what cannot be changed (crescent like fingernails digging in for futility! And empty sex). My own cries of "Enough already! I get it! You were a bastard and poor" were unheard. I heard them because I cried them often (did I mention that this is a really short book? Imagine if it
Justin Evans
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I admit it: I have an irrational interest in post-war Italy. For some reason I find Itaalian confusion about the war much more interesting than German confusion about it, perhaps because it's pretty darn hard for anyone in Germany to pretend that the Nazis were, in any way, a benefit to the world, whereas there is an (entirely unpersuasive) argument for the Italian fascists. The German resistance existed, but not the way the Italian resistance did. German communists got to play out (a deeply man ...more
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
Some years ago I decided that I wanted to go back to the place where I had been raised. Just for the day. Or for an hour or two, at least. I had been away at university, and although that had changed me, had helped me to come to terms with many of my childhood experiences, I was still aware of it – my home town – creeping around, spider-like, in the corners of my mind. I arrived by bus around midday, and I stood at the bottom of the hill, gazing up at the gloomy council estate in which I had spe ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The only things I liked about this book were the nostalgic feelings and all the talk about what the village means to the protagonist. Other than that this book didn't really spike my interest. Not a lot happened in it and the things that happened were just there. I didn't really care about the people he knew when he was young so I think that's the reason why I couldn't truly appreciate the story.
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A gently flowing story of a successful man who returns to the village where he was raised after many years abroad. Anguilla had always been an outsider, never really belonging. When he returned to the village he began to understand that nothing stays the same.

Quite a bleak and melancholic story as Anguilla learns the fate of the village inhabitants over the intervening years.

Well written, descriptive, introspective. From the Boxall 1000 list.
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I kept thinking about Pavese death whilst reading this novel. He'd been writing it a year or so before he had decided to take his own life and I think that perhaps in this work, and the poems I've read so far I can see the condensation of his feelings as an exile in constant yearning to go back home.

It makes me think a lot (and here I speak of what the work made me feel and not what it is): this longing to belong, this haunting feeling of rootlessness. It speaks to me a lot more about a deeper s
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
How strange to have a novel begin with such uncertainty? The protagonist isn't sure of his birthplace nor of the circumstances which led him to a foster family, only that people who assumed his care were incredibly poor and the monthly stipend for such was often the membrane preventing famine.

Our young man grows up and travels abroad just before the Second World War. He returns just after, successful from his time in America. Scores have been settled and a certain revisionism is the coin of the
Inderjit Sanghera
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The narrator, Anguilla, a disaffected and diffident middle-aged man, returns to Piedmont from California, as he finds the American he so often dreamed of as the pathway of freedom from his stifling life in Italy, is nothing but a land bereft of meaning and more importantly, bereft of memories which, for the narrator, are the very things which define us. Indeed the whole novel reads as a long. almost continuous recherche; in a kind of reversal of Proust, although the narrator recognises and recal ...more
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-white-square
It's like the opposite of nostalgia. Anguilla returns and he's the big man now, but no-one's very impressed. Never Go Back. ...more
Not really a review, but a consideration: that world of peasants, beyond the nostalgia of childhood that arouses in the protagonist and also in us, and that sometimes someone regrets, was of harshness and violence unknown today: in the book are told, as if they were normal episodes of an older man thrown out of the house begging from his genders, once both daughters-wives are dead; women and children regularly strapped; a dead man falling from a barn; one who nearly died of typhus; one who died ...more
Dec 29, 2011 added it
Shelves: italian-fiction
I, to be fair, am something of an exile, having abandoned my home at a young age, and restricting myself to a once-every-other-year visit to see how much my kid brother has grown. So I read books that help me justify my decision a lot of the time.

Pavese points out that your hometown can be really goddamned awful, even if it is filled with material nostalgia. Granted, I'm not searching for the history of how my hometown fell under the swoop of fascism, but there's a sympathy here. It's unsettling
Quentin Crisp
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't now remember when I finished this.

I'm intrigued as to what Pavese's other work is like, having read this. Anyway, just writing some cursory remarks as I shelve this. I doubt I'll ever catch up on my reviews here somehow.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The earth, the land, the ground you stand on, the ground where plants and trees and flowers grow (where life grows (and dies)); the land where you born, (and where you die); the earth upon which the bonfires burn and upon which the moon shines. That's what this book is made of. [1]

As in all great literature, form and content are one. The language isn't just earthy, it's of the place (in fact, I'm not sure how it can even be properly translated). I had to look up a bunch of words: either they wer
Stephanie Jane
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-europe
I found a copy of The Moon And The Bonfire in Totnes Community Bookshop on Tuesday. As the novella was published in 1950, I am counting it as my 1950s read for the 2016 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

Anguilla, who we only ever know through his childhood nickname meaning 'the eel' was an orphan, raised in poverty by foster parents in a relatively remote Italian valley. As a child he seems to have accepted his lowly status, but never felt as though he fitted in and really belonged. As t
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A boy grows up in a small town in Italy, but leaves for America when he grows up and WW2 breaks out. After making his fortune, he returns to the small town to learn the fate of his childhood friends and the town. While outward appearances are only changed mildly, he quickly learns that the war has had a huge impact on the lives of the people he knew. A beautiful, nostalgic, and poignant short novel.
Sep 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This book is recommended by "1010 Books" (best of contemporary Italian fiction). If this is the best, it says little for the state of the novel in Italy. In a nutshell the story line is can go home. One positive, it's only 189 pages. ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Pavese is an explicator of the Italian countryside--excellent if you are the Italian countryside, and if not, not.
May 16, 2016 rated it liked it
This book reminds me of Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again. It's the story of a man who returns to his hometown village in Italy after WWII after going to the USA to escape being killed for partisan activities during the war.

The "moon and the bonfires" are references to the traditions and superstitions of the people who live close to the land, and in the end, to the horror of violent death.

He is able to find one of his closest childhood friends and they reminisce about the old days and all
David Woods
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Chuck Leavitt
I feel like I have to say something about this book, as I only gave it two stars, but I don't really know what. I think the romantic/nostalgic/aesthetic in me was what kept me turning the pages. That and it was a relatively short book. All the content was utterly depressing, but that didn't bother me so much I guess. Maybe I need to process more what, if anything, the book said or was supposed to say to me. Basically, the book is a guy revisiting where he grew up and reminiscing. I guess I'm lef ...more
[image error] imported:

The Moon And The Bonfire
by Cesare Pavese

shortie (189 pages with a biggish font - bargain)
one penny
pecuniarily bereft circumstances

Translated from the Italian by Louise Sinclair

Opening - There is a reason why I came back to this place - came back here instead of to Canelli, Bararesco or Alba. It is almost certain that I was not born here; where I was born I don't know.
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A lovely and atmospheric book. It's not really plotless but I think the plot is somewhat beside the point. It's more about evoking the memories of youth and the bittersweetness of looking back on them after things have changed. The descriptions of the countryside, the farm, the river, the town are so vivid they had me looking on Google maps to see if they were real. They all are and you can even visit the places that inspired them and you could even chat with Nuto until he died in 1990. I suppos ...more
I found Cesare Pavese's "The Moon and the Bonfire" to be too slow moving and consequently not terribly interesting. Every time I picked it up, I completely forgot what the book was about until I started reading again-- which doesn't bode all that well for the memorability of the book a year or two from now.

The book is about a poor Italian who immigrated to America, then returns to his roots and reminisces about the events of his childhood.

This is an okay work, but not something that really drew
Czarek Węgliński
An extraordinary narration about how human being can get entangled with his home land, about the past that emerges throughout the landscape. Excellent, poetic language full of images that rest in memory and feed reflexions on how to cope with the felling of some sort of emptiness having abandoned something in the past. I strongly recommend it to all those who have ever felt homesick for the gone.
Read 72 of 206 pages.
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-italy
Usually I'm very fond of meditations on loss and ageing but the high hopes I had for this one were unfulfilled. For one thing, the narrator is less interesting than many other characters in the book, but you are stuck with him throughout the book. Maybe it's because at the same time I am reading "Stone Upon Stone" by Wiesław Myśliwski, another book on growing up in a rural area, but it's a more vivid book, funny, humane and cruel, not so cold and distant as "The moon and the bonfire". If you nee ...more
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
I was expecting much more from this book! What I liked about it was definitely the nostalgia vibes and the aesthetic descriptions of the character as a child hanging out at his village, those were very innocent and true to the lifestyle of a small village. However, I thought the story-telling was a bit weird, since the various events taking place in this book were narrated randomly, as if the author didn't know what he wanted to focus on and just wrote a bit about everything. The events being to ...more
Jul 20, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One man's wistful, boring, musings on what it's like to return to rural Italy, where he grew up an orphan, after being away in America during the inter-war years. Life has gone on without him, and he finds that most of the people he knew, (who treated him poorly or indifferently) had pretty terrible lives and died. The ones still alive all have secrets left over from the choices they made during the rise of fascism and WWII. Sadly, when you get to learn those secrets the book is almost over and ...more
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NYRB Classics: The Moon and the Bonfires, by Cesare Pavese 1 12 Oct 29, 2013 09:01AM  

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Cesare Pavese was born in a small town in which his father, an official, owned property. He attended school and later, university, in Turin. Denied an outlet for his creative powers by Fascist control of literature, Pavese translated many 20th-century American writers in the 1930s and '40s: Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner; ...more

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