Late Fall 2013:
A car ride into some of my favourite books, across Monferrato, Langhe e Roero.
“There is a reason why I came back to this place—came back here instead of to Canelli, Barbaresco or Alba. It is almost certain that I was not born here; where I was born I don’t know. There is not a house or a bit of ground or a handful of dust hereabouts of which I can say: ‘This was me before I was born’.“
– Cesare Pavese, La luna e i falò (The moon and the bonfire)
“For a long time we had talked of the hill as we might have talked of the sea or the woods. I used to go back there in the evening from the city when it grew dusk, and for me it was not just another place but a point of view, a way of life. For instance, I saw no difference between those hills and these ancient ones where I played as a child and where I live now: the same broken, straggling country, cultivated and wild, the same roads, farmhouses, and ravines. I used to climb up there in the evening as if I too were fleeing the nightly shock of the air-raid alarms.”
– Cesare Pavese, La casa in collina (The house on the hill)
Alba today is a happy place to be, involved in making and producing great local food with the motto “slow food”.
Alba reminded me of Johnny the Partisan, written by Beppe Fenoglio. Johnny, a simple student passionate about English Literature, reminded me of my grandfather and of my friends and relatives’ grandfathers who fought for freedom. It’s everybody’s story in Italy to be connected with places and history as much as to feel a moral responsibility to remember it.
In the book there is the moment of acknowledge when the protagonist realises he is going to die to win his personal battle and there:
“E pensò che forse un partigiano sarebbe stato come lui ritto sull’ultima collina, guardando la città e pensando lo stesso di lui e della sua notizia, la sera del giorno della sua morte. Ecco l’importante: che ne restasse sempre uno. Scattò il capo e acuì lo sguardo come a vedere più lontano e più profondo, la brama della città e la ripugnanza delle colline l’afferrarono insieme e insieme lo squassarono, ma era come radicato per i piedi alle colline. – I’ll go on to the end. I’ll never give up.“
(He thought that maybe another partisan would have stood up right at the top of the last hill, like him right now, to watch the city and think about him and the evening news of his death. There it is, the most important thing: one partisan must always stay alive. He lifted up the head and squeezed his eyes to watch more distant, more in depth, and both the longing for the city and the loathing for the hills took him and shook him but he was like deep-rooted by the feet to the hills – I’ll go on to the end. I’ll never give up.)
– Beppe Fenoglio, Il Partigiano Johnny (Johnny the Partisan)