“Non scriverò piú.” With these solemn words, which mean “I will not write anymore,” the Italian novelist, short-story writer, and poet Cesare Pavese (1908-1950) concluded his diary, and killed himself nine days later by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
Of what is a writer’s suicide emblematic? Of writing’s inability to save a life? Ardent lovers of literature may even find it hard to believe that a talent like Pavese’s could not somehow have kept on producing, plunging anew into the toils of composition as a way of resolving perfunctorily (or at least of putting off) the comparatively minor problems of unrequited love and daily living. But of course I am waxing ironic. It is arresting and, I daresay, grimly informative that Pavese’s extraordinarily lucid and pessimistic diary is entitled Il mestiere di vivere (1952), a book translated into English as This Business of Living and all too significantly emphasizing the “métier” or “trade” of living–as in, say, “Mastering the Trade of Living.” Context