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Cesare Pavese: Death will come and will have your eyes

That which unites Literature and death is hidden in the very essence of its creation. Many poets and writers ended up committing suicide, no more proper than in other professions, but in a much more sinister correspondence.

Article by Noa Alarcón from Barcelona on Monday, January 13th 2020 ·.·★ Reading takes 8 minutes or 1523 words.


Cesare Pavese, Italian poet, was so evicted after a disappointment in love that he thought it was better to go to sleep for a while, and he no longer woke up on August 27, 1950.

It was the sleeping pills, like so many other times, and he left this last note written in his diary days before: Tutto questo fa schifo. Non parole A gesture. Non scriverò più. (All this disgusts. Without words. A gesture. I will not write more). He wrote a beautiful and terrible poem, one of the most famous and shocking odes of love of death:

Death will come and you will have your eyes
this death that accompanies us
from dawn to night, sleepless,
deaf, like an old remorse
or an absurd defect. Your eyes
They will be a useless word,
A silent shout, a silence.
So you see them every morning
when you lean alone
in the mirror Oh, beloved hope,
that day we will know, too,
That you are life and you are nothing.

For all, death has a look.
The death will come and it will have your eyes.
It will be like leaving a vice,
how to see in the mirror
show a dead face,
How to listen to an already closed lip.
Mute, we will descend into the abyss.

And there are those who say that if he could see himself coming, if he had written dozens of poems talking about the attraction of death, maybe someone could have listened to him and avoided him, as could also happen to Sylvia Plath, who put his head in an oven and with Virginia Woolf, who threw herself into the river with pockets full of stones (original, really).

There is no statistic, and the number of them is little compared to other professions, but there are many notable suicide poets, many notable suicide writers, and even composers, musicians, something that has to have its why.

Ian Curtis, leader of Joy Division, great poet and punk hero, also coined by the demon of fame, hanged himself at home. The vital anguish, when it does not fit into words, becomes something present, like a guest at home who does not want to go, and from there, to suicide. For the poets the suffering ends, and for the world the question begins.

It is not just suicide. It is not just death. It is the inevitable desire for self-destruction that often accompanies artistic genius. Perhaps it will be because we, human creators, have to get rid of ourselves a little if we want to do an action comparable to the divine creator.

It is true that when God created the world, and created man, and man rebelled, God also lost something: the close relationship that linked him to his work. When the human creator creates, his work is not detached from him, because his work is inert. But yes, in the process of creation, every person must part with himself, just as God did, and there are many who cannot cope with it so well. God himself did not get along so well. He ended up giving in return the life of his Son to recover his work. Humans, without something so precious to give in return, end up getting rid of their life.

Kay Redfield Janison, an American psychologist, wrote in 1993 a work entitled Marked with fire in which he related the manic-depressive illness and artistic temperament. Some have said that artistic temperament is a form of schizophrenia or altered state of consciousness, and it is true. Not at all times, because there is also a lot of trade, experience, rational reflection, conscious decisions, but at the moment when a writer writes, rather, when he has been writing for a long time and is almost automatic, as he says Ray Bradbury, ′ we run to the hare ′ and the writing exercise becomes the narrative chase we do to that character and that circumstance we have created. And that sublime moment of exaltation, when he who writes is more aware of the place and the moment he has created inside his brain than what exists outside him, when what he has around disappears to give way to creation, that seems a lot to schizophrenia.

Altered state of consciousness. Self destruction. All this inevitably sounds like romantic poets.

I had a professor of literature at the institute, Professor Carmena, who taught us a literature workshop during a couple of courses. In our institute on the outskirts of Madrid, full of savage gang members, who stole the segmentation of the Technology classroom to dismantle desks, threw chairs and tables through the windows, burned the roof panels with lighters, who smoked hashish in the toilets (what times those in which even those of us who were good guys knew the camels of the park next to the institute by their first name), at that institute we had a literature workshop once a week, when it was already night out, and nobody came to bother us. We were talking about universal literature, because in our study system there is nothing that is not Spanish, and the teacher made us read for one of the sessions The flowers of the evil of Baudelaire, and some short poems by Poe and Verlaine, by Rimbaud, and he told us about opium bars, basements full of prostitutes, tobacco smoke, bad company and drinks of absinthe. We talked about them and read texts written under the influence of drugs, and how they had pursued that sublime moment of creative absence by artificial methods. Professor Carmena, despite the romantic ideal, managed to put fear in our bodies: ′ good poetry never comes out of opium or absinthe ′, he told us, that without a doubt, given the surroundings, he intended to give us a veiled warning .

Many artists are manic-depressive. That′s why many artists end up in suicide, or at least try. Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Scott Fitzgerald, Baudelaire, John Keats, Edgar Allan Poe. Not everyone committed suicide or tried, but at least they were depressed at some point in their lives. Evicted, maniacs, drunkards, drug addicts, almost everyone sick, however. Jerzy Kossinski, a Polish writer, committed suicide and left this note: ′ I am going to sleep now for a little longer than usual. Let′s call it Eternity ′. Some people are creative until it is ironic.

The death of David Foster Wallace last year left some people shocked, because we could never read anything like The Infinite Joke (1996), in whose alternative and terrible universe the big corporations sponsored the calendar years and put him their names. It was a suicide, not yet very clear. His wife found him and the only thing some of his friends could say about him was ′ he had been a little sad for a while ′. It surprised everyone. Death is never expected, and when expected, it is cause for doubt. Writers and poets who are cheerful seem to be less creative, and neither is true. Simply, those whose profession is to analyze the world, and end up seeing the rot that reaches us, cannot avoid feeling desolate. Murders, rapes, broken lives, heartbreak, failures, abandoned children, pole warming, inevitable death, after all. Those who spend their lives looking straight ahead at the terrible truth that surrounds us tend to put happy endings to their works, for compensation, although not always. Sometimes they leave the happy endings and, like Cesare Pavese or Sylvia Plath, they speak only of death.

If there are so many writers and poets who, in their creative genius, feel desolate, I wonder who will be the ones who carry the message that there is still hope in the world, even if it is not part of this world. Who will tell you that although the end is inevitable, God has also prepared for us the redemption of death, the happy ending of our history.

I, who have perfectly understood the mystery of the attraction of death, however, I believe that the eyes that will accompany me when I die will be much friendlier. For me, I know, death will come and you will have other eyes, not those of despair, but those of being at home at last. I will not descend mute, and I will not descend into the abyss. Believe me, I will not. There is also a possible happy ending.


This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as Cesare Pavese: Vendrá la muerte y tendrá tus ojos


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