Cesare Pavese (1908-1950) was the leading Italian scholar of American literature of the generation that came to maturity under Mussolini. He was not only an acute and wide-ranging literary critic, but also a sensitive poet and novelist. In addition, he was a prodigious translator. In collaboration with Elio Vittorini, he translated and brought to the attention of the Italian public the works of many important American writers. American literature helped to give direction to Pavese's creative work and was a resource for his personal literary campaign against Fascism.
Pavese was a non-academic critic, though far less anti - academic than D. H. Lawrence. His first purpose was to use American literature to subvert Italian literature, but beyond that there were a number of issues on which he disagreed with standard American criticism. When he does, his wild, original energy of discovery can trigger a welcome change of focus for our views of American writing.
Pavese never visited or lived in America; it was for him a foreign country, although a shifting and sliding special case. He had no stake in its sectional chauvinisms. He had a vital stake in its whole literature because, as his communications to Vittorini make clear, he had a stake in the literature of the whole world. For a while, America seemed to him the probable center of that whole. This was the center where things were happening in the world of the mind, and where the future was being born and licked into shape. Paveses's writings about American literature still offer original and unsparing insights.
PART ONE: 1930-1934
An American Novelist, Sinclair Lewis
The Spoon River Anthology
Preface to Moby-Dick
Preface to Dark Laughter
O. Henry; or, The Literary Trick
John Dos Passos and the American Novel
Dreiser and His Social Battle
Interpretation of Walt Whitman, Poet
Faulkner, a Bad Pupil of Anderson
The Fictionalized Biographies of Sinclair Lewis
PART TWO: 1938-195O
Preface to The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Preface to "Benito Cereno,"
Preface to Three Lives
Additions to the Second Preface to Moby-Dick
The Dead at Spoon River
A Useful Book
A Negro Speaks to Us
Yesterday and Today
The Great American Anguish
APPENDIX: ENGLISH WRITERS
Preface to Defoe, Moll Flanders
Preface to Dickens, David Copperfield
Preface to Conrad, 'Twixt Land and Sea
Robert Louis Stevenson
INDEX OF NAMES