The Langa vineyards in literature … Cesare Pavese and Beppe Fenoglio.
The author Cesare Pavese, born in Santo Stefano Belbo recreated in his novel the atmosphere of the fascinating Langhe hills. Moncucco hill is described in his poetry ‘ I Mari del Sud’. The vineyards are for Pavese something magic, a door towards the infinite. But at the same time is synonym of hard work and harsh life for the peasants who grow the vines. His land became part of Pavese’s mithology.
In ‘La luna e I falò’ one of his well known novel he says that ‘a vineyard well cultivated is like a living body with his breath and sweat’.
‘The heat comes less from heaven then, from below-from the earth, deep between the vines which seems to have absorbed every piece of green to convert everything in twines’ …
There’s sun on these hills, a reflection of parched earth and volcanic rocks that I’d forgotten about. Here the heat, instead of coming down from the sky, rises up from below, from the ditch between the vines, which must have eaten up all the green and turned it into dry twigs. It’s the heat I like; it has a smell and I, too, am inside that smell, and inside it, too, are so many harvests of grapes and of hay, so many fallen leaves, so many tastes and desires that I didn’t know I felt any longer…
Instead, I crossed the Belbo on the footbridge, and as I walked, I kept thinking there’s nothing more beautiful.
Cesare Pavese ‘ La Luna e I falò’
From the Poem of Cesare Pavese‘ Indian Summer
…In the country, November’s a beautiful month
The earth-colored leaves ,the fog in the morning
And the sun breaking through it. This to myself
As I breathe in the smell of the cold morning sun
From the poem of Cesare Pavese ‘Earth and Death’
… You are like a land
No one ever uttered.
You wait for nothing
If not for the word
That will burst from the deep
Like a fruit among branches.
There’s wind that reaches you.
Dry and long-dead things
Encumber you and leave on the wind
Ancient words and limbs.
You shiver in the summer.
You are also hill
and stony path
and games in the canefields,
you know the vineyard
that at night hushes.
You utter no words.
There is a land that hushes
and it is not yours.
There’s a silence that endures
Over the plants and hills.
There are waters and countrysides.
You are a closed silence
That won’t yield, you are lips,
Dark eyes. You are the vineyard.
It’s a land that waits
and doesn’t say a word.
Days have gone by
under burning skies.
You have toyed with clouds.
It’s a grudging land-
Your forehead knows that.
This too is the vineyard.
You’ll rediscover clouds
and the canefield ,and voices
like a shadow in moonlight.
You’ll rediscover words
Beyond the brief
Nocturnal life of games,
Beyond the glow of childhood.
It will be sweet to grow quiet.
You’re the land and the vineyard.
A bright silence
Will burn the countryside
Like bonfires in the evening.
Another writer born in this area is Beppe Fenoglio.
Langhe is a land of little villages clustered around castles, endless vineyards with geometric splashes of colour which are the best in fall. In the fall there is the wonderful musky smell of trodden leaves in the woods of Alta Langa towards Liguria where the’ Marino’ a sea wind blows across the waves of the hills .These are the words of Beppe Fenoglio who described the hills on the crest between Manera and Mango as ‘great towering mighty dunes.’ These places remained unspoilt have an atmosphere of mistery with steep cliffs and high clay terrains. In many of his works Fenoglio describes the nature of this territory with great respect and sense of nostalgia.
Here below some quotations from “Johnny the Partisan" by Beppe Fenoglio
Ed .Quartet Books Limited 1995,London
“When he woke, he had an immediate, half-waking sensation of snow but then he saw the mist. But such a mist as he had never seen on the most favourable hills: a universal mist, an ocean of curdled milk which which narrowed the frontiers of the world to those of the courtyard, indeed much closer than that.
“The twilight in the valley was growing thicker, while the sky over the hills remained extraordinarily, silverly clear, almost like an effulgence from the crest themselves. He suddenly desired them and walked towards them. Halfway up that luminosity overhead was already lessening, giving place to an ashen emanation in which the white disc of the sun floated motionless. He made an effort and reached the crest.”
He thrust his hand into the hard snow-it was compact and cellular, lasting, it would not let itself be sent away by a little sun or wind from the sea. The weak sun caused a stronger reflection from the snow, adding levity and liveliness to the scene. He turned , catching his breath, to the Alps as the greatest gift of that extraordinary morning but he was disappointed; they were disappearing opaquely in a ragged, lower curtain of dull mists…
“The four threw themselves down the slope and got to the bottom without injury or being seen, but angry at themselves for their carelessness, with hearts they could no longer control, they did not stop there but in a flash climbed up to the brickworks at Avene and there threw themselves down not on the crest but into a row of vines overlooking the plain between Neive and Castagnole…but turning round they could no longer see any trace of him either on the Avene slope or down below…
“Now the air was as dull as at vespers and pervaded by an opaque whiteness that promised snow very soon and the pollen and perfume of the snow was on the wings of the rising wind.”
The biggish hill at Neive and these more massive, lofty and desolate ones at Mango.
Chapter XXIX XXVII
The last mists of dawn, so quickly dissipated on the hills were rising up in no time on the distant marine plain, already thin when they were spun and now phantomlike against the great naked shoulders of the Alps.
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