This essay locates a poetics of fatigue in Lavorare stanca, the first collection of verse published by Cesare Pavese. This poetics entails several related shifts: from emotion to affect, from effusiveness to reserve, and from expansiveness to a limitation that is at once literary and geographic. Critics have long emphasized Pavese’s cosmopolitan literary borrowings and noted in particular his engagements with the literature of the United States, engagements that are often seen to have enabled a break with previous Italian poetic forms. Without denying these engagements, “The Decay of Sighing” argues that Lavorare stanca continues the Italian lyric tradition that it also alters from within. The essay thus redefines Pavese’s procedure as a matter of staying in stagnation, of accepting rather than denying or taking willful distance from lyric’s exhaustion and the nation’s.

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