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This article is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

Portrait of a Friend (translated by Dick Davis) Natalia Ginzburg
Note: the 'friend' is Cesare Pavese, and the 'city' is Turin. The essay, written in 1957, comes from The Little Virtues (Le piccole virtĂș), which is to be published by Carcanet in 1985.

The city which our friend loved is always the same; there have been changes, but very few - they have introduced trolley buses and made one or two subways. There are no new cinemas. The ancient monuments are always there with their familiar names, which when we repeat them awaken in us our youth and childhood. Now, we live elsewhere in a completely different, much bigger city, and if we meet and talk about our own city we do so with no sense of regret that we have left it, and say that we could not live there any longer. But when we go back, simply passing through the station and walking in the misty avenues is enough to make us feel we have come home; and the sadness with which the city fills us every time we return lies in this feeling that we are at home and, at the same time, that we have no reason to stay here; because here, in our own home, our own city, the city in which we spent our youth, so few things remain alive for us and we are oppressed by a throng of memories and shadows.

Besides, our city is by its nature a melancholy place. On winter mornings it has its own smell ...


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