Eating Early Cherries and Thinking of Pavese

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after Natalia Ginzburg’s essay “Ritratto d’un amico”


He died in Turin in the summer. In summer, Turin feels as large and bare and resonant as an empty square. Sky rinsed with milk, clear but not luminous. A river that’s wide and flat as any highway but lends no cool, no moisture to the air.

None of his friends were there. He chose, for his death, a day (the 27th) like any other in that torrid August. He chose a room (346) in an anonymous hotel, and packets (12) of sleeping powder dissolved in a glass of water.

He wanted to die, there in his own city, like a stranger.


…………………………Ten years before, late one spring, early in the war, he’d visit his friends Natalia and Leone bearing fresh cherries. They’d see him, from their window, appear at the end of their street, striding their way to talk about a book, or the appalling news of the day, chewing the fruit and, with a sidelong look, firing each pit against the pitted wall.

He liked the early cherries, the small and watery ones—he said they had the “sapore di cielo.” He’d pull them one at a time from the pocket of his coat— a gesture that seemed lavish and miserly at once— to give his friends a chance to taste them too. For the rest of her life, Natalia wrote, whenever she ate an early cherry she’d think of Cesare and of the fall, that spring, of France.


Numbers need no translation: 346, 12, 27. As for “sapore di cielo,” some render it as taste of heaven it’s easy to see why.

But have you eaten early cherries lately? They taste, to me, like sky.