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Italo Calvino, 1923-1985
September 18, 2005 3:45 PM   Subscribe

"If time has to end, it can be described, instant by instant," Mr. Palomar thinks, "and each instant, when described, expands so that its end can no longer be seen." He decides that he will set himself to describing every instant of his life, and until he has described them all he will no longer think of being dead. At that moment he dies.
In memoriam of Italo Calvino, who died exactly 20 years ago.
"Calvino's novels" by his friend Gore Vidal. Calvino's obituary by Vidal, il maestro William Weaver's essay on Calvino's cities, Jeanette Winterson on Calvino's dream of being invisible, and Stefano Franchi's philosophical study on Palomar's doctrine of the void. More inside.
posted by matteo (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the Calvino beginner, a good starting point -- Calvino's wikipedia page.

Learning to be Dead, excerpted from Mr Palomar

When Calvino died, he was about to go to Harvard, and deliver the Norton Lectures: his six memos for the current millenium.

and by the way,
Palomar is on the beach at Castiglion: he is trying to figure out the nature of waves. Is it possible to follow just one? Or do they all become one?
posted by matteo at 3:49 PM on September 18, 2005


his six memos for the current millennium.

Whenever you're looking for something else to read, the six memos is a treasure trove of terrific recommendations (as well as a great read in and of itself).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:53 PM on September 18, 2005


Thanks, matteo.
posted by gleuschk at 4:00 PM on September 18, 2005


Thanks, matteo. Another great resource is Lush's beautifully crafted May post about Calvino's Invisible Cities.
posted by melissa may at 4:18 PM on September 18, 2005


Great post (this and Lush's), thanks for the reminder. He's one of the all time greats in my book. My understanding is that he committed suicide, which has always been unsettlling for me, because I think of his as an honest and direct vision, but a somehow happy one.

.
posted by freebird at 4:53 PM on September 18, 2005


freebird, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, you must be thinking of Primo Levi instead
posted by matteo at 4:57 PM on September 18, 2005


Thanks for this Matteo. Calvino is one of my all time favorites. The Castle of Crossed Destinies and Invisible Cities find their way back into my reading periodically.
posted by Verdant at 5:13 PM on September 18, 2005


Thanks, matteo. This post is wonderful.
posted by hopeless romantique at 5:27 PM on September 18, 2005


Hey, right you are Matteo. I'm nearly certain I remember a collection preface saying suicide, but I'm so very pleased to be wrong! And while poking about I found this essay about Calvino as game-master, which looks vaguely interesting if something of a reach.
posted by freebird at 6:04 PM on September 18, 2005


"If time has to end, it can be described, instant by instant," Mr. Palomar thinks, "and each instant, when described, expands so that its end can no longer be seen." He decides that he will set himself to describing every instant of his life, and until he has described them all he will no longer think of being dead.
Wow. Up to this point, it sounds like Calvino prefigured Frank Tipler's Omega Point theory under which information processing becomes infinite in the moment of singularity before the end of the universe.
... At that moment he dies.
Ah well. Surprise endings are more fun than immorality anyway, no?
posted by Creosote at 6:13 PM on September 18, 2005


Thanks, matteo.
posted by shoepal at 6:34 PM on September 18, 2005


I love Calvino. I'm a bit miffed I didn't think of making a post like this, which is my oblique way of saying thanks, matteo.

The Naked Bosom, also from Palomar, is another great example of how he could be funny and thoughtful at the same time.
posted by speicus at 8:43 PM on September 18, 2005


I've been a fan for a long, long time. This post will probably get me to pull down some of my books and read them again, thanks, matteo!
posted by fenriq at 9:26 PM on September 18, 2005


Palomar is on the beach at Castiglion: he is trying to figure out the nature of waves. Is it possible to follow just one? Or do they all become one?

So maybe he should study, you know, the physics of waves, instead of postmodern mumbo jumbo.
posted by snoktruix at 9:50 PM on September 18, 2005


Thanks for an excellent post. I wanted to put my two cents in here and heartily recommend two short stories from his collection t zero - "The Chase" and "The Night Driver" - for those new to Calvino.
posted by piers at 10:27 PM on September 18, 2005


Calvino was once asked by the New York Times Book Review which fictional character he'd most like to be. His answer:

'Mercutio. Among his virtues, I admire above all his lightness in a world of brutality, his dreaming imagination - as the poet of Queen Mab - and at the same time his wisdom, as the voice of reason amid the fanatical hatreds of Capulets and Montagues. He sticks to the old code of chivalry at the price of his life, perhaps just for the sake of style, and yet he is a modern man, skeptical and ironic - a Don Quixote who knows very well what dreams are and what reality is, and he lives both with open eyes.'
posted by barjo at 3:46 AM on September 19, 2005


"If on a Winter's Night a Traveller" made me throw the book at the wall… and then pick it up and read some more… and then throw it again… and then read some more…

Ah, good times.
posted by snarfodox at 5:36 AM on September 19, 2005


Very nice post. Thanks matteo. I'll spend some time with these links, for sure.
posted by OmieWise at 5:43 AM on September 19, 2005


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