Italian writer and journalist
Italo Calvino (15 October 1923 – 19 September 1985) was an Italian writer and journalist. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter's night a traveler (1979).
Admired in Britain, Australia and the United States, he was the most translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death.
Italo Calvino is buried in the garden cemetery of Castiglione della Pescaia, in Tuscany.
PassionSo you begin to wonder if Leonia's true passion is really, as they say, the enjoyment of new and different things, and not, instead, the joy of expelling, discarding, cleansing itself of a recurrent impurity.
New YorkNew York is perhaps the only place in America where you feel at the centre and not at the margins, in the provinces, so for that reason I prefer its horror to this privileged beauty, its enslavement to the freedoms which remain local and privileged and very particularized, and which do not represent a genuine antithesis.
FearCities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
PerfumeLife...and every Wednesday the perfumed young lady slips me a hundred-crown note to leave her alone with the convict. And by Thursday the hundred crowns are already gone in so much beer. And when the visiting hour is over, the young lady comes out with the stink of jail in her elegant clothes; and the prisoner goes back to his cell with the lady's perfume in his jailbird's suit. And I'm left with the smell of beer. Life is nothing but trading smells.
Perhaps everything lies in knowing what words to speak, what actions to perform, and in what order and rhythm; or else someone's gaze, answer, gesture is enough; it is enough for someone to do something for the sheer pleasure of doing it, and for his pleasure to become the pleasure of others: at that moment, all spaces change, all heights, distances; the city is transfigured, becomes crystalline, transparent as a dragonfly.
Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.
A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.
My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language. . . . Maybe I was only then becoming aware of the weight, the inertia, the opacity of the world--qualities that stick to the writing from the start, unless one finds some way of evading them.
The close-up has no equivalent in a narrative fashioned of words. Literature is totally lacking in any working method to enable it to isolate a single vastly enlarged detail in which one face comes forward to underline a state of mind or stress the importance of a single detail in comparison with the rest. As a narrative device, the ability to vary the distance between the camera and the object may be a small thing indeed, but it makes for a notable difference between cinema and oral or written narrative, in which the distance between language and image is always the same.
seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space
In an age when other fantastically speedy, widespread media are triumphing, and running the risk of flattening all communication onto a single, homogenous surface, the function of literature is communication between things that are different simply because they are different, not blunting but even sharpening the differences between them, following the true bent of written language.
The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.
The word connects the visible trace with the invisible thing, the absent thing, the thing that is desired or feared, like a frail emergency bridge flung over an abyss.
If one wanted to depict the whole thing graphically, every episode, with its climax, would require a three-dimensional, or, rather, no model: every experience is unrepeatable. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.
I had fallen in love. What I mean is: I had begun to recognize, to isolate the signs of one of those from the others, in fact I waited for these signs I had begun to recognize, I sought them, responded to those signs I awaited with other signs I made myself, or rather it was I who aroused them, these signs from her, which I answered with other signs of my own . . .
A human being becomes human not through the casual convergence of certain biological conditions, but through an act of will and love on the part of other people.
A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.
A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.
It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.
The universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves
You'll understand when you've forgotten what you understood before
The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
It is within you that the ghosts acquire voices.
The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.
Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combination of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.
Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don't mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification.
The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.
They knew each other. He knew her and so himself, for in truth he had never known himself. And she knew him and so herself, for although she had always known herself she had never been able to recognize it until now.
Every time I must find something to do that will look like something a little beyond my capabilities.
Memories images, once they are fixed in words, are erased.
In politics, as in every other sphere of life, there are two important principles for a man of any sense: don't cherish too many illusions, and never stop believing that every little bit helps.
Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined?
Knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world.
In love, as in gluttony, pleasure is a matter of the utmost precision.
A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents.
The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.
It is only after you have come to know the surface of things ... that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible.
The minute you start saying something, 'Ah, how beautiful! We must photograph it!' you are already close to view of the person who thinks that everything that is not photographed is lost, as if it had never existed, and that therefore, in order really to live, you must photograph as much as you can, and to photograph as much as you can you must either live in the most photographable way possible, or else consider photographable every moment of your life. The first course leads to stupidity; the second to madness.
The city of cats and the city of men exist one inside the other, but they are not the same city.
The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable, of what has been expelled from the land of language, removed as a result of ancient prohibitions.
Falsehood is never in words; it is in things.
I will start out this evening with an assertion: fantasy is a place where it rains.
I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.
Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness.
Each sort of cheese reveals a pasture of a different green, under a different sky.
You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.
The sea where living creatures were at one time immersed is now enclosed within their bodies.
You walk for days among trees and among stones. Rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognized that thing as the sign of another thing: a print in the sand indicates the tiger's passage; a marsh announces a vein of water; the hibiscus flower, the end of winter. All the rest is silent and interchangeable; trees and stones are only what they are.
If you want to know how much darkness there is around you, you must sharpen your eyes, peering at the faint lights in the distance.
Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world.
...Life is nothing but trading smells.
There is no language without deceit.
Novelists tell that piece of truth hidden at the bottom of every lie.
This is what I mean when I say I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts, and each of these new facts bring with it consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it. . . .
At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it.
Sometimes one who thinks himself incomplete is merely young.
What harbor can receive you more securely than a great library?
You take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.
Yet, even now, ever time (often) that I find that I don't understand something, then instinctively, I'm filled with the hope that perhaps this will be my moment again, perhaps once again I shall understand nothing, I shall grasp that other knowledge, found and lost in an instant.
Everything can change, but not the language that we carry inside us, like a world more exclusive and final than one's mother's womb.
The novels that attract me most are those that create an illusion of transparency around a knot of human relationships as obscure, cruel, and perverse as possible.
You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.
Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.
The soul is often in the surface, and the importance of 'depth' is overestimated.
The lives of individuals of the human race form a constant plot, in which every attempt to isolate one piece of living that has a meaning separate from the rest-for example, the meeting of two people, which will become decisive for both-must bear in mind that each of the two brings with himself a texture of events, environments, other people, and that from the meeting, in turn, other stories will be derived which will break off from their common story.
Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words.
Nobody looks at the moon in the afternoon, and this is the moment when it would most require our attention, since its existence is still in doubt.
Photography has a meaning only if it exhausts all possible images.
The more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more one understood the other cities he had crossed to arrive there.
Fantasy is like jam. . . . You have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing . . . out of which you can’t make anything.
The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand
The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.
The people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping...something runs among them, an exchange of glances like lines that connect one figure with another and draw arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene.