Into the war by Italo Calvino

Into the war by Italo Calvino

Italian Fiction

Translator Martin Mclaughlin

Italo Calvino was considered one of the most inventive modern italian writers in his time born in cuba he grew up in San Remo which was occupied by the german when the occupied the northern area of italy ,he joined the partisans ,this collection of three short stories  set during the second world war was published during the fifties .They have just been translated into English .

Into the war is a trio of loosely interlinked short stories this collection is only 90 pages all together .It also demonstrates the more straight forward side of Calvino’s writing ,more known for his later  experiential works like invisible cities and on a winter night .. .The books are set in 1940 and focus on three different generations , the first into the war we meet a young guy just join Il Duce’s army he is moved around told to do this and that and is let down from the dreams he had in a way .the second Avanguardisti in mention ,we join an army unit this is a slightly more  experienced solider ,as he  and his comrades travelled to an occupied part of france and the only bit that the Italians took early in the second world war .The third story is a comic war-time tale as we see what can happen in a blackout ,as a man the narrator isn’t where he was supposed to be looking after a school, no he is  trying  to find strange delights in the night .

It was a moonless night .The school building still reflected a vague brightness .I had arranged to meet Biancome there,but of course he was not on time .Beyond the school ,in the darkness ,there were houses and fields .You could hear the sound of crickets and frogs .

from story UNPA  nights (an Italian form of air raid wardens )

I can’t say much about the stories as that give away too much, a little research into Calvino’s own background shows that a lot of what happened him these stories certainly the first to is from first hand experience ,he was in the fascist scouts and briefly had to join the army and travelled to the part of france described in the second story during the same  time  as the story set .These as I said a start are from the journalistic side of his writing and shows that at the end of the day he was a great writer with out the need to use the  clever tricks and oulipo style he used in later novels and is more known for than this more autobiographical style of writing .I now really want to read his novel based on his time during the war” The path to the nest of spider ”  which he published before these stories but is also largely autobiographical like the stories are The three stories were translated by Martin Mclaughlin and these stories were translated by him last year 2011 .A worthy successor to the great William Weaver who translated most of Calvino’s other work .

Have you read any of Calvino’s works ?


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tony
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 07:49:43

    Calvino is another writer whose name seems to be all over my favourite blogs at the moment. Definitely another writer I want to try – but then I’m always saying that…


  2. Sarah
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 09:57:16

    Stu, I have The Path to the Spiders’ Nest on my book shelf. I haven’t read it yet because I was a bit disappointed to discover that Calvino wrote it during his realist period: it is the Oulipo stuff with which I have always associated him. (Although I suspect that you are right and he would have to be first and foremost a good writer in order to pull off the clever tricks successfully.)

    Calvino himself had some concerns about Spiders’ Nest but I am a lot more interested now in light of your encouraging review above.

    I also have a non-fiction work of his waiting to be read, Why Read the Classics?, about which I am very excited.


  3. Fay
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 05:57:12

    Stu, I do love Calvino and your post reminded me that I have not yet read his Italian Folktales. One of the Man Asian Lit Prize judges, Vikas Swarup, mentioned Calvino in an interview this week.

    “Swarup’s newest offering, Six Suspects, is a dramatic departure from the heroic underdog genre of Slumdog Millionaire. Focusing on six characters who are all suspects in a murder case, the novel takes narrative inspiration from the origami fold structure of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and polyphonic storytelling from Calvino’s cult novel If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller. ” . . . “I liked the concept (of Cloud Atlas), but there was one drawback: I felt that there was no organic connection between the six stories. That there was no overarching framework.”

    Of the longlisted books I’ve read so far, I cannot think of one that lacks organic unity.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 05, 2012 @ 14:24:46

      No even the murakami seems more linear than his other books I think it is something that isn’t a big part of Asian writing I love Calvino slowly working through his cannon all the best stu


  4. 1streading
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 20:59:52

    I love Calvino and have read some of his earlier work (though I haven’t yet got round to the collected Cosmicomics published in 2010). I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw it on your website -but then that’s one of the reasons I keep checking in!


  5. Geosi
    Jan 06, 2012 @ 15:09:57

    Not yet read any by this author though I’m keen to read him someday.


  6. JoV
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 21:23:54

    I haven’t read Calvino but I do want to. What book would you suggest I start with? Thanks!


  7. Dark Puss
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 11:29:18

    I think he is a fantastic writer and I’ve read a number of his books, notably:

    “If on a Winters Night a Traveller” (see

    “Castle of Crossed Destinies” (see

    “Invisible Cities” – JoV I’d suggest you start with this one.


  8. Kinna
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 19:18:13

    I’ve read quite a bit of Calvino but not this one that you’ve reviewed today. I love The Baron in the Trees and If on a winter’s night a traveler. Calvino is just plain fun and inventive. Every book of his is a dream and a joy to read. He never goes wrong in my opinion. One of the best writers of the 20th century.


  9. Trackback: The castle of cross destinies by Italo Calvino | Winstonsdad's Blog

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January 2012


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