Six memos for the next milennium by Italo Calvino

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Six memos for the next millennium by Italo Calvino

Italian Non-fiction

Original title –  Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio

Translator – Patrick Creagh

Source – personal copy

I have been rather remiss of Italian lit month, so I have decided to extend it into April so I can get a few more titles up on the blog. Today I have chosen a non-fiction work by a writer that I have featured a number of times on the blog Italo Calvin a writer whom I have featured four times before on the blog. This collection unfinished is the last thing he was working on before he died a series of lectures for the Charles Eliot Norton lectures. He had written five of them which are featured here.

After forty years of writing fiction, after exploring various roads and making diverse experiments, the time has come for me to look for an overall definition of my work, I would suggest this my working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of wieght. I have tried to remove wieght from structure of stories and from language.

In this talk I shall try to explain – both to myself and to you – why I have come to consider lightness a value rather than a defect; to indicate the works of the past in which I recongnizemy ideal of lightness; and to show where I situate this value in the present and how I project it into the future.

From the first lecture Lightness on how he lightened his workover time.

The five lectures are titled lightness, quickness, exactitude visibility and Multiplicity. He opens in the first lecture by saying in the lectures he wants to show his journey as a writer of forty years from a realist to a member of the Oulipo group.He references over the first four lecture many writers he has been touched by as a writer from Ovid to the German writer Robert Musil. One writer that recurs through the pieces in the great Italian poet and writer Giacomo Leopardi best known for his epic collection of notebooks the Zibaldone,  which I got two thirds through the other year. Calvino describes how he wrote so clearly on Astronomy when he was just fifteen. Then later a connection between the infinite nature of writing and maths. The last piece is the one I will describe more fully as it is the one that grabbed me it is called multiplicity and is about the multiple nature of narrative. He starts with a description of Gadda as he says he is a writer that isn’t often read in the US. A piece very much connected with the later period of Calvino’s writing he mentions how he used this concept in his book  The Castle of cross destinies, which I reviewed it is a story using a pack of cards to direct the narrative. He also mentions his fellow Oulipo writer Perec work Life which like the castle has multiple narrative threads in it.

Carlo Emilo Gadda tried all his life to represent the world as a knot a tangled skein of yarn; to represent  it without in the least diminishing the inextricable complexity or, put it better, the simultaneous presence of the most disparte elements that converge to determine every event. He was led to this vision of things by his his intellectual training, his temperament as a writer, and his neuroses.As an engineer, Gadda was brought up on the culture of science, equipped with techincal know-how and a positive fervorfor philosophy.

I was remind of CP Snow and his talk of the two cultures

This one will appeal to fans of Calvino want to know more about what drove him as a writer. The piece almost follows his career from the first lecture where he talks about at first trying to be a realist writer this is shown in his book Into war which I have also reviewed. Then he later talks about being drawn to Folktales and writer like Petract drew him to write Italian folktales in the middle part of his career. then he explains how he was drawn towards Oulipo and the multiple nature of narratives and what they can do. I enjoyed this I have a number of his other books on my shelves so this is a great companion to them and what drove him as a writer. Have you a favourite book by Italo Calvino.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 15:38:43

    His Invisible Cities is a book that I have read and reread but need to spend even more time with to fully understand. At some point we had to read If on a winter’s night a traveller for a course we did on postmodernist literature, and (as is often the case with any imposed text), that is not necessarily my favourite, but it did seem to me a very playful, interesting way to think about writing.

    Reply

  2. readerlane
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 16:05:50

    I almost picked this up for Italian literature month, but decided to read his Invisible Cities instead. Not an easy book, but so creative! I feel I should read Marco Polo’s travels next to better understand it, but not sure even that will help. I remember enjoying The Baron in the Trees very much and also a story based on Tarot cards. Maybe that one was The Castle of Crossed Destinies.

    Reply

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 18:28:48

    I love Calvino and have done since I read If On a Winter’s Night decades ago. Wonderful book and wonderful writer. Winter’s Night is probably my favourite, though I think the Cosmicomics stories are great too.

    Reply

  4. Lisa Hill
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 22:57:10

    Gosh, I’d forgotten all about Italian Lit Month… not much of March left so I’m glad you’re extending it:)

    Reply

  5. 1streading
    Mar 26, 2018 @ 19:06:23

    Thinking of the books name above (Cosmicomics, Winter’s Night, Invisible Cities) it’s clear Calvino is something of a one off. I just picked up a couple of his I haven’t read – the perfect excuse to read one in April!

    Reply

  6. Lisa Hill
    Mar 31, 2018 @ 09:27:59

    Reply

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