MR Palomar by Italo Calvino

MR Palomar by Italo Calvino

Italian fiction

Original title – Palomar

Translator – William Weaver

Source – personal copy

Italo Calvino is book review 1001 on the blog his books have featured on the blog five times before.  He is a writer whom I will have his whole cannon on here I have at least four other books on my tbr and a couple I need to get hold off. As a writer He had two periods of writing the first was a more realist writing then, later on, he became involved in the OULIPO group and his writing became more experimental. This is from that later period. It started before his famous work if on a winters night but was finished and published after that. This is a story that is based around the numbers and the world three lots of chapters in 9 sections which is 3 x 3 itself etc.

Mr Palomar is walking along a lonely beach. He encounters a few bathers. One young woman is lying in the sand taking the sun, her bosom bared. Palomar, discreet by nature, looks away at the horizon of the sea. He knows that in such circumstances, at apporach of a strange man, women often cover themselves hastily, and this does not seem right to him: because it is a nuisancefor the woman peacefully sun-bathing, and because the passing man feels he is an intruder, and because the taboo of nudity is implicityly confirmed; becausehalf respected conventions spread insecurity and incoherence of behavior rather than freedom and frankness

The opening of the naked bosom and he ponders what happens when you meet a topless lady.

I read a few pieces about this book the most interesting piece I read was about his original choice of the cover which is an Albrecht Durer of an artist drawing a woman using a frame with boxes and a piece of paper with corresponding boxes and that is what this book is in a way Palomar is the name of a man whom we see observing the world in various ways and situations. Each section is set in a place or later on things like silence, society, and meditations. The stories start with him on holiday. with observing waves but also the pattern of the waves he is observing then as he walks along the beach he observes the various topless ladies on the beach and the naked bosoms. are a couple of vacation tales.  Then in his garden, he observes a pair of tortoise making love. Then he looks at the sky for three more tales one about a moon visible in the afternoon one imagines a supermoon that we have seen a lot the last few years. Palomar is a deep observer of life and his world but there is also a sense he is a little like Mr bean or monsieur Hulot someone that views the world a different way a comic way at times to those around him. One story that touched me was that od Snowflake or Copito de Nieve the only Albino gorilla in a zoo to live to age. The stories are all between one and ten pages long little vignettes.

In the Barcelona zoo there exists the only example known in the world of the great albino ape, a gorilla from equatorial Africa. Mr Palomar picks his way through the crowd that presses into the animal’s building. Beyond a sheet of plate glass, ” Copito de Nieve”(“Snowflake”, as they call him), is  a mountain of flesh and white hide. Seated against the wall, he is taking the sun. The facial mask is a human pink, carved by wrinkles, the chest also reveals a pink glabrous skin, like that of a human of the white race, with its enormous features, a sad giant’s face thurns evry now and then towards the crowd of vistors beyond the gkass, less than a meter from him, a slow gaze charged with desolation and patience and boredom, a that expresses all the rsignation at being the way he is, sole exemplar in the world of a form not chosen, nor loved, all the effort of bearing his own singularity, and suffering at occupying space and time with his precense so cumbersome and evident

The sad life of snowflake so touching capture in the opening paragragh of The albino gorilla.

I enjoyed this on the level I read it I know there is a lot more here and I think this book would welcome a second reading in a few years I would unlock more about the finite connections between the stories and how they build a picture of the wider world the question is what are we here and what is the world and the way we see it in  Palomars eyes is different. From his qh=uestion of waves, the sound of a blackbirds singing,  the mechanism of Tortoise lovemaking, a gecko in the sun His shopping goose fat for example echoed with the artwork of the time from Beuys his throwing of fat against the wall for effect. An albino gorillas world and life. Then the world and its place in question as he observes the stars and the planets and our solar system. This is only 100 pages long a slim novella but like the other collection from him in this style I read The castle of cross destinies, there is a lot more than first seems here. Have you a favorite work from Calvino?

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    May 11, 2020 @ 09:39:51

    I love *everything* by Calvino, Stu. If on a Winter’s Night was my first and is possibly my favourite, though I love the Complete Cosmicomics too. I read this when it was first translated into English, just after his death – it’s a wonderful book and like all of his there are so many layers!

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    May 11, 2020 @ 11:24:14

    I’ve only ever read If on a Winter’s Night, but I loved it and I’m going to read more though I want to try some of the other Oulipo writers first.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: That was the months that was May/June 2020 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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