My three Italian boy friends

February 23rd, 2010

I was late for my rendez-vous with Italo Calvino but he didn’t get mad; time is after all an elastic commodity for Italians…

italo calvino umberto eco primo levi michele roohani

Seamus Heany talked to me at length about him and encouraged me not to despair but how could I? Calvino suddenly died before I got to know him.

italo calvino michele roohani read books

Of the Italian Princes so far I only knew Umberto Eco and Primo Levi; I got to like Eco a lot after he took me to see the movie The name of the Rose about twenty years ago. Umberto and Primo each deserve their own blog post but let’s continue with Calvino.

italo calvino michele roohani pink orchids

I liked so much what Calvino’s said about reading that I need to share it with you; read it and judge for yourself:

“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you…And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. ”

italo calvino michele roohani read books wordle

The above image is that passage in wordle.

Gore Vidal wrote in 1985: “Europe regarded Calvino’s death as a calamity for culture.” and I agree. Italy is not just an operatic country with clowns like Berlusconi at its head…

A couple more quotes from Calvino:

“Novels as dull as dishwater, with the grease of random sentiments floating on top.”

“Only a certain prosaic solidity can give birth to creativity: fantasy is like jam; you have to spread it on a solid slice of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing, like jam, out of which you can’t make anything.”

Read about Calvino here

Vidal talking about him here

5 Responses to “My three Italian boy friends”

  1. luscious Says:

    I find Calvino like a traveler, on a time machine, ascending, descending, hovering for a one on one exchange, and then moving on to the one, One.
    One that is so visual & ironically current, so you find its parallel in today’s life:
    From “The Argentine Ant”,
    the young couple returns to their house and finds it, infested with ants… Finally they go to bed without “the feeling we were starting a new life, only a sense of dragging onto a future full of new troubles”,
    …to the ill-tended & roach infested motel, city or government of any metropolis;

    From “Invisible Cities” of Marco Polo,
    …to one’s drive & philosophy, toward self realization or future nightmare;

    From gray dust in “Smog”,
    …to double talk of anti global warming groups.

    Calvino takes you in his imaginary world and approves of complexes that give shape to life. Too bad his interviews are not translated. Yet I am thankful to you, on your homage to him, from the sunny balcony on the Marina, and can’t wait to hear about your other boy friends!

    I enjoyed “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, some years ago, & can’t wait to pair “Invisible City” with it, which was written 40 years later.

    “The name of the Rose” also brought so much flash back in its portraiture of power in religion vs. knowledge, when I saw it first.
    I don’t think burning of any Kindle would have been possible, or as dramatic & moving, as burning of those beautifully bounded, and hand painted books had. It reminded me of all those burned books of ancient time and Fahrenheit 451!

    P.S. Perhaps you could share Eco’s thoughts of that making?

  2. philippe caralp Says:

    Ne pas oublier Moravia, Sciascia, Italo Svevo et MARIO RIGONI STERN

  3. lucious Says:

    I also salute you for sharing Calvino’s thoughts on reading “in the shops window…”, in advance of him taking center stage, since it reminded me not only of, cozy isles of Book Soup on Sunset Blvd, LA, & 18 miles of books at Strand on Broadway, NY, but a message from Eco’s The name of the Rose…
    “In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth his knowledge increaseth his sorrow also”.

  4. Entropy Says:

    Dear Michele

    Whilst I have read Primo Levi, but I am not familiar with the works of Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. Thanks for introducing and sharing and enriching..

    “What strikes me is the fact that in our society,
    art has become something which is only related
    to objects, and not to individuals, or to life.”
    -Michel Foucault-

  5. om Says:

    You inspired me to take my copy of Marcovaldo by Calvino and actually go sit down now and read some, thanks!