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Salman Rushdie, 17 September 1981

If on a winter’s night a traveller 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 260 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 436 08271 3
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The Path to the Nest of Spiders 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Archibald Colquhoun.
Ecco, 145 pp., $4.95, May 1976, 0 912946 31 8
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Our Ancestors 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Archibald Colquhoun.
Picador, 382 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 330 26156 8
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by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 153 pp., $2.95, April 1976, 0 15 622600 6
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Invisible Cities The Castle of Crossed Destinies 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Picador, 126 pp., £1.25, May 1979, 0 330 25731 5
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... At the beginning of Italo Calvino’s first book for six years, an entirely fictional personage named You, the Reader, buys and settles down with a novel which he firmly believes to be the new Calvino. You prepare to recognise the unmistakable tone of the author. No. You don’t recognise it at all ...

By an Unknown Writer

Patrick Parrinder, 25 January 1996

Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Tim Parks.
Cape, 276 pp., £15.99, November 1995, 0 224 03732 3
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... Italo Calvino was born in 1923 and came to prominence in post-war Italy as a writer of neo-realist and politically committed short stories, some of them published in the Communist paper L’Unità. A major social-problem novel set in contemporary Italy was naturally expected of him, but he found himself unable to write it ...

Things I Said No To

Michael Wood: Italo Calvino, 17 April 2003

Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings 
by Italo Calvino.
Cape, 255 pp., £16.99, January 2003, 0 224 06132 1
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... out the visible differences. If it wasn’t for the lion who traditionally accompanies St Jerome, Italo Calvino suggests in The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1973), you could hardly tell him from St Augustine. Both saints are often pictured as writers, and ‘a man at a desk resembles every other man at a desk.’ By the same token, all writers resemble ...


Ian Thomson: Assault on the Via Salaria, 14 April 2011

... At ten past three the phone rang. ‘Pronto,’ I said, and the voice answered: ‘I am Signor Calvino.’ It was the novelist Italo Calvino; I was due to interview him later that afternoon. We had scarcely agreed on the place when something hard hit me on the back of the head ...


Jonathan Coe, 26 March 1992

Six Memos for the Next Millennium 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 03311 5
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Under the Jaguar Sun 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Cape, 86 pp., £10.99, February 1992, 0 224 03310 7
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The Fountains of Neptune 
by Rikki Ducornet.
Dalkey Archive, 220 pp., $19.95, February 1992, 0 916583 96 1
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Small Times 
by Russell Celyn Jones.
Viking, 212 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 670 84307 5
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... to emerge from the great novels of the 20th century is the idea of an open encyclopedia,’ wrote Calvino in 1985, the year of his death. Tracing the lineage of the encyclopedic novel through Perec, Mann, Proust and Flaubert, he homes in on the figures of Carlo Emilio Gadda and Robert Musil, two ‘engineer-writers’ who have one quality in common: ‘their ...

Infinite Artichoke

James Butler: Italo Calvino’s Politics, 15 June 2023

The Written World and the Unwritten World: Collected Non-Fiction 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Penguin, 384 pp., £10.99, January, 978 0 14 139492 3
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... Italo Calvino​ has an image problem. He has been pigeonholed as an Italian Queneau or a knock-off Borges. His admirers proselytise – not always helpfully – about The Joy of Semiosis. Reviewers have tried to account for his interest in narrative at both the level of theory and pleasure by calling him a ‘storyteller’, meaning that he wrote books that are both compelling and showily self-aware ...

In the Know

Simon Schaffer, 10 November 1994

Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture 
by William Eamon.
Princeton, 490 pp., £38.50, July 1994, 0 691 03402 8
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The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire 
by Pamela Smith.
Princeton, 308 pp., £30, July 1994, 0 691 05691 9
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... Like some garrulous character in a story by Italo Calvino, an Italian physician tells of his meeting at a 16th-century siege with a Spaniard who had just lost his nose in a barrack-room brawl. ‘The nose fell in the sand, and I saw it because we were together. So holding it in my hand, all full of sand, I pissed on it, and having washed it with urine I attached it to him and sewed it on very firmly ...

How to vanish

Michael Dibdin, 23 April 1987

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis 
by Humberto Costantini, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Fontana, 193 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 00 654180 1
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Requiem for a Woman’s Soul 
by Omar Rivabella, translated by Paul Riviera.
Penguin, 116 pp., £2.95, February 1987, 0 14 009773 2
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Words in Commotion, and Other Stories 
by Tommaso Landolfi, translated by Ring Jordan and Lydia Jordan.
Viking, 273 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 80518 1
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The Literature Machine 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Secker, 341 pp., £16, April 1987, 0 436 08276 4
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The St Veronica Gig Stories 
by Jack Pulaski.
Zephyr, 170 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 939010 09 7
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Kate Vaiden 
by Reynolds Price.
Chatto, 306 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7011 3203 5
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... cannot be said of Words in Commotion. Tommaso Landolfi is renowned for his linguistic bravura – Calvino notes in his introduction that he ‘could do whatever he wanted with the pen’ – and Englishing his stories is as much of a challenge as making an Italian of Flann O’Brien. In such a case, half a translation is no better than none at all: ...

Theory with a Wife

Michael Wood, 3 October 1985

Mr Palomar 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 118 pp., £8.50, September 1985, 0 436 08275 6
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Parrot’s Perch 
by Michel Rio, translated by Leigh Hafrey.
Dent, 88 pp., £7.95, September 1985, 0 460 04669 1
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Light Years 
by Maggie Gee.
Faber, 350 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 571 13604 4
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... it begins to shimmer with complication. Without becoming less factual, it floats off into myth. Italo Calvino’s Mr Palomar looks at the sky, his lawn, the sea, starlings, tortoises, Roman rooftops, a girl, giraffes and much else. He wants only to observe, to learn a modest lesson from creatures and things. But he can’t. There is too much to see in ...

We’ll Never Know

Gabriel Dover, 3 August 1995

Signs of Life: The Language and Meanings of DNA 
by Robert Pollack.
Viking, 212 pp., £16, May 1994, 0 670 85121 3
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... pasts and unknowable futures’, in the best tradition of Italy’s two scientific literati, Italo Calvino and Primo Levi. Indeed, the links with Calvino are closer and more meaningful than Pollack probably realises, as I will argue later. First, let me get one complaint off my chest. The text suffers from a ...

Anticipatory Plagiarism

Paul Grimstad: Oulipo, 6 December 2012

Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature 
by Daniel Levin Becker.
Harvard, 338 pp., £19.95, May 2012, 978 0 674 06577 2
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... instructions, it is not surprising that Oulipo has links to computer science and AI research. Italo Calvino used an algorithm derived from a Greimas square for the composition of his recursive novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller; a ‘Mathews algorithm’, named for its inventor Harry Mathews, consists of generating content by moving sets of ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 9 February 1995

The Film Explainer 
by Gert Hofmann, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Secker, 250 pp., £9.99, January 1995, 0 436 20232 8
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... is ‘an education for the soul’, what has been the effect on Gert? In The Road to San Giovanni Italo Calvino, who was only a little older and grew up in San Remo, describes his apprenticeship to the cinema as ‘slow and hard’, although it led to a passionate addiction. As a child he was always getting the actors mixed up, particularly if they had ...

I wouldn’t say I love Finland

Alexander Dziadosz: Love, Home, Country?, 24 March 2022

Voices of the Lost 
by Hoda Barakat, translated by Marilyn Booth.
Oneworld, 197 pp., £12.99, February 2021, 978 1 78607 722 6
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God 99 
by Hassan Blasim, translated by Jonathan Wright.
Comma, 278 pp., £9.99, November 2020, 978 1 905583 77 5
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... track of it altogether. He spends his time getting drunk, having sex and reading Emil Cioran and Italo Calvino. He holds forth on the nature of pavements (‘raised platforms on the side of streets, set aside for people to walk back and forth on … murderers and sheep’). Blasim’s deranged energy is what makes the stories such compulsive fun. In ...

A World of Waste

Philip Horne, 1 September 1983

The Proprietor 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 300 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 333 35111 8
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Slouching towards Kalamazoo 
by Peter De Vries.
Gollancz, 241 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 575 03306 1
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by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 121 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 436 08272 1
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The Loser 
by George Konard, translated by Ivan Sanders.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £8.95, August 1983, 0 7139 1599 4
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... aging funnyman played by Jerry Lewis in his splendid recent film King of Comedy. The stories in Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo (1963), a collection of 20 urban fables occupying a point in his work midway between the massive collection of Italian Folktales (1956) and Invisible Cities (1972), may have conceits allegorically pointed at the times, often ...

Knives in Candlelight

Adam Thirlwell: ‘Our Share of Night’, 16 March 2023

Our Share of Night 
by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell.
Granta, 725 pp., £18.99, October 2022, 978 1 78378 673 2
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... do? In the introduction to his anthology of Fantastic Tales, published in the early 1980s, Italo Calvino proposed that the supernatural story emerged as a branch of 18th-century epistemology:The problem of the reality of what we see – both extraordinary things, which may be just hallucinations projected by our minds, and ordinary things, which ...

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