Italo Calvino Quotes

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A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.
Italo Calvino (The Uses of Literature)
Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness.
Italo Calvino
Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Sections in the bookstore - Books You Haven't Read - Books You Needn't Read - Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading - Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written - Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered - Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First - Books Too Expensive Now and You'll Wait 'Til They're Remaindered - 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 - Books You've Been Planning to Read for Ages - Books You've Been Hunting for Years Without Success - Books Dealing with Something You're Working on at the Moment - Books You Want to Own So They'll Be Handy Just in Case - Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer - Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves - Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified - Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time to Re-read - Books You've Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It's Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
You take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
What harbor can receive you more securely than a great library?
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
If one wanted to depict the whole thing graphically, every episode, with its climax, would require a three-dimensional, or, rather, no model: every experience is unrepeatable. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
One reads alone, even in another's presence.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.
Italo Calvino (The Uses of Literature)
The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined?
Italo Calvino
Falsehood is never in words; it is in things.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.
Italo Calvino
Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. "There is the blueprint," they say.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
The things that the novel does not say are necessarily more numerous than those it does say and only a special halo around what is written can give the illusion that you are reading also what is not written.
Italo Calvino
The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.
Italo Calvino
You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
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 (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
I will start out this evening with an assertion: fantasy is a place where it rains.
Italo Calvino (Six Memos for the Next Millennium)
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
To fly is the opposite of traveling: you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in a place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and when in which you vanished.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler)
This is what I mean when I say I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts, and each of these new facts bring with it consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it. . . .
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
They knew each other. He knew her and so himself, for in truth he had never known himself. And she knew him and so herself, for although she had always known herself she had never been able to recognize it until now.
Italo Calvino
Don't be amazed if you see my eyes always wandering. In fact, this is my way of reading, and it is only in this way that reading proves fruitful to me. If a book truly interests me, I cannot follow it for more than a few lines before my mind, having seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or a feeling, or a question, or an image, goes off on a tangent and springs from thought to thought, from image to image, in an itinerary of reasonings and fantasies that I feel the need to pursue to the end, moving away from the book until I have lost sight of it. The stimulus of reading is indispensable to me, and of meaty reading, even if, of every book, I manage to read no more than a few pages. But those few pages already enclose for me whole universes, which I can never exhaust.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
There is no language without deceit.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
…we can not love or think except in fragments of time each of which goes along its own trajectory and immediately disappears.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
The novels that attract me most... are those that create an illusion of transperancy around a knot of human relationships as obscure, cruel and perverse as possible.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Si conobbero. Lui conobbe lei e se stesso, perché in verità non s'era mai saputo. E lei conobbe lui e se stessa, perché pur essendosi saputa sempre, mai s'era potuta riconoscere così.
Italo Calvino (The Baron in the Trees)
I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.
Italo Calvino
It's better not to know authors personally, because the real person never corresponds to the image you form of him from reading his books.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand
Italo Calvino
...the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping...something runs among them, an exchange of glances like lines that connect one figure with another and draw arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene...
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Your house, being the place in which you read, can tell us the position books occupy in your life, if they are a defense you set up to keep the outside world at a distance, if they are a dream into which you sink as if into a drug, or bridges you cast toward the outside, toward the world that interests you so much that you want to multiply and extend its dimensions through books.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
There is still one of which you never speak.' Marco Polo bowed his head. 'Venice,' the Khan said. Marco smiled. 'What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?' The emperor did not turn a hair. 'And yet I have never heard you mention that name.' And Polo said: 'Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combination of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.
Italo Calvino (Six Memos for the Next Millennium)
L'inferno dei viventi non è qualcosa che sarà; se ce n'è uno, è quello che è già qui, l'inferno che abitiamo tutti i giorni, che formiamo stando insieme. Due modi ci sono per non soffrirne. Il primo riesce facile a molti: accettare l'inferno e diventarne parte fino al punto di non vederlo più. Il secondo è rischioso ed esige attenzione e apprendimento continui: cercare e saper riconoscere chi e cosa, in mezzo all'inferno, non è inferno, e farlo durare, e dargli spazio.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Today each of you is the object of the other’s reading, one reads in the other the unwritten story.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Don't ask where the rest of this book is!" It is a shrill cry that comes from an undefined spot among the shelves. "All books continue in the beyond...
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
One should be light like a bird and not like a feather.
Italo Calvino (Six Memos for the Next Millennium)
List of Artists Who Created Fantasy Worlds to Try and Cure Bouts of Sadness 1. Italo Calvino 2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez 3. Jim Henson and Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths 4. The creator of MySpace 5. Richard Brautigan 6. J.K. Rowling 7. The inventor of the children's toy Lite-Brite 8. Ann Sexton 9. David Foster Wallace 10. Gaugin and the Caribbean 11. Charles Schulz 12. Liam Rector
Shane Jones (Light Boxes)
I felt a kind of vertigo, as if I were merely plunging from one world to another, and in each I arrived shortly after the end of the world had taken place.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Every new book I read comes to be a part of that overall and unitary book that is the sum of my readings...if you need little to set the imagination going, I require even less: the promise of reading is enough.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
You have with you the book you were reading in the cafe, which you are eager to continue, so that you can then hand it on to her, to communicate again with her through the channel dug by others' words, which, as they are uttered by an alien voice, by the voice of that silent nobody made of ink and typographical spacing, can become yours and hers, a language, a code between the two of you, a means to exchange signals and recognize each other.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
I had fallen in love. What I mean is: I had begun to recognize, to isolate the signs of one of those from the others, in fact I waited for these signs I had begun to recognize, I sought them, responded to those signs I awaited with other signs I made myself, or rather it was I who aroused them, these signs from her, which I answered with other signs of my own . . .
Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics)
How well I would write if I were not here!
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Nobody these days holds the written word in such high esteem as police states do,' Arkadian Porpirych says. 'What statistic allows one to identify the nations where literature enjoys true consideration better than the sums appropriated for controlling it and suppressing it? Where it is the object of such attentions, literature gains an extraordinary authority, inconceivable in countries where it is allowed to vegetate as an innocuous pastime, without risks.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
el infierno de los vivos no es algo que será; hay uno, es aquél que existe ya aquí, el infierno que habitamos todos los días, que formamos estando juntos. Dos maneras hay de no sufrirlo. La primera es fácil para muchos: aceptar el infierno y volverse parte de él hasta el punto de no verlo más. La segunda es peligrosa y exige atención y aprendizaje continuos: buscar y saber reconocer quién y qué, en medio del infierno, no es infierno, y hacerlo durar, y darle espacio.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Every choice has its obverse, that is to say a renunciation, and so there is no difference between the act of choosing and the act of renouncing.
Italo Calvino (The Castle of Crossed Destinies)
A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.
Italo Calvino (Mr.Palomar)
The city is redundant: it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind. […] Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
In politics, as in every other sphere of life, there are two important principles for a man of any sense: don't cherish too many illusions, and never stop believing that every little bit helps.
Italo Calvino (The Watcher and Other Stories)
I've been in love for five hundred million years…
Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics)
The universe will express itself as long as somebody will be able to say, "I read, therefore it writes.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira’s past. The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
La lettura è solitudine. Si legge da soli anche quando si è in due.
Italo Calvino
Perhaps everything lies in knowing what words to speak, what actions to perform, and in what order and rhythm; or else someone's gaze, answer, gesture is enough; it is enough for someone to do something for the sheer pleasure of doing it, and for his pleasure to become the pleasure of others: at that moment, all spaces change, all heights, distances; the city is transfigured, becomes crystalline, transparent as a dragonfly.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice -- they won't hear you otherwise -- "I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything: just hope they'll leave you alone.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone. 'But which is the stone that supports the bridge?' Kublai Khan asks. 'The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,' Marco answers, 'but by the line of the arch that they form.' Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: 'Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.' Polo answers: 'Without stones there is no arch.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Lovers' reading of each other's bodies (of that concentrate of mind and body which lovers use to go to bed together) differs from the reading of written pages in that it is not linear. It starts at any point, skips, repeat itself, goes backward, insists, ramifies in simultaneous and divergent messages, converges again, has moments of irritation, turns the page, finds its place, gets lost. A direction can be recognized in it, a route to an end, since it tends toward a climax, and with this end in view it arranges rhythmic phases, metrical scansions, recurrence of motives. But is the climax really the end? Or is the race toward that end opposed by another drive which works in the opposite direction, swimming against moments, recovering time?
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics. I would say that such a library ought to be composed half of books we have read and that have really counted for us, and half of books we propose to read and presume will come to count—leaving a section of empty shelves for surprises and occasional discoveries
Italo Calvino (Why Read the Classics?)
Reading is solitude.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
I speak and speak,” Marco says, “but the listener retains only the words he is expecting. The description of the world to which you lend a benevolent ear is one thing; the description that will go the rounds of the groups of stevedores and gondoliers on the street outside my house the day of my return is another; and yet another, that which I might dictate late in life, if I were taken prisoner by Genoese pirates and put in irons in the same cell with a writer of adventure stories. It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
So you begin to wonder if Leonia's true passion is really, as they say, the enjoyment of new and different things, and not, instead, the joy of expelling, discarding, cleansing itself of a recurrent impurity.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
So began their love, the boy happy and amazed, she happy and not surprised at all (nothing happens by chance to girls). It was the love so long awaited by Cosimo and which had now inexplicably arrived, and so lovely that he could not imagine how he had even thought it lovely before. And the thing newest to him was that it was so simple, and the boy at that moment thought it must be like that always.
Italo Calvino (The Baron in the Trees)
إنه ينبغي علينا أن نخصص في فترة النضج وقتًا لإعادة اكتشاف أهم قراءاتنا التي قمنا بها في الصبا. فإذا كانت الكتب لا تتغير -وهي في الواقع تتغير علي ضوء منظور تاريخي مختلف- فنحن أنفسنا تغيرنا ولقاؤنا الجديد يشكل أحداثًا جديدة.ولهذا فإن كل قراءة جديدة لعمل كلاسيكي هي اكتشاف، مثلها مثل القراءة الأولي. وكل قراءة أولى لعمل كلاسيكي هي في الحقيقة قراءة جديدة.
Italo Calvino
Do you believe that every story must have a beginning and an end? In ancient times a story could end only in two ways: having passed all the tests, the hero and the heroine married, or else they died. The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler)
If on a winter's night a traveler, outside the town of Malbork, leaning from the steep slope without fear of wind or vertigo, looks down in the gathering shadow in a network of lines that enlace, in a network of lines that intersect, on the carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon around an empty grave-What story down there awaits its end?-he asks, anxious to hear the story.
Italo Calvino
To fall in the void as I fell: none of you knows what that means… I went down into the void, to the most absolute bottom conceivable, and once there I saw that the extreme limit must have been much, much farther below, very remote, and I went on falling, to reach it.
Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics)
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 were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the 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. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out: the Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages, the Books You've Been Hunting For Years Without Success, the Books Dealing With Something You're Working On At The Moment, the Books You Want To Own So They'll Be Handy Just In Case, the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer, the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves, the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified, Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time To Reread and the Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It's Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Renouncing things is less difficult than people believe: it's all a matter of getting started. Once you've succeeded in dispensing with something you thought essential, you realize you can also do without something else, then without many other things.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Your first book is the only one that matters. Perhaps a writer should write only that one. That is the one moment when you make the big leap; the opportunity to express yourself is offered that once, and you untie the knot within you then or never again.
Italo Calvino
The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler)
It was the hour in which objects lose the consistency of shadow that accompanies them during the night and gradually reacquire colors, but seem to cross meanwhile an uncertain limbo, faintly touched, just breathed on by light; the hour in which one is least certain of the world's existence.
Italo Calvino (The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount)
I could distinguish the shape of her bosom, her arms, her thighs, just as I remember them now, just as now, when the Moon has become that flat, remote circle, I still look for her as soon as the first sliver appears in the sky, and the more it waxes, the more clearly I imagine I can see her, her or something of her, but only her, in a hundred, a thousand different vistas, she who makes the Moon the Moon and, whenever she is full, sets the dogs to howling all night long, and me with them.
Italo Calvino (Cosmicomics)
You walk for days among trees and among stones. Rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognized that thing as the sign of another thing: a print in the sand indicates the tiger's passage; a marsh announces a vein of water; the hibiscus flower, the end of winter. All the rest is silent and interchangeable; trees and stones are only what they are.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
You only have to start saying of something : 'Ah, how beautiful ! We must photograph it !' and you are already close to the view of the person who thinks that everything that is not photographed is lost, as if it never existed, and therefore in order to really live you must photograph as much as you can, and to photograph as much as you can you must either live in the most photographable way possible, or else consider photographable every moment of your life.
Italo Calvino (Difficult Loves)
The lives of individuals of the human race form a constant plot, in which every attempt to isolate one piece of living that has a meaning separate from the rest-for example, the meeting of two people, which will become decisive for both-must bear in mind that each of the two brings with himself a texture of events, environments, other people, and that from the meeting, in turn, other stories will be derived which will break off from their common story.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler)
what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveller's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
I, too, feel the need to reread the books I have already read," a third reader says, "but at every rereading I seem to be reading a new book, for the first time. Is it I who keep changing and seeing new things of which I was not previously aware? Or is reading a construction that assumes form, assembling a great number of variables, and therefore something that cannot be repeated twice according to the same pattern? Every time I seek to relive the emotion of a previous reading, I experience different and unexpected impressions, and do not find again those of before. At certain moments it seems to me that between one reading and the next there is a progression: in the sense, for example, of penetrating further into the spirit of the text, or of increasing my critical detachment. At other moments, on the contrary, I seem to retain the memory of the readings of a single book one next to another, enthusiastic or cold or hostile, scattered in time without a perspective, without a thread that ties them together. The conclusion I have reached is that reading is an operation without object; or that its true object is itself. The book is an accessory aid, or even a pretext.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Marco enters a city; he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man's place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wandering he had come to be in the place of that man in the square. By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else's present. Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
If you think about it, reading is a necessarily individual act, far more than writing. If we assume that writing manages to go beyond the limitations of the author, it will continue to have a meaning only when it is read by a single person and passes through his mental circuits. Only the ability to be read by a given individual proves that what is written shares in the power of writing, a power based on something that goes beyond the individual. The universe will express itself as long as somebody will be able to say, "I read, therefore it writes.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
Why d’you make me suffer?" “Because I love you.” Now it was his turn to get angry. “No, no, you don’t love me! People in love want happiness, not pain!” “People in love want only love, even at the cost of pain.” “Then you’re making people suffer on purpose.” “Yes, to see if you love me.” The Baron’s philosophy would not go any further. “Pain is a negative state of the soul.” “Love is all.” “Pain should always be fought against.” “Love refuses nothing.” “Some things I’ll never admit.” “Oh yes, you do, now, for you love me and you suffer.
Italo Calvino (The Baron in the Trees)
Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. (Terence sent me this quote the other day. A good battle cry, I believe... and one I wholeheartedly respect.)
Italo Calvino (Six Memos for the Next Millennium)
When a man rides a long time through wild regions he feels the desire for a city. Finally he comes to Isidora, a city where the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells, where perfect telescopes and violins are made, where the foreigner hesitating between two women always encounters a third, where cockfights degenerate into bloody brawls among the bettors. He was thinking of all these things when he desired a city. Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
If you choose to believe me, good. Now I will tell you how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past; farther down you can glimpse the chasm's bed. This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as passage and as support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children's games, cable cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants. Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia's inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will only last so long.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
After a seven days' march through woodland, the traveler directed toward Baucis cannot see the city and yet he has arrived. The slender stilts that rise from the ground at a great distance from one another and are lost above the clouds support the city. You climb them with ladders. On the ground the inhabitants rarely show themselves: having already everything they need up there, they prefer not to come down. Nothing of the city touches the earth except those long flamingo legs on which it rests and, when the days are sunny, a pierced, angular shadow that falls on the foilage. "There are three hypotheses about the inhabitants of Baucis: that they hate the earth; that they respect it so much they avoid all contact; that they love it as it was before they existed and with spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward they never tire of examining it, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, ant by ant, contemplating with fascination their own absence.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Despina can be reached in two ways: by ship or by camel. The city displays one face to the traveler arriving overland and a different one to him who arrives by sea. When the camel driver sees, at the horizon of the tableland, the pinnacles of the skyscrapers come into view, the radar antennae, the white and red wind-socks flapping, the chimneys belching smoke, he thinks of a ship; he knows it is a city, but he thinks of it as a vessel that will take him away from the desert, a windjammer about to cast off, with the breeze already swelling the sails, not yet unfurled, or a steamboat with its boiler vibrating in the iron keel; and he thinks of all the ports, the foreign merchandise the cranes unload on the docks, the taverns where crews of different flags break bottles over one another’s heads, the lighted, ground-floor windows, each with a woman combing her hair. In the coastline’s haze, the sailor discerns the form of a camel’s withers, an embroidered saddle with glittering fringe between two spotted humps, advancing and swaying; he knows it is a city, but he thinks of it as a camel from whose pack hang wine-skins and bags of candied fruit, date wine, tobacco leaves, and already he sees himself at the head of a long caravan taking him away from the desert of the sea, toward oases of fresh water in the palm trees’ jagged shade, toward palaces of thick, whitewashed walls, tiled courts where girls are dancing barefoot, moving their arms, half-hidden by their veils, and half-revealed. Each city receives its form from the desert it opposes; and so the camel driver and the sailor see Despina, a border city between two deserts.
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
You fasten your seatbelt. The plane is landing. To fly is the opposite of traveling: you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in any place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and the when in which you vanished. Meanwhile, what do you do? How do you occupy this absence of yourself from the world and of the world from you?" You read; you do not raise your eyes from the book between one airport and the other, because beyond the page there is the void, the anonymity of stopovers, of the metallic uterus that contains you and nourishes you, of the passing crowd always different and always the same. You might as well stick with this other abstraction of travel, accomplished by the anonymous uniformity of typographical characters: here, too, it is the evocative power of the names that persuades you that you are flying over something and not nothingness. You realize that it takes considerable heedlessness to entrust yourself to unsure instruments, handled with approximation; or perhaps this demonstrates and invincible tendency to passivity, to regression, to infantile dependence. (But are you reflecting on the air journey or on reading?)
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)
In Chloe, a great city, the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping. A girl comes along, twirling a parasol on her shoulder, and twirling slightly also her rounded hips. A woman in black comes along, showing her full age, her eyes restless beneath her veil, her lips trembling. At tattooed giant comes along; a young man with white hair; a female dwarf; two girls, twins, dressed in coral. Something runs among them, an exchange of glances link lines that connect one figure with another and draws arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene: a blind man with a cheetah on a leash, a courtesan with an ostrich-plume fan, an ephebe, a Fat Woman. And thus, when some people happen to find themselves together, taking shelter from the rain under an arcade, or crowding beneath an awning of the bazaar, or stopping to listen to the band in the square, meetings, seductions, copulations, orgies are consummated among them without a word exchanged, without a finger touching anything, almost without an eye raised. A voluptuous vibration constantly stirs Chloe, the most chaste of cities. If men and women began to live their ephemeral dreams, every phantom would become a person with whom to begin a story of pursuits, pretenses, misunderstandings, clashes, oppressions, and the carousel of fantasies would stop.
Italo Calvino
Già nella vetrina della libreria hai individuato la copertina col titolo che cercavi. Seguendo questa traccia visiva ti sei fatto largo nel negozio attraverso il fitto sbarramento di Libri Che Non Hai Letto che ti guardavao accigliati dai banchi e dagli scaffali cercando d'intimidirti. Ma tu sai che non devi lasciarti mettere in soggezione, che tra loro s'estendono per ettari ed ettari i Libri Che Puoi Fare A Meno Di Leggere, i Libri Fatti Per Altri Usi Che La Lettura, i Libri Già Letti Senza Nemmeno Bisogno D'Aprirli In Quanto Appartenenti Alla Categoria Del Già Letto Prima Ancora D'Essere Stato Scritto. E così superi la prima cinta dei baluardi e ti piomba addosso la fanteria dei Libri Che Se Tu Avessi Più Vite Da Vivere Certamente Anche Questi Li Leggeresti Volentieri Ma Purtroppo I Giorni Che Hai Da Vivere Sono Quelli Che Sono. Con rapida mossa li scavalchi e ti porti in mezzo alle falangi dei Libri Che Hai Intenzione Di Leggere Ma Prima Ne Dovresti Leggere Degli Altri, dei Libri Troppo Cari Che Potresti Aspettare A Comprarli Quando Saranno Rivenduti A Metà Prezzo, dei Libri Idem Come Sopra Quando Verranno Ristampati Nei Tascabili, dei Libri Che Potresti Domandare A Qualcuno Se Te Li Presta, dei Libri Che Tutti Hanno Letto Dunque E' Quasi Come Se Li Avessi Letti Anche Tu. Sventando questi attacchi, ti porti sotto le torri del fortilizio, dove fanno resistenza i Libri Che Da Tanto Tempo Hai In Programma Di Leggere, i Libri Che Da Anni Cercavi Senza Trovarli, i Libri Che Riguardano Qualcosa Di Cui Ti Occupi In Questo Momento, i Libri Che Vuoi Avere Per Tenerli A Portata Di Mano In Ogni Evenienza, i Libri Che Potresti Mettere Da Parte Per Leggerli Magari Quest'Estate, i Libri Che Ti Mancano Per Affiancarli Ad Altri Libri Nel Tuo Scaffale, i Libri Che Ti Ispirano Una Curiosità Improvvisa, Frenetica E Non Chiaramente Giustificabile. Ecco che ti è stato possibile ridurre il numero illimitato di forze in campo a un insieme certo molto grande ma comunque calcolabile in un numero finito, anche se questo relativo sollievo ti viene insidiato dalle imboscate dei Libri Letti Tanto Tempo Fa Che Sarebbe Ora Di Rileggerli e dei Libri Che Hai Sempre Fatto Finta D'Averli Letti Mentre Sarebbe Ora Ti Decidessi A Leggerli Davvero.
Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler)