Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941–1985

Italo Calvino, Author, Martin McLaughlin, Translator, Michael Wood, Introduction by
Italo Calvino. Selected and with an introduction by Michael Wood, trans. from the Italian by Martin McLaughlin. Princeton Univ, $39.50 (662p) ISBN 978-0-691-13945-6
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Acclaimed Italian author Calvino (1923–1985) is best known for his fables, stories, and novels, including If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Yet he was also a book editor, journalist, and WWII Resistance fighter. This first English translation of 650 letters spanning the period from the war years until his death include Calvino’s correspondence with writers Umberto Eco, Gore Vidal, Elsa Morante, and Primo Levi; directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Pier Paolo Pasolini; composer Luciano Berio; as well as mentors, critics, and others. Elegant and generous, the letters reveal Calvino’s insights on authorship (“the author... exists only in his works; outside them... he is an everyday guy, who is very careful not to ‘identify’ with an ideal character”), literature (“Romanticism, that great river of paradisiacal incontinence...”); the role of the critic; the influence of Roland Barthes; and tarot cards and comic strips on his work. The son of scientists, Calvino first studied agronomy, and his letters reflect these and other biographical details—his continuing sympathy toward the Italian Communist Party despite his defection in 1957, his move to Paris in 1967, and his comments on American, French, and Italian literature and society. In a letter to a journalist friend, he says that he’d like to teach “a way of looking... a way of being in the world.” These letters show he succeeded. (Apr.)
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