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Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985by Italo Calvino
Synopses & Reviews
This is the first collection in English of the extraordinary letters of one of the great writers of the twentieth century. Italy's most important postwar novelist, Italo Calvino (1923-1985) achieved worldwide fame with such books as Cosmicomics, Invisible Cities, and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. But he was also an influential literary critic, an important literary editor, and a masterful letter writer whose correspondents included Umberto Eco, Primo Levi, Gore Vidal, Leonardo Sciascia, Natalia Ginzburg, Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Luciano Berio. This book includes a generous selection of about 650 letters, written between World War II and the end of Calvino's life. Selected and introduced by Michael Wood, the letters are expertly rendered into English and annotated by well-known Calvino translator Martin McLaughlin.
The letters are filled with insights about Calvino's writing and that of others; about Italian, American, English, and French literature; about literary criticism and literature in general; and about culture and politics. The book also provides a kind of autobiography, documenting Calvino's Communism and his resignation from the party in 1957, his eye-opening trip to the United States in 1959-60, his move to Paris (where he lived from 1967 to 1980), and his trip to his birthplace in Cuba (where he met Che Guevara). Some lengthy letters amount almost to critical essays, while one is an appropriately brief defense of brevity, and there is an even shorter, reassuring note to his parents written on a scrap of paper while he and his brother were in hiding during the antifascist Resistance.
This is a book that will fascinate and delight Calvino fans and anyone else interested in a remarkable portrait of a great writer at work.
"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 Ã¢Â€Â˜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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Calvino liked to present an inscrutable face to the world, but this literally marvelous collection of letters shows him to have been gregarious, puckish, funny, combative, and, above all, wonderful company, and opens a new and fascinating perspective on one of the master writers of the twentieth century. Michael Wood and Martin McLaughlin have done Calvino, and us, a great and loving service."--John Banville, author of Ancient Light
"Italo Calvino was one of the most sparkling literary inventors and innovators of the twentieth century. He was also a highly astute mediator of the work of others and a pellucid purveyor of a subtly elaborated idea of literature. To have a generous selection of his letters in English, translated with great verve, represents a major addition to our knowledge of his work, offering countless precious glimpses of the gears and levers that operate the 'literature machine.'"--Robert S. C. Gordon, University of Cambridge
"These letters are invaluable. They are an important source for understanding the intellectual and historical context of Italo Calvino's writing and thought, and his relations with other writers. They are filled with irony and insights on a vast variety of interesting literary and cultural topics. And they are beautifully written--a literary achievement in themselves. This translation is a real achievement as well."--Lucia Re, University of California, Los Angeles
"This is an excellent translation."--Andrea Ciccarelli, Indiana University
About the Author
Michael Wood is professor of English and comparative literature at Princeton University. His most recent books are "Yeats and Violence" and "A Very Short Introduction to Film". Martin McLaughlin is the Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Oxford. He is the translator of Calvino's "Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings", "Into the War", and "Why Read the Classics?", which won the John Florio Prize for translation. He is also cotranslator of Calvino's "The Complete Cosmicomics".
Table of Contents
Introduction, by Michael Wood vii
Translator's Note, by Martin McLaughlin xvii
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