cover image Under the Jaguar Sun

Under the Jaguar Sun

Italo Calvino. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $12.95 (86pp) ISBN 978-0-15-192820-0

A sumptuous small gem of a book, this volume contains three of the tales on the five senses planned by Calvino, who died last year. Taste, hearing, and smell receive arch and imaginative treatment in language that links every sense to love. The wife and husband of the title story visit Mexico, where they become so enamored of the spicy cuisine that their gasps and raptures are transferred from the bedroom to the dining table. The local religious art and architecture gain deeper meaning for the couple as they become more sensually attuned to the subtlest range of flavors. In ``A King Listens,'' a monarch sits riveted to his throne and paralyzed with fear, trying to hear every fragile sound that reverberates in his palace. Any ``acoustical sign'' may be open to interpretation; even silence and the flow of time are audible, perhaps ominous. Far from the palace walls, a woman's song beckons the king, promising freedom. ``The Name, the Nose'' focuses on the unique scent of a desired female, whether it is the costly product of a parfumerie on the Champs-Elysees, or the rank aroma of a woman asleep in a beery den. The trio provides exquisite fare from one of Italy's masters. (October)