Calvino’s diverse interests are on full display in this collection of delightful and erudite essays by the author of Invisible Cities. Originally published in Italian in 1984, it was the last volume of new work published in his lifetime. Many of the eclectic pieces are collected from a newspaper column Calvino (1923–1985) wrote for La Repubblica, and from a series of travel essays set in Iran, Japan, and Mexico. Museum exhibitions draw Calvino’s attention to the natural world, to the bizarre—and to the past. His subtle humor threads its way through staid descriptions of wax museums, automata, knots, and the ruins of a pig sty. The collection includes a moving remembrance of Roland Barthes and several idiosyncratic but valuable book reviews. Calvino’s travelogues, particularly those set in Japan, are the best example of his ability to capture the real world with the same vigor and verve as his imaginative fiction. In Mexico, Calvino visits a 2,000-year-old tree and walks away with the impression that, like history itself, the tree grows “according to no plan” but finds continuity through redundancy. “In the beginning was language,” he writes, and it’s clear that no matter where he turns his attention, his universe begins and ends in reverence for the written word. The book offers a delectable array of cognitive insights, ancient history, and Calvino’s indispensable voice. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/21/2014 Release date: 09/16/2014 Genre: Nonfiction
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