cover image Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Italo Calvino, trans. from the Italian by Geoffrey Brock. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, $13.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-544-14667-9

When Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler) died unexpectedly in 1985, he was an internationally known storyteller and arguably Italy’s most celebrated author. These five erudite essays, originally intended for the Charles Eliot Norton Poetry Lectures at Harvard, compose his final work. Calvino considers literary values that he sought in his own writing and ideas he wanted to convey to 21st-century writers. The essays explore, respectively, the themes of lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. As Calvino’s chosen title for the collection indicates, he planned to write a final essay—on consistency—but never did. “Literature can survive only by pursuing outsized goals, even those beyond all hope of achievement,” Calvino declares. He asserts his fondness for concise short-form writing that concentrates the imagination. Praising literary design that features clear, sharp images and precisely chosen words, he warns that an image- saturated world in the future could inhibit inner vision. Calvino’s lyrical essays move in so many directions, with such intellectual acuity, that they are often hard to keep up with. Brock contributes an able new translation, intended to correct errors in an earlier English-language version. (Aug.)