cover image Numbers in the Dark: And Other Stories

Numbers in the Dark: And Other Stories

Italo Calvino. Pantheon Books, $24 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44205-9

Italian novelist and short-story writer Calvino (1923-1985) is well-represented in this continually surprising collection of more than three dozen fables, tales, fragments and dialogues--a third of them never before published, others culled from magazines or newspapers, only a few previously anthologized. Qfwfq, the chameleon-like, timeless creature who related his subatomic and metaphysical adventures in the author's Cosmicomics, here recalls the split-second birth of the universe out of the void (``Nothing and Not Much'') and evinces sympathy for the fragile, perishable cosmos. Adapting the dialogue technique of Invisible Cities, Calvino presents imaginary interviews with Henry Ford, a still-surviving Neanderthal man and a rueful Montezuma, deposed from his Aztec throne. The regimentation and absurdity of life under fascism is evoked in several short fables written under government censorship during WWII, while lyrical neorealist stories explore the moral confusion and social anarchy of the immediate postwar period. A number of fables grapple with political ferment or technological change, like the premonitory title story, written in 1958, about supercomputers that run offices and know the past and future, or ``The Tribe With Its Eyes on the Sky,'' an allegory about nuclear arms proliferation and transnational corporate control of Third World societies. Novelist Parks's superb translations capture Calvino's quirky, iconoclastic voice, helping to make this a worthy addition to the Calvino shelf. (Nov.)