Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Calvino.

I'm currently reading Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.  It's really marvelous.  It reminds me a bit of Einstein's Dreams, in the way each little section is just an imagined world operating on a dreamlike philosophy.  There are so many beautiful parts I want to pull out, but they don't work in isolation.

But some attempts anyway:

Marco enters a city; he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man's place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had come to be in the place of that man in that square.  By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else's present.  Future not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.
--[pg. 29]

That said, it is pointless trying to decide whether Zenobia is to be classified among happy cities or among the unhappy.  It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, but rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give their form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it.
--[pg. 35]

And you know that in the long journey ahead of you, when to keep awake against the camel's swaying or the junk's rocking, you start summoning up your memories one by one, your wolf will have become another wolf, your sister a different sister, your battle other battles, on your return from Euphemia, the city where memory is traded at every solstice and at every equinox.
But what enhanced for Kublai every event or piece of news reported by his inarticulate informer was the space that remained around it, a void not filled with words.  The descriptions of cities Marco Polo visited had this virtue: you could wander through them in thought, become lost, stop and enjoy the cool air, or run off... But you would have said communication between them was less happy than in the past: to be sure, words were more useful than objects and gestures...

"...Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else."
--[pg. 44]

There is no language without deceit.
-- [pg.48]

At times the mirror increases a thing's value, at times denies it.  Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored.  The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Valdrada is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point.  The two Valdradas live for each other, their eyes interlocked; but there is no love between them.
-- [pg. 54]

Falsehood is never in words; it is in things.
-- [pg.62]

2 drops:

moonrat said...

I really love this book. I haven't read it in 10 years, but sometimes I read little excerpts of it here and there. I think I should probably try some of Calvino's other books too, eh?

Leigh said...

Dear Angelle,

Over here at Regal Literary we’ve got a lot of exciting projects going on, from a HUGE summer book giveaway program to an amazing contest for Audrey Niffenegger’s new novel Her Fearful Symmetry(including 100 rare signed copies of the Limited Edition), and a special “bloggers only” prize! We’ve given away flights to Los Angeles, Italy, and now London. We’d love to be able to share all of these opportunities with you and your followers, so if you’d like to learn more, feel free to email me and I’ll send all the details your way.

Happy summer reading!


Leigh Huffine
Regal Literary, Inc.

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