Italo Calvino

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Italo Calvino (/ˈiːtalo kalˈviːno/), (b. Santiago de las Vegas, Cuba, October 15, 1923 — d. Siena, Italy, September 18, 1985), Italian journalist, book editor, novelist, writer of short-stories, and lecturer, one of the 20th century's most renown writers of fiction in the Italian language, much translated into English, noted in particular for his imaginatively whimsical and fantastical fables.[1] [2]. He authored numerous essays and a considerable body of fiction. His style evolved from early neorealistic tales and novels about the Italian resistance movement to stories like Palomar and Le città invisibili ("Invisible Cities"), where the main theme is the exploration of language and the philosophical discussion of literature and reality. His literary production was extremely wide and encompasses, among other works, a renowned collection of Italian folk tales accompanied by an essay on popular literature, several tales inspired by statements or concepts of science (the Cosmicomiche, or Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore), and essays on literature (e.g., Lezioni americane).

Assessing Calvino presents one difficulty of consequence: his language. Calvino wrote in Italian, and all of his works that we English speakers have are translations. They are very pleasant reading, and his most frequent translator (William Weaver) won at least one prize for his translation of Calvino. [2]


Though he was born in Cuba, Italo Calvino is considered an Italian writer. His family was living in Cuba at the time of his birth, but went back to Italy, to San Remo in Liguria after a brief residence in Mexico.

Literary works

In his novels and short-story collections, Calvino's style evolved dramatically from the first neorealistic pieces to the last book, Palomar, which is substantially a collection of tales about the philosophy of knowledge.

Neorealistic period

Calvino begun to write after World War II and, as with virtually all Italian writers of that period, his work was strongly influenced by the fresh memory of the resistance movement. Thus, Calvino's early works are tales, and a novel, about the resistance. The author later commented largely and explicitly on how and why his career started this way. In his essay Tre correnti del romanzo italiano d'oggi ("Three currents of contemporary Italian novels"), published in 1959 and now collected in Una pietra sopra, Calvino recognizes himself as a former neorealistic writer of the resistance which later developed as a writer of the fantastic. In his own view, the generation that came out of that experience "believed that literature could be epic, full of an energy which was vital and rational at one time, and social and individualistic, and collective and autobiographic".

"Our ancestors"

Books by Italo Calvino influenced by folk literature

  • I nostri antenati (Our ancestors)
    • Il visconte dimezzato (The Cloven Viscount)
    • Il barone rampante (The Baron in the Trees)
    • Il cavaliere inesistente (The Nonexistent Knight)
  • Fiabe italiane (Italian Folktales)

His interest in Italian folk tales left a strong mark on the literary production of Calvino, which was perfected with the publication of the collection Fiabe italiane ("Italian folktales") in 1956. Three novels appear to be deeply influenced by his fondness for folk literature, which were collected together in the volume I nostri antenati ("Our ancestors").

Science and literature

Combinatorial writing and philosophical tales


References and notes