Thursday, February 22

From Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night a Traveler

This novel is a love-letter written from an author to his readers. Here's a sample paragraph, taken from early on in the novel, to whet your appetite.

The following is what happens when You discover that the book you were reading, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, turns out to be bound with the first signature, or group of pages, repeated several times one after another, meaning that the entire book is filled with copies of the first chapter.

"You fling the book on the floor, you would hurl in out of the window, even out of the closed window, though the slats of the Venetian blinds; let them shred its incongruous quires, let sentences, words, morphemes, phonemes gush forth, beyond recomposition into discourse; through the panes, and if they are of unbreakable glass so much the better, hurl the book and reduce it to photons, undulatory vibrations, polarized spectra; through the wall, let the book crumble into molecules and atoms passing between atom and atom of the reinforced concrete, breaking up into electrons, neutrons, neutrinos, elementary particles more and more minute; through the telephone wires, let it be reduced to electronic impulses, into flow of information, shaken by redundancies and noises, and let it be degraded into a swirling entropy. You would like to throw it out of the house, out of the block, beyond the neighborhood, beyond the city limits, beyond the state confines, beyond the regional administration, beyond the national community, beyond the Common Market, beyond Western culture, beyond the continental shelf, beyond the atmosphere, the biosphere, the stratosphere, the field of gravity, the solar system, the galaxy, the cumulus of galaxies, to succeed in hurling it beyond the point the galaxies have reached in their expansion, where space-time has not yet arrived, where it would be received by nonbeing, or, rather, the not-being which has never been and will never be, to be lost in the most absolutely guaranteed undeniable negativity. Merely what it deserves, neither more nor less."

You are disappointed, to say the least. Calvino's successive amplified and reduced images bring to mind Powers of 10, a short film by Charles and Ray Eames that I blogged about last spring.

Throughout the novel, You get your hands on 10 different books, with titles like "Without fear of wind or vertigo", but for different reasons, you can never finish reading more than the first chapter. It is a treat to read.



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