856: Letters, 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino

by Gerard


856.914: Calvino, Italo. Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985. Translated by Martin McLaughlin. NJ: Princeton, University Press, 2013. 534 pp. ISBN 978-0-691-13945-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature and Rhetoric
  • 850: Literatures of Italian, Sardinian, Dalmatian, Romanian, and Rheato-Romanic languages
  • 856: Italian letters
  • 856.9: 1900—
  • 856.91: 1900—1999
  • 856.914: 1945—1999

Italo Calvino was a man of many opinions. From his days in the Italian Communist Party after World War II to his tenure in the Oulipo writing group, Calvino had a lot to say and used his many friends, agents, and even enemies around Europe to say it. The letters translated here by Martin McLaughlin represent the tapestry of threads he wove throughout his life.

The first impression one gets of Calvino is that of a man who needs the company of friends to enrich his life. He constantly wants his pen pals to visit him wherever he is, or send books and articles, or recount news of local politics. But beyond that, there is a hunger. He relishes in all the philosophical complexities of literary fiction, even going so far as to dissect his own work.

Calvino is at times belligerent, compassionate, churlish, and joyous, but never boring. That being said, it helps to be acquainted with at least some of Calvino’s writing before diving into the 600 letters in this book. All in all, however, this was an entertaining albeit lengthy read.