This year marks the centennial celebration of the remarkable Italian writer Italo Calvino. As an Italian and a devoted reader of his works, I find myself compelled to share the profound impact that his words and ideas have had on me. While my blog, FLY HIGH, primarily caters to an English-speaking audience, including many Americans and native English speakers, the universal themes in Calvino's literature make this tribute a perfect opportunity to engage with an international audience.
The Inferno of the Living
One of the most poignant quotes from Calvino's repertoire comes from the conclusion of Invisible Cities. He wrote, "The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space”.
This thought-provoking insight has been a guiding philosophy for me ever since I first encountered it. Calvino's words remind us that suffering is an intrinsic part of life, but there are two ways to cope with it.
The first approach is to accept the inferno, to become so accustomed to it that we no longer see it. This perspective may resonate with many who find solace in familiarity. However, Calvino offers a second, more daring path. This path requires constant vigilance and apprehension, urging us to seek and learn to recognize the moments and individuals within the inferno who are not part of it. This, in turn, allows us to make those moments endure and give them space. It's a reminder that even in the most challenging circumstances, there are sparks of hope, resilience, and beauty.
Calvino's Literary Masterpieces
While celebrating Italo Calvino's 100th birthday, it's impossible not to reflect on his literary contributions. His diverse and imaginative body of work includes novels, short stories, essays, and fables that span multiple genres. Here are a few more of his notable works:
If on a winter's night a traveler. This novel is a unique exploration of reading and storytelling, taking readers on a labyrinthine journey through various narrative perspectives.
Cosmicomics A collection of short stories that blend science, mythology, and the human experience, told from the perspective of a being named Qfwfq.
Invisible Cities This is a mesmerizing narrative of the explorer Marco Polo's conversations with the aging emperor Kublai Khan, describing the fantastical cities of his travels.
Mr. Palomar A thought-provoking character study of the titular character as he grapples with his own interpretations of the world around him.
The Concept of "Leggerezza" (Lightness)
Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium is a collection of lectures that he intended to deliver at Harvard University. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could complete the series, but one of the memos, "Lightness," published posthumously with others, is one of my favourites. Calvino's unique conception of "leggerezza" goes beyond mere physical lightness. It encompasses the idea of mental and emotional lightness – the ability to approach life and literature with a sense of curiosity and a playful, open mind.
One of my favorite quotes from these "American Lessons" is, "Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don't mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification." In our modern, often heavy world, Calvino's call for intellectual lightness is a valuable reminder of the power of curiosity and adaptability.
As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Italo Calvino's birth, I invite readers from all corners of the globe to explore his rich tapestry of thought-provoking literature. His works, from The Invisible Cities to If on a winter's night a traveller, continue to inspire and encourage us to find lightness in the inferno of our everyday lives. Italo Calvino's ability to meld philosophy, fantasy, and storytelling is a testament to his enduring legacy, one that transcends borders and languages, and speaks to the universal human experience. Happy centennial, Italo Calvino, and thank you for the gift of your literary genius.