Spring 1998 • Vol. XX No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1998 |

Hidden in the Distance: Reading Calvino Reading

I Italo Calvino once wrote that he "spent more time with the books of others than with my own." He added, "I do not regret it" (Literature 341). That must be an unusual remark for a writer to make, even (or especially) a writer who worked in a publishing house. We may think of Mr. Cavedagna in If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, who is described as "a little man, shrunken and bent" (77), not because he is like that, or looks like that, or even because he seems to have emerged from a book where little men are always shrunken and bent. No: "He seems to have come from a world in which they still read books where you encounter 'little men, shrunken and bent"' (79). It is Mr. Cavedagna who puts galley proofs on a table very gently, "as if the slightest jolt could upset the order of the printed letters" (80). Much of Calvino's sense of literature lives in that small image, and not only of literature. "I still have the notion that to live in peace and freedom is a frail kind of good

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece



Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.
Kenyon Review logo
Michael Wood is professor of English at Princeton University. His most recent books are Literature and the Taste of Knowledge (2005) and Yeats and Violence (2010).

Read More

This, Here, Now

By Michael Wood

I Italo Calvino once wrote that he "spent more time with the books of others than with my own." He added, "I do not regret it" (Literature 341). That must […]

Subscribe

Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.

Donate

With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.