Summer 2000 • Vol. XXII No. 3/4 Nonfiction |

Broken Dates: Fiction and the Century

I don't claim to know what sort of thing time is (or even if it is a thing), but I suspect that time and the course of time are one mystery and not two. —Jorge Luis Borges, "El Tiempo y J. W Dunne" In 1985, the Italian Italo Calvino, surely one of the greatest writers of the second half of our century, wrote a series of lectures which he called Memos for the Next Millennium. They were to have been the Norton Lectures at Harvard, but Calvino, unfortunately, died before he was able to give them. The written lectures are a legacy, though, in more senses than one, since in them Calvino reflects on "certain values, qualities, or peculiarities of literature" that are very close to his heart, and that he would like us to take with us into the next millennium, whatever else we may lose along the way. The values / qualities / peculiarities he names are: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity. There was also to have been a sixth lecture on consistency. Since 198

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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).

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