Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveler: the pleasures of disinterested reading

I FINISHED Italo Calvino's novel, If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, one of the best books I'll probably read this year, along the likes of McCarthy's Blood Meridian. To kill time I went to a coffee shop immediately after the Otorhinolaryngology Tumor Rounds where I had a cup of coffee and a pie, leafing through the book and wondering why it took me so long to finish it.

The book is about the art, pleasure, and adventures of reading. I'm sharing some of my favorite lines.

On which reading position to take on:
"Of course, the ideal position for reading is something you can never find."

On reading for sheer pleasure:
"How many years has it been since I could allow myself some disinterested reading? How many years has it been since I could abandon myself to a book written by another, with no relation to what I must write myself?"

On rereading:
"I, too, feel the need to reread the books I have already read ... but at every rereading I seem to be reading a new book, for the first time. Is it I who keep changing and seeing new things of which I was not previously aware? Or is reading a construction that assumes form, assembling a great number of variables, and therefore something that cannot be repeated twice according to the same pattern?"

You can read the first chapter here.

The following passage isn't about reading, but it shows that Italo Calvino is a literary genius.
"But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts, and each of these new facts brings with it its consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further away I move from it: though all my actions are bent on erasing the consequences of previous actions and though I manage to achieve appreciable results in this erasure, enough to open my heart to hopes of immediate relief, I must, however, bear in mind that my every move to erase previous events provokes a rain of new events, which complicate the situation worse than before and which I will, then, in their turn, have to try to erase. Therefore I must calculate every move as to achieve the maximum erasure with the minimum of recomplication."

I'm blown away.

2 comments:

  1. Ideal reading position? For me it has to be in bed on a firm mattress with lots of pillows that I can sit up on and rearrange for comfort.

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    Replies
    1. Preferably with grapes and wine on one side. Like how the Roman nobility did it.

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