Hermit in Paris (Magill Book Reviews)
In a series of essays and interviews, Italo Calvino in Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings builds up a picture of the evolution of his political views and the progress of his career as a writer of fiction.
Born in Cuba in 1923 to Italian parents who named him Italo as a reminder of his Italian heritage, Calvino grew up in the town of San Remo in the Ligurian district of northern Italy. Raised in a non-religious family in a Catholic country, he felt somewhat isolated in his childhood, a feeling that faded for a while during World War II, when he joined the Communist partisans fighting against the Nazis.
He remained a member of the Communist Party until 1957, but left after the crimes of Stalin were revealed and after the Soviet Union crushed the 1956 anti-Communist uprising in Hungary. He became increasingly apolitical, returning in a way to the isolated situation of his childhood and praising detachment. In the meantime, he pursued a literary career, though in a tentative manner: in his later essays he says that he resisted his vocation as a writer, not completely believing anyone would want to read what he had to say.
In addition to the autobiographical essays, this collection contains Calvino’s previously unpublished American Diary: a record of his trip to the United States in 1959-1960. It is actually not so much a diary as a series of letters home describing life in New York City and other parts of the...
(The entire section is 345 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Hermit in Paris (Magill's Literary Annual 2004)
In one of the pieces near the end of this collection of autobiographical writings, Italo Calvino says that the task he has pursued throughout his writing career has been to search for himself, to try to discover his true nature. In a sense, that is what he does in this book. In a series of autobiographical essays and responses to interviewers and questionnaires, he tells the story of his life as a writer, over and over, and yet with new insights emerging each time, so that only at the very end does a full picture of this writer emerge.
The book thus resembles a musical composition in which a simple theme is presented and then added to, elaborated on, until something much more complicated emerges. The image that emerges here is that of a man full of contradictions: a writer who was very uncertain about his writing, a former supporter of workers’ movements who was never comfortable around working people and the poor, a political activist who grew tired of politics, a former Communist who adopted Communism almost by accident, a critic of the United States whose favorite city was New York, and so on.
One of the most interesting essays in the book, dating from 1979, is “Was I a Stalinist Too?” In it, Calvino describes his time in the Italian Communist Party at the time that Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union and the worldwide communist movement. He describes how Communists could discount the stories of atrocities in the Soviet...
(The entire section is 1568 words.)