Calvino, Italo (Vol. 11)
Calvino, Italo 1923–
Calvino is an Italian novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and editor known for his imaginative blendings of reality and fantasy. His stance is humanistic and his tools are wit, elements of science fiction, and a lyrical tone. His involvement with the Italian resistance movement during World War II is reflected in many of his works. (See also CLC, Vols. 5, 8.)
NICHOLAS A. DeMARA
Il Sentiero dei nidi di ragno … is basically a neo-realistic novel. The work deals specifically with the civil war, yet Calvino did not create it as a piece of polemic literature. He does not appear to glorify the partisan revolt, but simply to present the circumstances of a particular situation. Calvino of Il Sentiero dei nidi di ragno is not a resistance writer, but rather a writer of the resistance. He is an author who chose that moment in history as the framework for his narrative. He is a sensitive observer of humanity, whose experience in the partisan movement precipitated specific observations about a period of intense social and political turmoil…. Il Sentiero dei nidi di ragno reflects many aspects characteristic of the neo-realistic current, while at the same time revealing a fairytale quality peculiar to the poetics of Calvino. (p. 26)
Calvino brings expression to his material through a language and style which are notably neo-realistic in character. Even a quick reading of the novel will evidence a style characterized by a highly descriptive, colorful language, interspersed with regional expressions and songs, and controlled by the mechanics of simple sentence structure. Although stylized, descriptive passages periodically recur in the work, the narrative as a whole proceeds as a reaction against the bello scrivere. The simple style suggests that Calvino is unhampered by the thought of...
(The entire section is 1812 words.)
[Calvino in Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno] creates two noncommunicating levels: the spontaneity of the politically naïve partisans; and the almost cynical calculations of Kim [Calvino's mouthpiece] and of the author himself, who, in their different roles, ordain the ordinary people's destinies for them, impersonating 'History'. The politicized intellectual remains in charge, and the novel remains a picaresque study of 'low life' and adventure seen from above….
Nevertheless, the adventure, the freedom and the comradeship of life in the Resistance stand in qualitative contrast to the constraints of 'normal' social living. This is where play becomes Calvino's most positive, even (unintentionally) revolutionary element. But play appears here as a product of his particular artistic sense, and not of his political consciousness, though Calvino discovers play through life with the Resistance.
This spontaneity in his play is both a strength and a weakness. It accounts for the freshness of Calvino's writing, but also for its failure to develop to its full depth and revolutionary potential. Not the hilarious eruptions and libertarian explosions of Aristophanes and Rabelais, but the more composed and 'hermetic' fantasies of Ariosto and R. L. Stevenson are Calvino's avowed literary nurseries. Calvino admires Lewis Carroll, but has not learnt from the Alice books. The play-element in Calvino is poor in...
(The entire section is 3470 words.)
Italo Calvino, long recognized in Italy as one of its most prominent contemporary writers, has been for the most part neglected in the United States by all but Italianists…. Calvino's works show a marked progression from the neorealist mode of his first novel, The Path to the Nest of Spiders, to the fantastic mode of Cosmicomics, t zero, and The Invisible Cities…. For the latecomer to Calvino's works, a reading of the realistic novels serves as a reminder that the fantastic in Calvino is not a form of escapism, but is grounded in a persistent sociopolitical concern.
In the 1950's, Calvino wrote two short novels, Marcovaldo or the Seasons in the City and Smog, which present an image of the city that is perhaps even more valid today than it was twenty years ago. The first novel, Marcovaldo, is located somewhere between the two poles of the realistic and the fantastic. It is a series of realistic fables dealing with man's struggle for survival in the modern city. (pp. 83-4)
Like all fables, Marcovaldo has no concrete historical or geographical backdrop. Although written in the 1950's, the novel might easily be set in the present day. And while Calvino, in the introduction to the novel, implies that it takes place in Turin, the descriptions of the city contain nothing which would distinguish it from any other large, industrial center. The impression of anonymity thus...
(The entire section is 559 words.)