Saturday, May 9, 2009

Italo Calvino: The extreme other

In the Times, Jeanette Winterson reviews Italo Calvino's The Complete Cosmicomics

Cosmicomics, with its ancient Big Bang dwarf Qfwfq as the narrator, unravels the beginning of life and fuses Sixties sci-fi with the extravagant atomics of a much more ancient Italian writer, Lucretius. The reader does not need to know that Calvino is using De Rerum Natura, and its glorious conceit of life's beginnings as a series of ideas randomly colliding with each other, causing a cascade of creativity and chaos, where a cauliflower might just as easily have become the dominant life form on Earth. If the reader does pick up Lucretius, the pleasure is multiplied - pretty much like the cauliflowers.

That's the kind of writer Calvino is - yet his multilayered narratives are never showy in that dismal post-modern way of meta-text verbiage, rather they are winged. As a reader you can choose in which direction you want to fly.

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