Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter213



Letters to the Editor

(April 11, 2011)


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Looking forward to more on Italo Calvino: Francesca Saieva's Italo Calvino: la légèreté du monde et l'engagement civil

To the Editor:

Francesca Saieva makes a tantalizing promise in Swans French Corner of March 28. She intends in further articles to trace the evolution of Italo Calvino's commitment to civic values. Since Calvino was primarily an imaginative writer concerned with fiction, the project could be very enlightening indeed. I listened to Calvino once in the Italian embassy in Paris. Pier Paolo Pasolini was being discussed and naturally the political and social ideas of the recently assassinated writer were in the spotlight. But it was striking how Calvino led the discussion back to Pasolini's novels. Calvino clearly did not see fiction as removed from the everyday concerns of citizenship. At the same time what his fiction investigated changed tremendously in the course of his life. The Path to the Nest of Spiders of 1947, for instance, was a straightforward story of fighters resisting Fascism. In The Watcher of 1963, Calvino was still concerned with events you could read about in a newspaper, in this instance voting in an election. He was still a long way from the hypothetical world he would reach in 1972 with Invisible Cities ("seeing the past in terms of the future," as Saieva quotes). Yet the commitment to civic values was still there along with the desire for "a universal literature without distinction of language or national character." We look forward to Francesca Saieva's account of this long distance traveled by the same stout heart.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - March 29, 2011


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Published April 11, 2011
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