new translations of Italo Calvino

Thier_calculatorsandbutterflies_ba_imgAaron Thier at The Nation:

Positive or negative, these letters reflect an intense belief in the importance of discussion. “Dear Silvio,” he writes in 1948, “I’m pleased we’re arguing. It’s a healthy symptom, for goodness’ sake! It means there’s life and movement and dialectic.” Ten years later, he tells a critic that “our job [as fiction writers] is basically to raise problems for you to solve.” Throughout his life, an article that forces him to reconsider his ideas is cause for celebration: “Rarely (not to say never) does one come across a critical article which stirs up so many ideas, all of them different from the usual rehashed notions, and forces us to rethink everything from scratch.” He keeps up with developments in literary theory and admires Northrop Frye, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. He wants to chart “lines of continuity” between the fiction of his youth (“Hemingwayism, spare stories, with a final shoot-out”), his early “fantasy-moral novels or lyrical-philosophical novels,” his cosmicomic stories and the “preciosity, Alexandrinism, the prose poem” of Invisible Cities. Calvino wants himself explained to himself. He wants to understand what his writing means, and he believes that criticism can tell him.

As for what he actually says about his work, there are plenty of interesting claims. Early in his career, he says that he is “in favor of a clown-like mimesis of contemporary reality.” Writing to his French publisher about The Nonexistent Knight, he says, “I never say that the knight is unreal. I say that he does not exist. That is very different.”

more here.