Italo Calvino, The Art of Fiction No. 130

Interviewed by William Weaver and Damien Pettigrew in The Paris Review 1992:

Italo-CalvinoUpon hearing of Italo Calvino’s death in September of 1985, John Updike commented, “Calvino was a genial as well as brilliant writer. He took fiction into new places where it had never been before, and back into the fabulous and ancient sources of narrative.” At that time Calvino was the preeminent Italian writer, the influence of his fantastic novels and stories reaching far beyond the Mediterranean. Two years before, The Paris Review had commissioned a Writers at Work interview with Calvino to be conducted by William Weaver, his longtime English translator. It was never completed, though Weaver later rewrote his introduction as a remembrance. Still later, The Paris Review purchased transcripts of a videotaped interview with Calvino (produced and directed by Damien Pettigrew and Gaspard Di Caro) and a memoir by Pietro Citati, the Italian critic. What follows—these three selections and a transcript of Calvino’s thoughts before being interviewed—is a collage, an oblique portrait.

Rowan Gaither, 1992

Thoughts Before an Interview

Every morning I tell myself, Today has to be productive—and then something happens that prevents me from writing. Today . . . what is there that I have to do today? Oh yes, they are supposed to come interview me. I am afraid my novel will not move one single step forward. Something always happens. Each morning I already know I will be able to waste the whole day. There is always something to do: go to the bank, the post office, pay some bills . . . always some bureaucratic tangle I have to deal with. While I am out I also do errands such as the daily shopping: buying bread, meat, or fruit. First thing, I buy newspapers. Once one has bought them, one starts reading as soon as one is back home—or at least looking at the headlines to persuade oneself that there is nothing worth reading. Every day I tell myself that reading newspapers is a waste of time, but then . . . I cannot do without them. They are like a drug. In short, only in the afternoon do I sit at my desk, which is always submerged in letters that have been awaiting answers for I do not even know how long, and that is another obstacle to be overcome.

Eventually I get down to writing and then the real problems begin.

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