Jhumpa Lahiri: Why Is Italo Calvino So Beloved Outside Italy?

Jhumpa Lahiri in Literary Hub:

To speak of Italo Calvino’s popularity outside of Italy is to speak of Calvino in translation, given that he has been read and loved abroad in other languages and not in Italian. For an author who floats, as Calvino himself said, “a bit in mid-air,” translation—that twofold and intermediate space—was his destiny.

Let’s start with his Italian (or non-Italian) identity, an Italianness always tilting toward the Other. These are some biographical facts (with which he loved to play): he was born in Cuba, raised in San Remo—an extremely cosmopolitan city at the time—and married an Argentine translator. He lived for many years in France and traveled the world. It comes as no surprise that New York City, a perennial crossroads of languages and cultures, was the place he considered most “his.”

We should note the passion he felt, from the beginning, for non-Italian authors: the discovery of Kipling as a young man, and his baccalaureate thesis on Conrad, an author who, it so happens, wrote in a language he was not born into.

More here.