Italo Calvino quotes:

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  • What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration is nothing other than finding the right road empirically, following one's nose, taking shortcuts.

  • A quarter of America is a dramatic, tense, violent country, exploding with contradictions, full of brutal, physiological vitality, and that is the America that I have really loved and love. But a good half of it is a country of boredom, emptiness, monotony, brainless production, and brainless consumption, and this is the American inferno.

  • The satirist is prevented by repulsion from gaining a better knowledge of the world he is attracted to, yet he is forced by attraction to concern himself with the world that repels him.

  • Rarely does an interviewer ask questions you did not expect. I have given a lot of interviews, and I have concluded that the questions always look alike. I could always give the same answers.

  • Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world.

  • I'm terrified of writing at night, for then I can't sleep. So I start slowly, slowly writing in the morning and go on into the late afternoon.

  • I write by hand, making many, many corrections. I would say I cross out more than I write. I have to hunt for words when I speak, and I have the same difficulty when writing.

  • I write... sonnets... and writing sonnets is boring. You have to find rhymes; you have to write hendecasyllables; so after a while, I get bored and my drawer is overflowing with unfinished short poems.

  • The Classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.

  • New York is a fabled city, a fabulous city.

  • 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.

  • I think today that politics registers very late things which society manifests through other channels, and I feel that often politics distorts and mystifies reality.

  • I spend 12 hours a day reading on most days of the year.

  • Writers divide into those who write biting their nails and those who don't. Some writers write licking their finger.

  • I am more and more convinced that literature is made up of works, genres, schools, discussions, problems, collective work in order to solve certain problems.

  • A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.

  • Every morning I tell myself, 'Today has to be productive' - and then something happens that prevents me from writing.

  • Now she is inviting you to a seminar at the university, where books are analyzed according to all Codes, Conscious and Unconscious, and in which all Taboos are eliminated, the ones imposed by the dominant Sex, Class, and Culture."

  • My stories are full of facts; they have a beginning and an end. For that reason, they will never... occupy a place in contemporary literature.

  • Bringing a child into the world makes sense only if this child is wanted consciously and freely by its two parents. If it is not, then it is simply animal and criminal behavior.

  • My university work was not central to my education.

  • Nature in America does not arouse powerful emotions in me.

  • The catalogue of forms is endless: until every shape has found its city, new cities will continue to be born. When the forms exhaust their variety and come apart, the end of cities begins.

  • Now you mustn't think that I don't have any ideas for novels in my head. I've got ideas for ten novels in my head. But with every idea I have, I already foresee the wrong novels I would write, because I also have critical ideas in my head; I've got a full theory of the perfect novel, and that's what stumps me.

  • Personally, I believe in fiction because the stories I like are those with a beginning and an end.

  • the world was trying to change its old face and show its underbelly of earth and roots.

  • The public figure of the writer, the writer-character, the 'personality-cult' of the author, are all becoming for me more and more intolerable in others, and consequently in myself.

  • In 'Cosmicomics,' I came close to science fiction - I was inspired by cosmological subjects and the workings of the universe and invented a character who was a sort of witness to everything that was happening inside the solar system.

  • Good literature can be created only with something that is different from literature.

  • You explode, if that's more to your taste, shoot yourself all around in endless darts, be prodigal, spendthrift, reckless: I shall implode, collapse inside the abyss of myself, towards my buried centre, infinitely.

  • A human being becomes human not through the casual convergence of certain biological conditions, but through an act of will and love on the part of other people.

  • Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents.

  • Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.

  • The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.

  • The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.

  • Having exhausted every possibility at the moment when he was coming full circle, Antonino realised that photographing photographs was the only course that he had left - or, rather, the true course he had obscurely been seeking all this time. (Last line of the story The Adventure of a Photographer )

  • In love, as in gluttony, pleasure is a matter of the utmost precision.

  • Novels as dull as dishwater, with the grease of random sentiments floating on top.

  • It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.

  • I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.

  • There is still one of which you never speak.' Marco Polo bowed his head. 'Venice,' the Khan said. Marco smiled. 'What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?' The emperor did not turn a hair. 'And yet I have never heard you mention that name.' And Polo said: 'Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.

  • Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness.

  • Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words.

  • In politics, as in every other sphere of life, there are two important principles for a man of any sense: don't cherish too many illusions, and never stop believing that every little bit helps.

  • Novelists tell that piece of truth hidden at the bottom of every lie.

  • Each sort of cheese reveals a pasture of a different green, under a different sky.

  • Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.

  • I am a prisoner of a gaudy and unlivable present, where all forms of human society have reached an extreme of their cycle and there is no imagining what new forms they may assume.

  • A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.

  • Revolutionaries are more formalistic than conservatives.

  • The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner

  • Cold has a thousand ways of moving in the world: on the sea it gallops like a troop of horses, on the countryside it falls like a swarm of locusts, in the cities like a knife-blade it slashes the streets and penetrates the chinks of unheated houses.

  • Turin is a city which entices a writer towards vigor, linearity, style. It encourages logic, and through logic it opens the way towards madness.

  • Falsehood is never in words; it is in things.

  • When you're young, all evolution lies before you, every road is open to you, and at the same time you can enjoy the fact of being there on the rock, flat mollusk-pulp, damp and happy.

  • Although I am small, ugly and dirty, I am highly ambitious, and at the slightest flattery, I immediately start to strut like a turkey.

  • If one wanted to depict the whole thing graphically, every episode, with its climax, would require a three-dimensional, or, rather, no model: every experience is unrepeatable. What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.

  • what matters is not the enclosure of the work within a harmonious figure, but the centrifugal force produced by it -- a plurality of language as a guarantee of a truth that is not merely partial.

  • It's better not to know authors personally, because the real person never corresponds to the image you form of him from reading his books.

  • ...eyes that, like those of children, look at an eternal present without forgiveness.

  • The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable, of what has been expelled from the land of language, removed as a result of ancient prohibitions.

  • You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.

  • I'm a regular guy; I like well-defined outlines. I'm old-fashioned, bourgeois.

  • In an age when other fantastically speedy, widespread media are triumphing, and running the risk of flattening all communication onto a single, homogenous surface, the function of literature is communication between things that are different simply because they are different, not blunting but even sharpening the differences between them, following the true bent of written language.

  • The human race is a zone of living things that should be defined by tracing its confines.

  • In abortion, the person who is massacred, physically and morally, is the woman.

  • An exotic birthplace on its own is not informative of anything.

  • Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.

  • A classic is a work which persists as a background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway.

  • What is modern art but the attempt to pinpoint vague, incorporeal, inexpressible sensations? What is modern art, I would add, but the most solemn pile of nonsense that ever appeared on Earth?

  • Every time I've had to do journalistic investigations, I've cursed, but later I discovered that it had helped me enormously with writing fiction. It's the one thing that can save me from becoming an academic writer.

  • How much energy is wasted in Italy in trying to write the novel that obeys all the rules. The energy might have been useful to provide us with more modest, more genuine things, that had less pretensions: short stories, memoirs, notes, testimonials, or at any rate, books that are open, without a preconceived plan.

  • Thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy.

  • Politics is marginal, but literature moves along by indirection.

  • A tale is born from an image, and the image extends and creates a network of meanings that are always equivocal.

  • I suffer from everyday life.

  • One writes fables in periods of oppression.

  • Of course, I'm of the generation that grew up with Hemingway and Faulkner as strong influences.

  • I read Freud because I find him an excellent writer... a writer of police thrillers that can be followed with great passion.

  • I'm only a novelist on occasion. Many of my books are made up of brief texts collected together, short stories, or else they are books that have an overall structure but are composed of various texts.

  • I do not understand how you can associate abortion with an idea of hedonism or the good life.

  • A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.

  • The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

  • Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined?

  • The lives of individuals of the human race form a constant plot, in which every attempt to isolate one piece of living that has a meaning separate from the rest-for example, the meeting of two people, which will become decisive for both-must bear in mind that each of the two brings with himself a texture of events, environments, other people, and that from the meeting, in turn, other stories will be derived which will break off from their common story.

  • I will start out this evening with an assertion: fantasy is a place where it rains.

  • The minute you start saying something, 'Ah, how beautiful! We must photograph it!' you are already close to view of the person who thinks that everything that is not photographed is lost, as if it had never existed, and that therefore, in order really to live, you must photograph as much as you can, and to photograph as much as you can you must either live in the most photographable way possible, or else consider photographable every moment of your life. The first course leads to stupidity; the second to madness.

  • The universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves

  • You walk for days among trees and among stones. Rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognized that thing as the sign of another thing: a print in the sand indicates the tiger's passage; a marsh announces a vein of water; the hibiscus flower, the end of winter. All the rest is silent and interchangeable; trees and stones are only what they are.

  • There is no language without deceit.

  • Sometimes one who thinks himself incomplete is merely young.

  • The city of cats and the city of men exist one inside the other, but they are not the same city.

  • The more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more one understood the other cities he had crossed to arrive there.

  • Nobody looks at the moon in the afternoon, and this is the moment when it would most require our attention, since its existence is still in doubt.

  • Fantasy is like jam. . . . You have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing . . . out of which you can't make anything.

  • Yet, even now, ever time (often) that I find that I don't understand something, then instinctively, I'm filled with the hope that perhaps this will be my moment again, perhaps once again I shall understand nothing, I shall grasp that other knowledge, found and lost in an instant.

  • Each new Clarice, compact as a living body with its smells and its breath, shows off, like a gem, what remains of the ancient Clarices, fragmentary and dead.

  • ...the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping...something runs among them, an exchange of glances like lines that connect one figure with another and draw arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene...

  • At times the mirror increases a thing's value, at times denies it.

  • Every new book I read comes to be a part of that overall and unitary book that is the sum of my readings...if you need little to set the imagination going, I require even less: the promise of reading is enough.

  • You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.

  • Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

  • You take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.

  • Everything can change, but not the language that we carry inside us, like a world more exclusive and final than one's mother's womb.

  • Everything has already begun before, the first line of the first page of every novel refers to something that has already happened outside the book.

  • The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand

  • This is what I mean when I say I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts, and each of these new facts bring with it consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it. . . .

  • The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.

  • Whether there is such a thing as Reality, of which the various levels are only partial aspects, or whether there are only levels, is something that literature cannot decide. Literature recognizes rather the *reality of the levels.*

  • what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveller's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

  • What harbor can receive you more securely than a great library?

  • Photography has a meaning only if it exhausts all possible images.

  • To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being... what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.

  • Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears.

  • "Śwe can not love or think except in fragments of time each of which goes along its own trajectory and immediately disappears.

  • The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

  • How well I would write if I were not here!

  • It was the hour in which objects lose the consistency of shadow that accompanies them during the night and gradually reacquire colors, but seem to cross meanwhile an uncertain limbo, faintly touched, just breathed on by light; the hour in which one is least certain of the world's existence.

  • Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search... for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.

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