Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino (Italian: [ˈiːtalo kalˈviːno];[1] 15 October 1923 – 19 September 1985) was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter's night a traveler (1979).

Admired in Britain, Australia and the United States, he was the most-translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death.[2]

Italo Calvino
BornItalo Giovanni Calvino Mameli
15 October 1923
Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba
Died19 September 1985 (aged 61)
Siena, Italy
OccupationJournalist, short story writer, novelist, essayist
Literary movementOulipo, neorealism, postmodernism
Notable works
SpouseEsther Judith Singer
ChildrenGiovanna Calvino



Italo Calvino was born in Santiago de las Vegas, a suburb of Havana, Cuba, in 1923. His father, Mario, was a tropical agronomist and botanist who also taught agriculture and floriculture.[3] Born 47 years earlier in Sanremo, Italy, Mario Calvino had emigrated to Mexico in 1909 where he took up an important position with the Ministry of Agriculture. In an autobiographical essay, Italo Calvino explained that his father "had been in his youth an anarchist, a follower of Kropotkin and then a Socialist Reformist".[4] In 1917, Mario left for Cuba to conduct scientific experiments, after living through the Mexican Revolution.

Calvino's mother, Giuliana Luigia Evelina "Eva" Mameli, was a botanist and university professor.[5] A native of Sassari in Sardinia and 11 years younger than her husband, she married while still a junior lecturer at Pavia University. Born into a secular family, Eva was a pacifist educated in the "religion of civic duty and science".[6] Eva gave Calvino his unusual first name to remind him of his Italian heritage, although since he wound up growing up in Italy after all, Calvino thought his name sounded "belligerently nationalist".[7] Calvino described his parents as being "very different in personality from one another",[4] suggesting perhaps deeper tensions behind a comfortable, albeit strict, middle-class upbringing devoid of conflict. As an adolescent, he found it hard relating to poverty and the working-class, and was "ill at ease" with his parents' openness to the laborers who filed into his father's study on Saturdays to receive their weekly paycheck.[8]

Early life and education

In 1925, less than two years after Calvino's birth, the family returned to Italy and settled permanently in Sanremo on the Ligurian coast. Calvino's brother Floriano, who became a distinguished geologist, was born in 1927.

The family divided their time between the Villa Meridiana, an experimental floriculture station which also served as their home, and Mario's ancestral land at San Giovanni Battista. On this small working farm set in the hills behind Sanremo, Mario pioneered in the cultivation of then exotic fruits such as avocado and grapefruit, eventually obtaining an entry in the Dizionario biografico degli italiani for his achievements. The vast forests and luxuriant fauna omnipresent in Calvino's early fiction such as The Baron in the Trees derives from this "legacy". In an interview, Calvino stated that "San Remo continues to pop out in my books, in the most diverse pieces of writing."[9] He and Floriano would climb the tree-rich estate and perch for hours on the branches reading their favorite adventure stories.[10] Less salubrious aspects of this "paternal legacy" are described in The Road to San Giovanni, Calvino's memoir of his father in which he exposes their inability to communicate: "Talking to each other was difficult. Both verbose by nature, possessed of an ocean of words, in each other's presence we became mute, would walk in silence side by side along the road to San Giovanni."[11] A fan of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book as a child, Calvino felt that his early interest in stories made him the "black sheep" of a family that held literature in less esteem than the sciences. Fascinated by American movies and cartoons, he was equally attracted to drawing, poetry, and theatre. On a darker note, Calvino recalled that his earliest memory was of a Marxist professor who had been brutally assaulted by Benito Mussolini's Blackshirts: "I remember clearly that we were at dinner when the old professor came in with his face beaten up and bleeding, his bowtie all torn, asking for help."[12]

Other legacies include the parents' beliefs in Freemasonry, Republicanism with elements of Anarchism and Marxism.[13] Austere freethinkers with an intense hatred of the ruling National Fascist Party, Eva and Mario also refused to give their sons any education in the Catholic Faith or any other religion.[14] Italo attended the English nursery school St George's College, followed by a Protestant elementary private school run by Waldensians. His secondary schooling, with a classical lyceum curriculum, was completed at the state-run Liceo Gian Domenico Cassini where, at his parents' request, he was exempted from religion classes but frequently asked to justify his anti-conformism to teachers, janitors, and fellow pupils.[15] In his mature years, Calvino described the experience as having made him "tolerant of others' opinions, particularly in the field of religion, remembering how irksome it was to hear myself mocked because I did not follow the majority's beliefs".[16] In 1938, Eugenio Scalfari, who went on to found the weekly magazine L'Espresso and La Repubblica, a major Italian newspaper, came from Civitavecchia to join the same class though a year younger, and they shared the same desk.[17] The two teenagers formed a lasting friendship, Calvino attributing his political awakening to their university discussions. Seated together "on a huge flat stone in the middle of a stream near our land",[12] he and Scalfari founded the MUL (University Liberal Movement).

Eva managed to delay her son's enrolment in the Party's armed scouts, the Balilla Moschettieri, and then arranged that he be excused, as a non-Catholic, from performing devotional acts in Church.[18] But later on, as a compulsory member, he could not avoid the assemblies and parades of the Avanguardisti,[19] and was forced to participate in the Italian invasion of the French Riviera in June 1940.[14]

World War II

In 1941, Calvino enrolled at the University of Turin, choosing the Agriculture Faculty where his father had previously taught courses in agronomy. Concealing his literary ambitions to please his family, he passed four exams in his first year while reading anti-Fascist works by Elio Vittorini, Eugenio Montale, Cesare Pavese, Johan Huizinga, and Pisacane, and works by Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and Albert Einstein on physics.[20] Disdainful of Turin students, Calvino saw himself as enclosed in a "provincial shell"[21] that offered the illusion of immunity from the Fascist nightmare: "We were ‘hard guys’ from the provinces, hunters, snooker-players, show-offs, proud of our lack of intellectual sophistication, contemptuous of any patriotic or military rhetoric, coarse in our speech, regulars in the brothels, dismissive of any romantic sentiment and desperately devoid of women."[21]

Calvino transferred to the University of Florence in 1943 and reluctantly passed three more exams in agriculture. By the end of the year, the Germans had succeeded in occupying Liguria and setting up Benito Mussolini's puppet Republic of Salò in northern Italy. Now twenty years old, Calvino refused military service and went into hiding. Reading intensely in a wide array of subjects, he also reasoned politically that, of all the partisan groupings, the communists were the best organized with "the most convincing political line".[22]

In spring 1944, Eva encouraged her sons to enter the Italian Resistance in the name of "natural justice and family virtues".[23] Using the battlename of "Santiago", Calvino joined the Garibaldi Brigades, a clandestine Communist group and, for twenty months, endured the fighting in the Maritime Alps until 1945 and the Liberation. As a result of his refusal to be a conscript, his parents were held hostage by the Nazis for an extended period at the Villa Meridiana. Calvino wrote of his mother's ordeal that "she was an example of tenacity and courage… behaving with dignity and firmness before the SS and the Fascist militia, and in her long detention as a hostage, not least when the blackshirts three times pretended to shoot my father in front of her eyes. The historical events which mothers take part in acquire the greatness and invincibility of natural phenomena".[23]

Turin and communism

Calvino settled in Turin in 1945, after a long hesitation over living there or in Milan.[24] He often humorously belittled this choice, describing Turin as a "city that is serious but sad". Returning to university, he abandoned Agriculture for the Arts Faculty. A year later, he was initiated into the literary world by Elio Vittorini, who published his short story "Andato al comando" (1945; "Gone to Headquarters") in Il Politecnico, a Turin-based weekly magazine associated with the university.[25] The horror of the war had not only provided the raw material for his literary ambitions but deepened his commitment to the Communist cause. Viewing civilian life as a continuation of the partisan struggle, he confirmed his membership of the Italian Communist Party. On reading Vladimir Lenin's State and Revolution, he plunged into post-war political life, associating himself chiefly with the worker's movement in Turin.[26]

In 1947, he graduated with a Master's thesis on Joseph Conrad, wrote short stories in his spare time, and landed a job in the publicity department at the Einaudi publishing house run by Giulio Einaudi. Although brief, his stint put him in regular contact with Cesare Pavese, Natalia Ginzburg, Norberto Bobbio, and many other left-wing intellectuals and writers. He then left Einaudi to work as a journalist for the official Communist daily, L'Unità, and the newborn Communist political magazine, Rinascita. During this period, Pavese and poet Alfonso Gatto were Calvino's closest friends and mentors.[27]

His first novel, Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno (The Path to the Nest of Spiders) written with valuable editorial advice from Pavese, won the Premio Riccione on publication in 1947.[28] With sales topping 5000 copies, a surprise success in postwar Italy, the novel inaugurated Calvino's neorealist period. In a clairvoyant essay, Pavese praised the young writer as a "squirrel of the pen" who "climbed into the trees, more for fun than fear, to observe partisan life as a fable of the forest".[29] In 1948, he interviewed one of his literary idols, Ernest Hemingway, travelling with Natalia Ginzburg to his home in Stresa.

Ultimo viene il corvo (The Crow Comes Last), a collection of stories based on his wartime experiences, was published to acclaim in 1949. Despite the triumph, Calvino grew increasingly worried by his inability to compose a worthy second novel. He returned to Einaudi in 1950, responsible this time for the literary volumes. He eventually became a consulting editor, a position that allowed him to hone his writing talent, discover new writers, and develop into "a reader of texts".[30] In late 1951, presumably to advance in the Communist Party, he spent two months in the Soviet Union as correspondent for l'Unità. While in Moscow, he learned of his father's death on 25 October. The articles and correspondence he produced from this visit were published in 1952, winning the Saint-Vincent Prize for journalism.

Over a seven-year period, Calvino wrote three realist novels, The White Schooner (1947–1949), Youth in Turin (1950–1951), and The Queen's Necklace (1952–54), but all were deemed defective.[31] During the eighteen months it took to complete I giovani del Po (Youth in Turin), he made an important self-discovery: "I began doing what came most naturally to me – that is, following the memory of the things I had loved best since boyhood. Instead of making myself write the book I ought to write, the novel that was expected of me, I conjured up the book I myself would have liked to read, the sort by an unknown writer, from another age and another country, discovered in an attic."[32] The result was Il visconte dimezzato (1952; The Cloven Viscount) composed in 30 days between July and September 1951. The protagonist, a seventeenth century viscount sundered in two by a cannonball, incarnated Calvino's growing political doubts and the divisive turbulence of the Cold War.[33] Skillfully interweaving elements of the fable and the fantasy genres, the allegorical novel launched him as a modern "fabulist".[34] In 1954, Giulio Einaudi commissioned his Fiabe Italiane (1956; Italian Folktales) on the basis of the question, "Is there an Italian equivalent of the Brothers Grimm?"[35] For two years, Calvino collated tales found in 19th century collections across Italy then translated 200 of the finest from various dialects into Italian. Key works he read at this time were Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folktale and Historical Roots of Russian Fairy Tales, stimulating his own ideas on the origin, shape and function of the story.[36]

In 1952 Calvino wrote with Giorgio Bassani for Botteghe Oscure, a magazine named after the popular name of the party's head-offices in Rome. He also worked for Il Contemporaneo, a Marxist weekly.

From 1955 to 1958 Calvino had an affair with Italian actress Elsa De Giorgi, a married, older woman. Excerpts of the hundreds of love letters Calvino wrote to her were published in the Corriere della Sera in 2004, causing some controversy.[37]

After communism

In 1957, disillusioned by the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, Calvino left the Italian Communist Party. In his letter of resignation published in L'Unità on 7 August, he explained the reason of his dissent (the violent suppression of the Hungarian uprising and the revelation of Joseph Stalin's crimes) while confirming his "confidence in the democratic perspectives" of world Communism.[38] He withdrew from taking an active role in politics and never joined another party.[39] Ostracized by the PCI party leader Palmiro Togliatti and his supporters on publication of Becalmed in the Antilles (La gran bonaccia delle Antille), a satirical allegory of the party's immobilism, Calvino began writing The Baron in the Trees. Completed in three months and published in 1957, the fantasy is based on the "problem of the intellectual's political commitment at a time of shattered illusions".[40] He found new outlets for his periodic writings in the journals Città aperta and Tempo presente, the magazine Passato e presente, and the weekly Italia Domani. With Vittorini in 1959, he became co-editor of 'Il Menabò, a cultural journal devoted to literature in the modern industrial age, a position he held until 1966.[41]

Despite severe restrictions in the US against foreigners holding communist views, Calvino was allowed to visit the United States, where he stayed six months from 1959 to 1960 (four of which he spent in New York), after an invitation by the Ford Foundation. Calvino was particularly impressed by the "New World": "Naturally I visited the South and also California, but I always felt a New Yorker. My city is New York." The letters he wrote to Einaudi describing this visit to the United States were first published as "American Diary 1959–1960" in Hermit in Paris in 2003.

In 1962 Calvino met Argentinian translator Esther Judith Singer ("Chichita") and married her in 1964 in Havana, during a trip in which he visited his birthplace and was introduced to Ernesto "Che" Guevara. On 15 October 1967, a few days after Guevara's death, Calvino wrote a tribute to him that was published in Cuba in 1968, and in Italy thirty years later.[42] He and his wife settled in Rome in the via Monte Brianzo where their daughter, Giovanna, was born in 1965. Once again working for Einaudi, Calvino began publishing some of his "Cosmicomics" in Il Caffè, a literary magazine.

Later life and work

Vittorini's death in 1966 greatly affected Calvino. He went through what he called an "intellectual depression", which the writer himself described as an important passage in his life: "...I ceased to be young. Perhaps it's a metabolic process, something that comes with age, I'd been young for a long time, perhaps too long, suddenly I felt that I had to begin my old age, yes, old age, perhaps with the hope of prolonging it by beginning it early."

In the fermenting atmosphere that evolved into 1968's cultural revolution (the French May), he moved with his family to Paris in 1967, setting up home in a villa in the Square de Châtillon. Nicknamed L'ironique amusé, he was invited by Raymond Queneau in 1968 to join the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) group of experimental writers where he met Roland Barthes, Georges Perec, and Claude Lévi-Strauss, all of whom influenced his later production.[43] That same year, he turned down the Viareggio Prize for Ti con zero (Time and the Hunter) on the grounds that it was an award given by "institutions emptied of meaning".[44] He accepted, however, both the Asti Prize and the Feltrinelli Prize for his writing in 1970 and 1972, respectively. In two autobiographical essays published in 1962 and 1970, Calvino described himself as "atheist" and his outlook as "non-religious".[45]

Calvino had more intense contacts with the academic world, with notable experiences at the Sorbonne (with Barthes) and the University of Urbino. His interests included classical studies: Honoré de Balzac, Ludovico Ariosto, Dante, Ignacio de Loyola, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Giacomo Leopardi. Between 1972–1973 Calvino published two short stories, "The Name, the Nose" and the Oulipo-inspired "The Burning of the Abominable House" in the Italian edition of Playboy. He became a regular contributor to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, spending his summer vacations in a house constructed in Roccamare near Castiglione della Pescaia, Tuscany.

In 1975 Calvino was made Honorary Member of the American Academy. Awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1976, he visited Mexico, Japan, and the United States where he gave a series of lectures in several American towns. After his mother died in 1978 at the age of 92, Calvino sold Villa Meridiana, the family home in San Remo. Two years later, he moved to Rome in Piazza Campo Marzio near the Pantheon and began editing the work of Tommaso Landolfi for Rizzoli. Awarded the French Légion d'honneur in 1981, he also accepted to be jury president of the 29th Venice Film Festival.

During the summer of 1985, Calvino prepared a series of texts on literature for the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures to be delivered at Harvard University in the fall. On 6 September, he was admitted to the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena where he died during the night between 18 and 19 September of a cerebral hemorrhage.[46] His lecture notes were published posthumously in Italian in 1988 and in English as Six Memos for the Next Millennium in 1993.

Authors he helped publish

Selected bibliography

A selected bibliography of Calvino's writings follows, listing the works that have been translated into and published in English, along with a few major untranslated works. More exhaustive bibliographies can be found in Martin McLaughlin's Italo Calvino, and Beno Weiss's Understanding Italo Calvino.[47][48]


Title Original
Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
The Path to the Nest of Spiders
The Path to the Spiders' Nests
Archibald Colquhoun
Martin McLaughlin
Il visconte dimezzato
The Cloven Viscount
19521962Archibald Colquhoun
La formica argentina
The Argentine Ant
19521957Archibald Colquhoun
Fiabe Italiane
Italian Fables
Italian Folk Tales
Italian Folktales
Louis Brigante
Sylvia Mulcahy
George Martin
Il barone rampante
The Baron in the Trees
19571959Archibald Colquhoun
La speculazione edilizia
A Plunge into Real Estate
19571984D. S. Carne-Ross
Il cavaliere inesistente
The Nonexistent Knight
19591962Archibald Colquhoun
La giornata d'uno scrutatore
The Watcher
19631971William Weaver
Marcovaldo ovvero le stagioni in città
Marcovaldo or the Seasons in the City
19631983William Weaver
La nuvola di smog
19651971William Weaver
Le cosmicomiche
19651968William Weaver
Ti con zero
t zero (also published as Time and the Hunter)
19671969William Weaver
Il castello dei destini incrociati
The Castle of Crossed Destinies
19691977William Weaver
Gli amori difficili
Difficult Loves (also the title of 2 different collections)
19701984William Weaver
Le città invisibili
Invisible Cities
19721974William Weaver
Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore
If on a winter's night a traveler
19791981William Weaver
Mr. Palomar
19831985William Weaver

Fiction collections

Title Original
Ultimo viene il corvo
The Crow Comes Last
30 short stories: ? (some of these stories appear in Adam, One Afternoon, and other collections). 

Adam, One Afternoon and Other Stories
1957Archibald Colquhoun, Peggy Wright
21 short stories: Adam, One Afternoon; The Enchanted Garden; Father to Son; A Goatherd at Luncheon; Leaving Again Shortly; The House of the Beehives; Fear on the Footpath; Hunger at Bévera; Going to Headquarters; The Crow Comes Last; One of the Three is Still Alive; Animal Wood; Theft in a Cake Shop; Dollars and the Demi-Mondaine; Sleeping Like Dogs; Desire in November; A Judgment; The Cat and the Policeman; Who Put the Mine in the Sea?; The Argentine Ant. 
I nostri antenati
Our Ancestors
19601962Archibald Colquhoun
3 novels: The Cloven Viscount; The Baron in the Trees; The Nonexistent Knight

The Watcher and Other Stories
1971Archibald Colquhoun, William Weaver
1 novella, 2 short stories: The Watcher; The Argentine Ant; Smog. 

Difficult Loves
1983William Weaver, D. S. Carne-Ross
3 novellas: Difficult Loves; Smog; A Plunge into Real Estate

Difficult Loves
1984William Weaver, Archibald Colquhoun, Peggy Wright
The novella, Difficult Loves, and 20 short stories: Adam, One Afternoon; The Enchanted Garden; A Goatherd at Luncheon; The House of the Beehives; Big Fish, Little Fish; A Ship Loaded with Crabs; Man in the Wasteland; Lazy Sons; Fear on the Footpath; Hunger at Bévera; Going to Headquarters; The Crow Comes Last; One of the Three Is Still Alive; Animal Woods; Mine Field; Theft in a Pastry Shop; Dollars and the Demimondaine; Sleeping like Dogs; Desire in November; Transit Bed. 
Sotto il sole giaguaro
Under the Jaguar Sun
19861988William Weaver
3 short stories: Under the Jaguar Sun; A King Listens; The Name, The Nose. 
Prima che tu dica 'Pronto'
Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories
19931996Tim Parks
37 short stories: The Man Who Shouted Teresa; The Flash; Making Do; Dry River; Conscience; Solidarity; The Black Sheep; Good for Nothing; Like a Flight of Ducks; Love Far from Home; Wind in a City; The Lost Regiment; Enemy Eyes; A General in the Library; The Workshop Hen; Numbers in the Dark; The Queen's Necklace; Becalmed in the Antilles; The Tribe with Its Eyes on the Sky; Nocturnal Soliloquy of a Scottish Nobleman; A Beautiful March Day; World Memory; Beheading the Heads; The Burning of the Abominable House; The Petrol Pump; Neanderthal Man; Montezuma; Before You Say 'Hello'; Glaciation; The Call of the Water; The Mirror, the Target; The Other Eurydice; The Memoirs of Casanova; Henry Ford; The Last Channel; Implosion; Nothing and Not Much. 
Tutte le cosmicomiche
The Complete Cosmicomics
19972009Martin McLaughlin, Tim Parks, William Weaver
The collections Cosmicomics and t zero, 4 stories from Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories, and 7 stories newly translated by Martin McLaughlin. 

Essays and other writings

Title Original
Orlando Furioso di Ludovico Ariosto
An interpretation of the epic poem, and selections. 
Autobiografia di uno spettatore
Autobiography of a Spectator
Preface to Fellini's Quattro film
Introduction to Faits divers de la terre et du ciel by Silvina Ocampo
With a preface by Jorge Luis Borges
Una pietra sopra: Discorsi di letteratura e società
The Uses of Literature (also published as The Literature Machine)
19801986Patrick Creagh
Essays on literature. 
Racconti fantastici dell'ottocento
Fantastic Tales
Anthology of classic supernatural stories. 
Science et métaphore chez Galilée
Science and Metaphor in Galileo Galilei
Lectures given at the École des hautes études in Paris. 
The Written and the Unwritten Word[49]19831983William Weaver
Lecture at the New York Institute for the Humanities on 30 March 1983 
Collezione di sabbia
Collection of Sand
19842013Martin McLaughlin
Journalistic essays from 1974–1984 
Lezioni americane: Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio
Six Memos for the Next Millennium
19881993Patrick Creagh
Originally prepared for the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. On the values of literature. 
Sulla fiaba
Essays on fables. 
I libri degli altri. Lettere 1947–1981
Letters that Calvino wrote to other authors, whilst he worked at Einaudi. 
Perché leggere i classici
Why Read the Classics?
19911993Martin McLaughlin
Essays on classic literature. 

Autobiographical works

Title Original
L'entrata in guerra
Into the War
19542011Martin McLaughlin
La strada di San Giovanni
The Road to San Giovanni
19901993Tim Parks
Eremita a Parigi. Pagine autobiografiche
Hermit in Paris
19942003Martin McLaughlin
Album Calvino


Title Original
La panchina. Opera in un atto
The Bench: One-Act Opera
Libretto for the opera by Sergio Liberovici. 
La vera storia1982
Libretto for the opera by Luciano Berio
Un re in ascolto
A King Listens
Libretto for the opera by Luciano Berio, based on Calvino's 1977 short story "A King Listens".[50] 


Original Title
Translated title
Original Author Original
Les fleurs bleues
I fiori blu
Raymond Queneau19651967
Le chant du Styrène
La canzone del polistirene
Raymond Queneau19581985

Selected filmography

  • Boccaccio '70, 1962 (co-wrote screenplay of Renzo e Luciano segment directed by Mario Monicelli)
  • L'Amore difficile, 1963 (wrote L'avventura di un soldato segment directed by Nino Manfredi)
  • Tiko and the Shark, 1964 (co-wrote screenplay directed by Folco Quilici)

Film and television adaptations

  • The Nonexistent Knight by Pino Zac, 1969 (Italian animated film based on the novel)
  • Amores dificiles by Ana Luisa Ligouri, 1983 (13' Mexican short)
  • L'Aventure d'une baigneuse by Philippe Donzelot, 1991 (14' French short based on The Adventure of a Bather in Difficult Loves )
  • Fantaghirò by Lamberto Bava, 1991 (TV adaptation based on Fanta-Ghirò the Beautiful in Italian Folktales)
  • Solidarity by Nancy Kiang, 2006 (10' American short)
  • Conscience by Yu-Hsiu Camille Chen, 2009 (10' Australian short)
  • "La Luna" by Enrico Casarosa, 2011 (American short)[51]

Films on Calvino


The Scuola Italiana Italo Calvino, an Italian curriculum school in Moscow, Russia, is named after him. A crater on the planet Mercury, Calvino, and a main belt asteroid, 22370 Italocalvino, are also named after him.



  1. ^ "Mi chiamo Italo Calvino" on YouTube. RAI (circa 1970), retrieved 25 October 2012.
  2. ^ McLaughlin, Italo Calvino, xii.
  3. ^ Calvino, 'Objective Biographical Notice', Hermit in Paris, 160.
  4. ^ a b Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 132.
  5. ^ Paola Govoni and Z. A. Franceschi (eds.), "The Making of Italo Calvino: Women and Men in the ‘Two Cultures’ Home Laboratory" in Writing about Lives in Science: (Auto)Biography, Gender, and Genre, Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht/V&R Unipress, 2014, pp. 187–221. Retrieved 4 Feb. 2015
  6. ^ Calvino, "Political Autobiography of a Young Man", Hermit in Paris, 132.
  7. ^ Calvino, Hermit in Paris, pp. 14.
  8. ^ Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 135.
  9. ^ Corti, Autografo 2 (October 1985): 51.
  10. ^ Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 2.
  11. ^ Calvino, The Road to San Giovanni, 10.
  12. ^ a b Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 130.
  13. ^ McLaughlin, xii. Calvino defined his family's traditions as "a humanitarian Socialism, and before that Mazzinianism". Cf. Calvino, 'Behind the Success' in Hermit in Paris, 223.
  14. ^ a b Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 3.
  15. ^ Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 133.
  16. ^ Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 134.
  17. ^ Sabina Minardi,['Eugenio Scalfari: «Io e Calvino nel segno di Atena» ,'] L'Espresso 15 September 2015.
  18. ^ Calvino, "Political Autobiography of a Young Man", Hermit in Paris, 134.
  19. ^ Calvino, 'The Duce's Portraits', Hermit in Paris, 210.
  20. ^ Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 140.
  21. ^ a b Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 138.
  22. ^ Calvino recalled this sudden, forced transformation of a dreamy adolescent into a partisan soldier as one bounded by logic since "the logic of the Resistance was the very logic of our urge towards life". Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 146.
  23. ^ a b Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 142.
  24. ^ The decision was influenced by the firmly anti-Fascist stance of Turin during Mussolini's years in power. Cf. Calvino, 'Behind the Success' in Hermit in Paris, 225.
  25. ^ Il Politecnico was founded by Elio Vittorini, a novelist and the leading leftist intellectual of postwar Italy, who saw it as a means to restore Italy's diminished standing within the European cultural mainstream. Cf. Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 3.
  26. ^ Calvino, 'Political Autobiography of a Young Man', Hermit in Paris, 143.
  27. ^ Calvino, 'Behind the Success' in Hermit in Paris, 224.
  28. ^ Critic Martin McLaughlin points out that the novel failed to win the more prestigious Premio Mondadori. McLaughlin, xiii.
  29. ^ Pavese's review first published in l'Unità on 26 September 1947. Quoted in Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 39.
  30. ^ Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 4.
  31. ^ Of the three manuscripts, only Youth in Turin was published in the review Officina in 1957.
  32. ^ Calvino, 'Introduction by the author', Our Ancestors, vii.
  33. ^ Calvino, 'Introduction by the author', Our Ancestors, x.
  34. ^ Calvino, 'Objective Biographical Notice', Hermit in Paris, 163.
  35. ^ Calvino, 'Objective Biographical Notice', Hermit in Paris, 164.
  36. ^ Calvino, 'Introduction', Italian Folktales, xxvii.
  37. ^ Italian novelist's love letters turn political, International Herald Tribune, 20 August 2004
  38. ^ Cf. Barenghi and Bruno, "Cronologia" in Romanzi e racconti di Italo Calvino, LXXIV; and Calvino, "The Summer of '56" in Hermit in Paris, 200
  39. ^ "For some years now I have stopped being a member of the Communist party, and I have not joined any other party." "Political Autobiography of a Young Man" in Hermit in Paris, 154
  40. ^ Calvino, "Introduction" in Our Ancestors, x
  41. ^ McLaughlin, Italo Calvino, 51
  42. ^ The Words that Failed Me: Calvino on Che Guevara
  43. ^ McLaughlin, Italo Calvino, xv.
  44. ^ Barenghi and Falcetto, 'Cronologia' in Romanzi e racconti di Italo Calvino, LXXVII
  45. ^ Cf. "Political Autobiography of a Young Man" and "Objective Biographical Notice" in Hermit in Paris, 133, 162
  46. ^ a b "Book Browse's Favorite Quotes". Book Browse. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  47. ^ McLaughlin, Italo Calvino, 174–184
  48. ^ Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 217–226
  49. ^ The Written and the Unwritten Word by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver. 12 May 1983
  50. ^ Weiss, Understanding Italo Calvino, 196
  51. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  52. ^ Cited in IRS-RSI News. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  53. ^ (in French) Dans la peau d'Italo Calvino with Neri Marcorè and Pietro Citati on ARTE France Archived 1 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 12 February 2014.


Primary sources

  • Calvino, Italo. Adam, One Afternoon (trans. Archibald Colquhoun, Peggy Wright). London: Minerva, 1992.
  • —. The Castle of Crossed Destinies (trans. William Weaver). London: Secker & Warburg, 1977
  • —. Cosmicomics (trans. William Weaver). London: Picador, 1993.
  • —. The Crow Comes Last (Ultimo viene il corvo). Turin: Einaudi, 1949.
  • —. Difficult Loves. Smog. A Plunge into Real Estate (trans. William Weaver, Donald Selwyn Carne-Ross). London: Picador, 1985.
  • —. Hermit in Paris (trans. Martin McLaughlin). London: Jonathan Cape, 2003.
  • —. If on a winter's night a traveller (trans. William Weaver). London: Vintage, 1998. ISBN 0-919630-23-5
  • —. Invisible Cities (trans. William Weaver). London: Secker & Warburg, 1974.
  • —. Italian Fables (trans. Louis Brigante). New York: Collier, 1961. (50 tales)
  • —. Italian Folk Tales (trans. Sylvia Mulcahy). London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1975. (24 tales)
  • —. Italian Folktales (trans. George Martin). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980. (complete 200 tales)
  • —. Marcovaldo or the Seasons in the City (trans. William Weaver). London: Minerva, 1993.
  • —. Mr. Palomar (trans. William Weaver). London: Vintage, 1999.
  • —. Our Ancestors (trans. A. Colquhoun). London: Vintage, 1998.
  • —. The Path to the Nest of Spiders (trans. Archibald Colquhoun). Boston: Beacon, 1957.
  • —. The Path to the Spiders' Nests (trans. A. Colquhoun, revised by Martin McLaughlin). London: Jonathan Cape, 1993.
  • —. t zero (trans. William Weaver). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969.
  • —. The Road to San Giovanni (trans. Tim Parks). New York: Vintage International, 1993.
  • —. Six Memos for the Next Millennium (trans. Patrick Creagh). New York: Vintage International, 1993.
  • —. The Watcher and Other Stories (trans. William Weaver). New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1971.

Secondary sources

  • Barenghi, Mario, and Bruno Falcetto. Romanzi e racconti di Italo Calvino. Milano: Mondadori, 1991.
  • Bernardini Napoletano, Francesca. I segni nuovi di Italo Calvino. Rome: Bulzoni, 1977.
  • Bonura, Giuseppe. Invito alla lettura di Calvino. Milan: U. Mursia, 1972.
  • Calvino, Italo. Uno scrittore pomeridiano: Intervista sull'arte della narrativa a cura di William Weaver e Damian Pettigrew con un ricordo di Pietro Citati. Rome: minimum fax, 2003. ISBN 978-88-87765-86-1.
  • Corti, Maria. 'Intervista: Italo Calvino' in Autografo 2 (October 1985): 47–53.
  • Di Carlo, Franco. Come leggere I nostri antenati. Milan: U. Mursia, 1958. (1998 ISBN 978-88-425-2215-7).
  • McLaughlin, Martin. Italo Calvino. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-7486-0735-8 (pb. ISBN 978-0-7486-0917-8).
  • Weiss, Beno. Understanding Italo Calvino. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-87249-858-7.

Online sources

Further reading


  • Benussi, Cristina (1989). Introduzione a Calvino. Rome: Laterza.
  • Bartoloni, Paolo (2003). Interstitial Writing: Calvino, Caproni, Sereni and Svevo. Leicester: Troubador.
  • Bloom, Harold (ed.)(2002). Bloom's Major Short Story Writers: Italo Calvino. Broomall, Pennsylvania: Chelsea House.
  • Bolongaro, Eugenio (2003). Italo Calvino and the Compass of Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Cannon, JoAnn (1981). Italo Calvino: Writer and Critic. Ravenna: Longo Press.
  • Carter III, Albert Howard (1987). Italo Calvino: Metamorphoses of Fantasy. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press.
  • Chubb, Stephen (1997). I, Writer, I, Reader: the Concept of the Self in the Fiction of Italo Calvino. Leicester: Troubador.
  • Gabriele, Tomassina (1994). Italo Calvino: Eros and Language. Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
  • Jeannet, Angela M. (2000) Under the Radiant Sun and the Crescent Moon. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Markey, Constance (1999). Italo Calvino. A Journey Toward Postmodernism. Gainesville: Florida University Press.
  • —. Interview. "Italo Calvino: The Contemporary Fabulist" in Italian Quarterly, 23 (spring 1982): 77–85.
  • Pilz, Kerstin (2005). Mapping Complexity: Literature and Science in the Works of Italo Calvino. Leicester: Troubador.
  • Ricci, Franco (1990). Difficult Games: A Reading of 'I racconti' by Italo Calvino. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
  • – (2001). Painting with Words, Writing with Pictures. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3507-8

External links

Excerpts, essays, artwork

Cosmicomics (Italian: Le cosmicomiche) is a collection of twelve short stories by Italo Calvino first published in Italian in 1965 and in English in 1968. The stories were originally published between 1964 and 1965 in the Italian periodicals Il Caffè and Il Giorno. Each story takes a scientific "fact" (though sometimes a falsehood by today's understanding), and builds an imaginative story around it. An always-extant being called Qfwfq narrates all of the stories save two, each of which is a memory of an event in the history of the universe. Qfwfq also narrates some stories in Calvino's t zero.

All of the stories in Cosmicomics, together with those from t zero and other sources, are now available in a single volume collection, The Complete Cosmicomics (Penguin UK, 2009).

The first U.S. edition, translated by William Weaver, won the National Book Award in the Translation category.

Difficult Loves

Difficult Loves (Italian: Gli amori difficili) is a 1970 short story collection by Italo Calvino. It concerns love and the difficulty of communication.

Some published versions of the English translation by William Weaver omit a number of the stories, and also include other Calvino stories about the Second World War and postwar period, including those from The Crow Comes Last; some of these were translated by Archibald Colquhoun and Peggy Wright. "The Argentine Ant" and "The Cloud of Smog" (as "Smog") do not appear in this book, but rather in the translated The Watcher and Other Stories. An English translation of "The Adventure of a Skier" was published by The New Yorker in their July 3, 2017 issue.

If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler (Italian: Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore) is a 1979 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. The postmodernist narrative, in the form of a frame story, is about the reader trying to read a book called If on a winter's night a traveler. Each chapter is divided into two sections. The first section of each chapter is in second person, and describes the process the reader goes through to attempt to read the next chapter of the book he or she is reading. The second half is the first part of a new book that the reader ("you") finds. The second half is always about something different from the previous ones and the ending is never explained. The book was published in an English translation by William Weaver in 1981.

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities (Italian: Le città invisibili) is a novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. It was published in Italy in 1972 by Giulio Einaudi Editore.

Italian Folktales

Italian Folktales (Fiabe italiane) is a collection of 200 Italian folktales published in 1956 by Italo Calvino. Calvino began the project in 1954, influenced by Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folktale; his intention was to emulate the Straparola in producing a popular collection of Italian fairy tales for the general reader. He did not compile tales from listeners, but made extensive use of the existing work of folklorists; he noted the source of each individual tale, but warned that was merely the version he used.He included extensive notes on his alterations to make the tales more readable and the logic of his selections, such as renaming the heroine of The Little Girl Sold with the Pears Perina rather than Margheritina to connect to the pears, and selecting Bella Venezia as the Italian variant of Snow White because it featured robbers, rather than the variants containing dwarfs, which he suspected were imported from Germany.It was first translated into English in 1962; a further translation is by Sylvia Mulcahy (Dent, 1975) and constituted the first comprehensive collection of Italian folktales.


Marcovaldo is a collection of 20 short stories written by Italo Calvino. It was initially published, in 1963, as Marcovaldo ovvero Le stagioni in città (Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the City). The first stories were written in the early 1950s.

Mr. Palomar

Mr. Palomar is a 1983 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Its original Italian title is Palomar. In an interview with Gregory Lucente, Calvino stated that he began writing Mr. Palomar in 1975, making it a predecessor to earlier published works such as If on a winter's night a traveler. Mr. Palomar was published in an English translation by William Weaver in 1985.


Pintosmalto is an Italian literary fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile in his 1634 work, the Pentamerone.Italo Calvino included a variant from oral tradition, The Handmade King, based on two tales from Calabria. He noted that variants are also found in Naples, Abruzzo, and Sicily.It is Aarne-Thompson type 425, the search for the lost bridegroom, in an unusual variation, involving motifs similar to Pygmalion and Galatea.

Scuola Italiana Italo Calvino

The Scuola italiana "Italo Calvino" ("Italo Calvino Italian School"; Russian: Итальянская школа имени Итало Кальвино) is the only Italian curriculum school in Russia. It has two campuses in Moscow.

Its primary, secondary, and liceo linguistico levels are in one location, the second floor of a campus shared with the Swedish School in Moscow, the Moscow Finnish School, and the Moscow Japanese School. This campus is in Lomonosovsky District, South-Western Administrative Okrug.The scuola materna is in a separate location.

Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Italian: Lezioni americane. Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio) is a book based on a series of lectures written by Italo Calvino for the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, but never delivered as Calvino died before leaving Italy. The lectures were originally written in Italian and translated by Patrick Creagh. The lectures were to be given in the fall of 1985, and Memos was published in 1988. The memos are lectures on the values of literature that Calvino felt were important for the coming millennium. At the time of his death Calvino had finished all but the last lecture.

T zero

t zero (original title: Ti con zero) is a 1967 collection of short stories by Italian author Italo Calvino. The title story is based on a particularly uncertain moment in the life of a lion hunter. This second in time, t0, is considered by the hunter against known previous seconds (t−1, t−2, ...) and hypothetical future seconds (t1, t2, ...)

"Qfwfq" (an always extant being introduced in Cosmicomics) narrates the first set of stories in the collection, each of which takes a scientific fact and builds a story around it. Other stories in the book diverge to a greater or lesser degree from this scientific theme. The final story in the collection is a postmodern pastiche of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.

The book was also published in English with the title Time and the Hunter in 1970.

All of the stories in t zero, together with those from Cosmicomics and other sources, are now available in a single volume collection, The Complete Cosmicomics (Penguin UK, 2009).

The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees (Italian: Il barone rampante) is a 1957 novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. Described as a conte philosophique and a metaphor for independence, it tells the adventures of a boy who climbs up a tree to spend the rest of his life inhabiting an arboreal kingdom. Calvino published a new version of the novel in 1959.

The Castle of Crossed Destinies

The Castle of Crossed Destinies (Italian: Il castello dei destini incrociati) is a 1973 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Its narrative details a meeting among travelers who are inexplicably unable to speak after traveling through a forest. The characters in the novel recount their tales via Tarot cards, which are reconstructed by the narrator. The novel is in two parts, each using a different style Tarot deck. The first part was published alone in 1969 as Tarocchi: Il mazzo visconteo di Bergamo e New York (Tarots: The Visconti Pack in Bergamo and New York). The second part, with the header "The Tavern of Crossed Destinies", features the Tarot of Marseilles.

The novel is an exploration of how meaning is created, whether that be written via words (by the author, via the book, since the characters in the book cannot speak to each other) or by images (the tarot cards – considered prophetic by some, and themselves open to many symbolic interpretations). It is, as often in Calvino's works, multi-layered, and several levels of interpretations and readings are possible, based on the author–narrator–character–reader relationship.

The Cloven Viscount

The Cloven Viscount (Italian: Il visconte dimezzato) is a fantasy novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. It was first published by Einaudi (Turin) in 1952 and in English in 1962 by William Collins, with a translation by Archibald Colquhoun.

The Crow Comes Last

The Crow Comes Last (Italian: Ultimo viene il corvo) is a short story collection by Italo Calvino published in 1949. It consists of thirty stories inspired by the novelist's own experiences fighting with the Communist Garibaldi Brigades in the Maritime Alps during the final phases of World War II. The stories also include sharp observations on the panorama of postwar Italy. Although written largely in the neorealist style, many scenes are infused with visionary, fable-like elements characteristic of Calvino's later fantasy period. A wide selection of these short stories comprised the following English collections by the author: Adam, One Afternoon, and Other Stories (1957), The Watcher and Other Stories (1975), and Difficult Loves (1984).

The Nonexistent Knight

The Nonexistent Knight (Italian: Il cavaliere inesistente) is an allegorical fantasy novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino, first published in Italian in 1959 and in English translation in 1962.

The tale explores questions of identity, integration with society, and virtue through the adventures of Agilulf, a medieval knight who exemplifies chivalry, piety, and faithfulness but exists only as an empty suit of armour.

The Path to the Nest of Spiders

The Path to the Nest of Spiders (Italian: Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno) is a 1947 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. The narrative is a coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of World War II. It was Calvino's first novel.

Under the Jaguar Sun

Under the Jaguar Sun is a collection of three short stories by Italo Calvino. The stories were to have been in a book entitled I cinque sensi (The Five Senses). Calvino died before writing the stories dedicated to vision and touch. In the Italian edition (Garzanti, 1986) the stories are ordered as follows: Il nome, il naso; Sotto il sole giaguaro; and Un re in ascolto. The titular story Sotto il sole giaguaro was originally published as Sapore sapere ("learning to taste") in the June 1982 edition of FMR, an Italian magazine.In the 1988 English translation by William Weaver, the works are arranged by length, beginning with "Under the Jaguar Sun" followed by "A King Listens" and lastly "The Name, The Nose."According to the Kindle edition, Under the Jaguar Sun was first published as The Jaguar Sun in the New Yorker, translation copyright 1983 by Harcourt, Inc. The Name, the Nose was first published in Antaeus, translation copyright 1976 by Harcourt, Inc. It states that the English language copyright is 1988 by Harcourt, Inc.

Sotto il sole giaguaro involves a couple on vacation in Mexico, experiencing difficulties in their relationship. Mexico is presented as a country characterised by its bloody history, both in the indigenous past and in its colonised period, which includes the present. The sense of taste is explored in this story, and used by the couple as a substitute for sex. As they travel tasting different dishes, they stumble upon an old secret of the ancient cuisine that may prove to be cannibalistic.

Works by Italo Calvino
Story collections
Omnibus titles
Awards received by Italo Calvino

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