|Published (Last):||6 February 2009|
|PDF File Size:||6.97 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||7.40 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Thank you for visiting nature. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer.
In one of the stories in Italo Calvino's The Complete Cosmicomics , the inimitable character named Qfwfq is gambling with Dean k yK in the nothingness before time and space began. We were always gambling, the Dean and I, because there was really nothing else to do, and also because the only proof I existed was that I bet with him, and the only proof he existed was that he bet with me.
Wildly inventive, philosophical and playful at once, addicted to sustained metaphors, Calvino is almost unique in his fictions. In Calvino's dazzling Invisible Cities , the explorer Marco Polo reports to Genghis Khan about each of the marvellous cities in the Khan's empire, the descriptions exquisite in their crystalline prose.
In The Baron in the Trees , a man lives among the leaves and branches of trees, viewing the world from far above the ground. Most of these stories were written between and , in the heat of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
They are heavily informed by science, especially astronomy and cosmology but also evolution and cell biology. In one of the yarns, for example, the protagonist is an ageing dinosaur who has somehow survived the extinction of his species and hides out, like a war criminal, in a tribe of descendant reptilians called 'New Ones'.
The interloper is, by turns, embarrassed, secretive, defensive and finally indignant about his origins, falling in love and then being rejected by one of the new females. In another tale, two men and a woman fall through empty space for untold centuries, the narrator attempting to steer his trajectory closer to the woman and imagining a rivalry with the other man, a moustachioed lieutenant.
Every now and then, I was seized by fantasies, that's true, for example, the notion of scratching my armpit, or crossing my legs, or once even growing a moustache. Many of the stories concern cosmic beings who offer witty commentary on the formation of the Universe and have the wondrous capacity to casually wander across time and space.
They exist in the cushiony folds of cosmic nebulae, or in empty space, or falling in the gravitational pull of distant galaxies. Calvino makes no attempt to be logically consistent or scientifically plausible, and herein arises much of the humour and charm of the book.
Molluscs imagine armpits, cold exists before the Universe existed, people climb ladders and jump on to the Moon. The bigger they are, the more I trust them. Don't you know about the blue ones? They burn so fast, you don't even notice, and barely a couple of thousand millennia go by and you've already got to start packing.
We never know who these cosmic supermen are, where they came from, or how they got to be where they are. In Cosmicomics , there are no houses and chairs, no roads or cars, no banks or telephones, no Berlin or London.
There is no human civilization at all. Yet we do meet intelligent beings, even families and lovers, attempting to make sense of life in its most elemental form. It seems that Calvino is attempting to fathom how much of a reality can be created without familiar geography of time and space. He plays with science the way a found-object artist throws together bits of silvered glass, odd metal brackets, bits of coloured paper.
It is impossible not to compare Calvino to another of his Italian countrymen, Primo Levi. Both wrote imaginative fiction inspired by science. Levi's characters in the latter are far richer.
The most interesting of Calvino's fables, in my opinion, are the ones with human drama. The least interesting are those in which the author goes into long pedagogical riffs on science or indulges in pages of philosophical reflection. When Calvino brings together human drama with his imaginative scenarios, and philosophy with his beautiful language, humour and wit, he is unparallelled. In the story titled 'World Memory', an organization is entrusted with the job of storing all of the world's knowledge and culture in the face of an impending cataclysm.
Reprints and Permissions. Lightman, A. In Retrospect: Calvino's Cosmicomics. Nature , Download citation. Published : 15 July Issue Date : 16 July By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.
Advanced search. Skip to main content. Register your interest. Download PDF. Colloquialisms nestle happily with scientific terminology in Calvino's playful approach. His forthcoming book, the narrative poem Song of Two Worlds, will be published in October You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar.
Rights and permissions Reprints and Permissions. About this article Cite this article Lightman, A. Comments By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. Nature menu. Nature Research menu. Search Article search Search. Close banner Close. Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily. Enter your email address.
Sign up. Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing.
A Mind for Madness
He had constructed a condensed history of critical theory through the story. The stories all feature or are told by a character named Qfwfq. Each story starts with a tidbit of science such as:. Situated in the external zone of the Milky Way, the Sun takes about two hundred million years to make a complete revolution of the galaxy. The story that follows is usually related to this somehow.
Data Protection Choices
Cosmicomics Italian : Le cosmicomiche is a collection of twelve short stories by Italo Calvino first published in Italian in and in English in 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.