Quotes by Italo Calvino

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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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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

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

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

It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear. more...

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

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. more...

I suffer from everyday life. more...

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? more...

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

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

Thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy. more...

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

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

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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

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

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

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

One writes fables in periods of oppression. more...

So began their love, the boy happy and amazed, she happy and not surprised at all (nothing happens by chance to girls). It was the love so long awaited by Cosimo and which had now inexplicably arrived, and so lovely that he could not imagine how he had even thought it lovely before. And the thing newest to him was that it was so simple, and the boy at that moment thought it must be like that always. more...

In general confusion youth recognizes itself and rejoices. more...

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

Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don't mean escaping into dreams or the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. (Terence sent me this quote the other day. A good battle cry, I believe... and one I wholeheartedly respect.) more...

The novels that attract me most... are those that create an illusion of transperancy around a knot of human relationships as obscure, cruel and perverse as possible. more...

...Life is nothing but trading smells. more...

Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches. more...

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice - they won't hear you otherwise - "I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything: just hope they'll leave you alone. more...

I had fallen in love. What I mean is: I had begun to recognize, to isolate the signs of one of those from the others, in fact I waited for these signs I had begun to recognize, I sought them, responded to those signs I awaited with other signs I made myself, or rather it was I who aroused them, these signs from her, which I answered with other signs of my own . . . more...

What about books? Well, precisely because you have denied it in every other field, you believe you may still grant yourself legitimately this youthful pleasure of expectation in a carefully circumscribed area like the field of books, where you can be lucky or unlucky, but the risk of disappointment isn't serious. more...

every choice has its obverse, that is to say a renunciation, and so there is no difference between the act of choosing and the act of renouncing more...

Nobody these days holds the written word in such high esteem as police states do. more...

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.* more...

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

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. more...

My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. 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. . . . Maybe I was only then becoming aware of the weight, the inertia, the opacity of the world-qualities that stick to the writing from the start, unless one finds some way of evading them. more...

...and every Wednesday the perfumed young lady slips me a hundred-crown note to leave her alone with the convict. And by Thursday the hundred crowns are already gone in so much beer. And when the visiting hour is over, the young lady comes out with the stink of jail in her elegant clothes; and the prisoner goes back to his cell with the lady's perfume in his jailbird's suit. And I'm left with the smell of beer. Life is nothing but trading smells. more...

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. more...

To fly is the opposite of traveling: you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in a place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and when in which you vanished. more...

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. more...

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. more...

...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... more...

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. more...

Memory really matters...only if it binds together the imprint of the past and the project of the future, if it enables us to act without forgetting what we wanted to do, to become without ceasing to be, and to be without ceasing to become. more...

Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. "There is the blueprint," they say. more...

The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world. more...

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. more...

Folktales are real. more...

I detest this contemporary trend to destroy the traditional hierarchy of genres. more...

Man is simply the best chance we know of that matter has had of providing itself with information about itself. more...

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. more...

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

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. more...

I change my method and field of reference from book to book because I can never believe in the same thing two times running. more...

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

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

I'm a Communist, fully convinced and dedicated to my cause. more...

If the reader looks, I think he will find plenty of moral and political ideas in my stories. more...

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. more...

My university work was not central to my education. more...

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

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

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

Reading is a possession, a march toward a possession. more...

The writer is someone who tears himself to pieces in order to liberate his neighbor. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

Sometimes I try to concentrate on the story I would like to write, and I realize that what interests me is something else entirely, or, rather, not anything precise but everything that does not fit in what I ought to write. more...

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. more...

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. more...

When I'm writing a book, I prefer not to speak about it, because only when the book is finished can I try to understand what I've really done and to compare my intentions with the result. more...

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

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

For the critic, the author does not exist; only a certain number of writings exist. more...

I don't believe chance can play a role in my literature. more...

I feel so at home in New York that I don't have the urge to write about it. more...

I have never loved any writer as much as Hemingway. more...

I have spent more time with other people's books than with my own. I do not regret it. more...

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

I was born in Cuba, and my parents were tropical agronomists. more...

I will revolutionise art and the world. Hurrah! more...

I'm afraid I don't think I really have a life on which something can be written. more...

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. more...

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

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

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

I would very much like to be one of those writers who have something really clear in their head to say, and throughout their life they promote this idea in their works. more...

Biographical data, even those recorded in the public registers, are the most private things one has, and to declare them openly is rather like facing a psychoanalyst. more...

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. more...

I do not have any political commitments anymore. I'm politically a total agnostic; I'm one of the few writers in Italy who refuses to be identified with a specific political party. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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

Your first book already defines you, while you are really far from being defined. And this definition is something you may then carry with you for the rest of your life, trying to confirm it or extend or correct or deny it; but you can never eliminate it. more...

Revolutionaries are more formalistic than conservatives. more...

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

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

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. more...

The soul is often in the surface, and the importance of 'depth' is overestimated. more...

You'll understand when you've forgotten what you understood before more...

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. more...

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. more...

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

Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness. more...

So you begin to wonder if Leonia's true passion is really, as they say, the enjoyment of new and different things, and not, instead, the joy of expelling, discarding, cleansing itself of a recurrent impurity. more...

Why come to Trude? I asked myself. And I already wanted to leave. You cand resume your flight whereever you like," they say to me, "but you will arive at another Trude, absolutely the same, detail by detail. The world is covered by a sole Trude which does not begin and does not end. Only the names of the airport changes. more...

The sea where living creatures were at one time immersed is now enclosed within their bodies. more...

For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene. more...

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

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. more...

One reads alone, even in another's presence. more...

Renouncing things is less difficult than people believe: it's all a matter of getting started. Once you've succeeded in dispensing with something you thought essential, you realize you can also do without something else, then without many other things. more...

It is only through the confining act of writing that the immensity of the nonwritten becomes legible more...

A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans. more...

Your first book is the only one that matters. Perhaps a writer should write only that one. That is the one moment when you make the big leap; the opportunity to express yourself is offered that once, and you untie the knot within you then or never again. more...

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. more...

The things that the novel does not say are necessarily more numerous than those it does say and only a special halo around what is written can give the illusion that you are reading also what is not written. more...

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

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

You have with you the book you were reading in the cafe, which you are eager to continue, so that you can then hand it on to her, to communicate again with her through the channel dug by others' words, which, as they are uttered by an alien voice, by the voice of that silent nobody made of ink and typographical spacing, can become yours and hers, a language, a code between the two of you, a means to exchange signals and recognize each other. more...

The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death. more...

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. more...

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. . . . more...

If a lover is wretched who invokes kisses of which he knows not the flavor, a thousand times more wretched is he who has had a taste of the flavor and then had it denied him. more...

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

Very often the effort men put into activities that seem completely useless turns out to be extremely important in ways no one could foresee. Play has always been the mainspring of culture. more...

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. more...

When politicians and politically minded people pay too much attention to literature, it is a bad sign - a bad sign mostly for literature. But it is also a bad sign when they don't want to hear the word mentioned. more...

For the man who thought he was Man there is no salvation. more...

It is within you that the ghosts acquire voices. more...

You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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

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. more...

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

Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist. more...

If you want to know how much darkness there is around you, you must sharpen your eyes, peering at the faint lights in the distance. more...

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. more...

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. more...

The contradiction [trying to use Russian model to reshape Italy] grew to such an extent that I felt totally cut off from the communist world and, in the end, from politics. That was fortunate. The idea of putting literature in second place, after politics, is an enormous mistake, because politics almost never achieves its ideals. more...

Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement. Only if poets and writers set themselves tasks that no one else dares imagine will literature continue to have a function. more...

Though I leave the house as little as possible, I have the impression that someone is disturbing my papers. More than once I have discovered that some pages were missing from my manuscripts. A few days afterward I would find the pages in their place again. But often I no longer recognize my manuscripts, as if I had forgotten what I had written, or as if overnight I were so changed that no longer recognized myself in the self of yesterday. more...

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. more...

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

We could say, then, that man is an instrument the world employs to renew its own image constantly. more...

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

Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combination of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable. more...

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. more...

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. more...

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. more...

How well I would write if I were not here! more...

Your house, being the place in which you read, can tell us the position books occupy in your life, if they are a defense you set up to keep the outside world at a distance, if they area dream into which you sink as if into a drug, or bridges you cast toward the outside, toward the world that interests you so much that you want to multiply and extend its dimensions through books. more...

There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics. I would say that such a library ought to be composed half of books we have read and that have really counted for us, and half of books we propose to read and presume will come to count-leaving a section of empty shelves for surprises and occasional discoveries more...

New York is perhaps the only place in America where you feel at the centre and not at the margins, in the provinces, so for that reason I prefer its horror to this privileged beauty, its enslavement to the freedoms which remain local and privileged and very particularized, and which do not represent a genuine antithesis. more...

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. more...

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. more...

Writing always means hiding something in such a way that it then is discovered. more...

My confidence in the future of literature consists in the knowledge that there are things that only literature can give us, by means specific to it. more...

Every time I must find something to do that will look like something a little beyond my capabilities. more...

Now, the old man happened to be the Lord. more...

Don't ask where the rest of this book is!" It is a shrill cry that comes from an undefined spot among the shelves. "All books continue in the beyond... more...

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. more...

Perhaps everything lies in knowing what words to speak, what actions to perform, and in what order and rhythm; or else someone's gaze, answer, gesture is enough; it is enough for someone to do something for the sheer pleasure of doing it, and for his pleasure to become the pleasure of others: at that moment, all spaces change, all heights, distances; the city is transfigured, becomes crystalline, transparent as a dragonfly. more...

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. more...

Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I do' mean escaping into dreams or the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. (Terence sent me this quote the other day. A good battle cry, I believe... and one I wholeheartedly respect.) more...

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

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 ca' make anything. more...

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

Today each of you is the object of the other's reading, one reads in the other the unwritten story. more...

Sometimes one who thinks himself incomplete is merely young. more...

The best introduction to the psychological world of one of the most important and gifted writers of our time. more...

It is only after you have come to know the surface of things ... that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible. more...

Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have. more...

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. more...

There is no language without deceit. more...

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

You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask. more...

I speak and speak," Marco says, "but the listener retains only the words he is expecting. The description of the world to which you lend a benevolent ear is one thing; the description that will go the rounds of the groups of stevedores and gondoliers on the street outside my house the day of my return is another; and yet another, that which I might dictate late in life, if I were taken prisoner by Genoese pirates and put in irons in the same cell with a writer of adventure stories. It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear. more...

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. more...

Today each of you is the object of the other's reading, one reads in the other the unwritten story. more...

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

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. more...

seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space more...

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. more...

Something must always remain that eludes us ... For power to have an object on which it can be exercised, a space in which to stretch out its arms ... As long as I know there exists in the world someone who does tricks only for the love of the trick, as long as I know there is a woman who loves reading for reading's sake, I can convince myself that the world continues ... And every evening I, too, abandon myself to reading, like that distant unknown woman .... more...

Gore is a man without an unconscious. more...

Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me. Polo answers: Without stones there is no arch. more...

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

The word connects the visible trace with the invisible thing, the absent thing, the thing that is desired or feared, like a frail emergency bridge flung over an abyss. more...

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. more...

Memories images, once they are fixed in words, are erased. more...

I could distinguish the shape of her bosom, her arms, her thighs, just as I remember them now, just as now, when the Moon has become that flat, remote circle, I still look for her as soon as the first sliver appears in the sky, and the more it waxes, the more clearly I imagine I can see her, her or something of her, but only her, in a hundred, a thousand different vistas, she who makes the Moon the Moon and, whenever she is full, sets the dogs to howling all night long, and me with them. more...

A writer's work has to take account of many rhythms: Vulcan's and Mercury's, a message of urgency obtained by dint of patient and meticulous adjustments and an intuition so instantaneous that, when formulated, it acquires the finality of something that could never have been otherwise. But it is also the rhythm of time that passes with no other aim than to let feelings and thoughts settle down, mature, and shed all impatience or ephemeral contingency. more...

They knew each other. He knew her and so himself, for in truth he had never known himself. And she knew him and so herself, for although she had always known herself she had never been able to recognize it until now. more...

Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be. more...

Knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world. more...

The line between the reality that is photographed because it seems beautiful to us and the reality that seems beautiful because it has been photographed is very narrow. more...

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

The close-up has no equivalent in a narrative fashioned of words. Literature is totally lacking in any working method to enable it to isolate a single vastly enlarged detail in which one face comes forward to underline a state of mind or stress the importance of a single detail in comparison with the rest. As a narrative device, the ability to vary the distance between the camera and the object may be a small thing indeed, but it makes for a notable difference between cinema and oral or written narrative, in which the distance between language and image is always the same. more...

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 ) more...

I'm reading! I do' want to be disturbed! more...

When I'm writing a book I prefer not to speak about it, because only when the book is finished can I try to understand what I've really done and to compare my intentions with the result. more...

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

I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed! more...

I am 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. more...


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