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Why Read the Classics?

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From the internationally acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light. Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunn From the internationally acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light. Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many odysseys The Odyssey contains, and why Hemingway's Nick Adams stories are a pinnacle of twentieth-century literature. From Ovid to Pavese, Xenophon to Dickens, Galileo to Gadda, Calvino covers the classics he has loved most with essays that are fresh, accessible and wise. Why Read the Classics? firmly establishes Calvino among the rare likes of Nabokov, Borges, and Lawrence--writers whose criticism is as vibrant and unique as their groundbreaking fiction.  


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From the internationally acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light. Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunn From the internationally acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light. Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many odysseys The Odyssey contains, and why Hemingway's Nick Adams stories are a pinnacle of twentieth-century literature. From Ovid to Pavese, Xenophon to Dickens, Galileo to Gadda, Calvino covers the classics he has loved most with essays that are fresh, accessible and wise. Why Read the Classics? firmly establishes Calvino among the rare likes of Nabokov, Borges, and Lawrence--writers whose criticism is as vibrant and unique as their groundbreaking fiction.  

30 review for Why Read the Classics?

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    You start your reading of Calvino’s explorations. You do this mainly to get to know a wonderful list of classics to tackle, of the thoughts of a loved author, and to know of how to approach these sometimes daunting works. After the masterful first essay which defines ‘classics’, you realize that Calvino is up to something here. You look at the long list of books and realize that too many of them fall in the invented category of ‘personal classics’ (‘his own classics’ in other words), the choice You start your reading of Calvino’s explorations. You do this mainly to get to know a wonderful list of classics to tackle, of the thoughts of a loved author, and to know of how to approach these sometimes daunting works. After the masterful first essay which defines ‘classics’, you realize that Calvino is up to something here. You look at the long list of books and realize that too many of them fall in the invented category of ‘personal classics’ (‘his own classics’ in other words), the choice of which are artfully explained away by his irrefutable first essay. You are now sure that the book would be an interesting window to Calvino’s literary world and his evolution but not to the vast classical education you were hoping for from the book. You put off the book many times over the year but eventually get back to it. But as you finally read through the rest of the essays, you realize that it is more fun than anticipated to hear Calvino talk of the books you have already read and enjoyed and just infuriating to read of ones that you haven’t. So you quickly buy the books as Calvino talks of them. Then you vow to read again his short essays on Anabasis or Pliny before you delve into these books, which might have been postponed indefinitely if not for Calvino’s gentle (but at the same time caustic) coaxing. Of course, you know that you would have to read the essays before you read your new acquisitions and then again a month after the reading is past just to compare experiences with Calvino, which as you already know is great fun. You also begin to discern a few jarring notes… but they do not put you off - a reading life is not complete without an explanation of the spirit that animates the reading quest. Calvino’s obsession with how history and its enactment is to be viewed begins to shine through. And, sometimes to your disappointment, he examines many of the authors primarily from the lens of how they tried to invent history and their own conceptions of it - slightly distorting his analysis in the process but with a distinct purpose. To you, some of these extrapolations seem like inventions but, it becomes difficult to draw the line between serious experiment and play. You console yourself with the fact that, luckily, Calvino’s obsession is a favorite pastime of your own as well. In the end, you scribble a quick one line review before moving eagerly to the heady pile of books that Calvino has collected for you on your desk: This book is a treasure. A Goodreads Corollary: Classics are those books which when you rate them, you only rate yourselves.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    From Homer, Ovid, Xenophon, Stendhal, and Balzac, to Defoe, Dickens, Conrad, Pasternak, and Hemingway, Calvino, with fascinating insight gives, his take on these writers, among others, as to why their 'classics' are precisely just that: classics. Calvino resounds with a deep sense of wonder, and writes wholeheartedly in a chirpy unpretentious manner, of which, it's clear to see just what his favourite classics meant to him. He lays out his reasoning in fourteen key points at the start of the book From Homer, Ovid, Xenophon, Stendhal, and Balzac, to Defoe, Dickens, Conrad, Pasternak, and Hemingway, Calvino, with fascinating insight gives, his take on these writers, among others, as to why their 'classics' are precisely just that: classics. Calvino resounds with a deep sense of wonder, and writes wholeheartedly in a chirpy unpretentious manner, of which, it's clear to see just what his favourite classics meant to him. He lays out his reasoning in fourteen key points at the start of the book before we actually get to writers. Three for example are - 'We use the word “classics” for those books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to read them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them, 'The classics are the books that come down to us bearing upon them the traces of readings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through' 'A classic is a book that comes before other classics; but anyone who has read the others first, and then reads this one, instantly recognizes its place in the family tree' Some of the essays on offer are only a few pages long, while others are more expansive, and while is it was great reading of the writers mentioned above, my particular interest was with fellow Italians - Cesare Pavese, Eugenio Montale, and Carlo Emilio Gadda. Calvino wrote some superb stuff on Montale & Gadda, but to my disappointment, no sooner had I started reading his thoughts on Pavese (one of fave writers), it was all over in a flash, which for me, was a shame. It maybe didn't help that I hadn't read some of the famous classics he was referring to. The likes of - The Odyssey, Robinson Crusoe, Our Mutual Friend, and The Charterhouse of Parma still have yet to sit comfortably in my lap. There is a good chance they won't ever end up there either. As who in their right mind can say they've read every single classic on the planet! These literary essays were thought-provoking, invigorating, and a real pleasure to read, but I'm going for four stars over five because some of them were simply just too short.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Perché leggere i classici? = Why Read the Classics?, Italo Calvino From the internationally-acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light. Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many o Perché leggere i classici? = Why Read the Classics?, Italo Calvino From the internationally-acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light. Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunner of modern-day science-fiction writers. Learn how many odysseys The Odyssey contains, and why Hemingway's Nick Adams stories are a pinnacle of twentieth-century literature. From Ovid to Pavese, Xenophon to Dickens, Galileo to Gadda, Calvino covers the classics he has loved most with essays that are fresh, accessible, and wise. Why Read the Classics? firmly establishes Calvino among the rare likes of Nabokov, Borges, and Lawrence--writers whose criticism is as vibrant and unique as their groundbreaking fiction. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانزدهم ماه می سال 2003میلادی عنوان: چرا باید کلاسیک ها را خواند؛ نویسنده: ایتالو کالوینو؛ مترجم: آزیتا همپارتیان؛ تهران، کاروان، 1381؛ در 276ص؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛ چاپ سوم 1386؛ شابک 9789647033527؛ چاپ دیگر نشر قطره، چاپ پنجم 1392؛ شابک 9786001191602؛ چاپ ششم 1393؛ چاپ هفتم 1395؛ موضوع: تاریخ و نقد آثار کلاسیک ادبی از نویسندگان ایتالیایی - سده 20م در این سیر تاریخی، از «گزنفون» باستانی، و «نظامی گنجوی»، به «ژرژ پرک» معاصر می‌رسیم؛ عنوان برخی از مقالات درج شده در کتاب «آسمان، انسان، فیل»؛ «گزیده کوچک هشت بیتی»؛ «کتاب بزرگ طبیعت»؛ «جیاماریا اورتس»؛ «ناخداهای كنراد»؛ «همینگوی و ما»؛ «خورخه لوئیس بورخس»؛ «فلسفه ریمون کنو»؛ و «ژرژ پرک»؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Silvia Cachia

    Italo Calvino, in his Why Read the Classics?, expresses it best: 8) A classic does not necessarily teach us anything we did not know before. In a classic we sometimes discover something we have always known (or thought we knew), but without knowing that this author said it first, or at least is associated with it in a special way. And this, too, is a surprise that gives a lot of pleasure, such as we always gain from the discovery of an origin, a relationship, an affinity. From all this we may der Italo Calvino, in his Why Read the Classics?, expresses it best: 8) A classic does not necessarily teach us anything we did not know before. In a classic we sometimes discover something we have always known (or thought we knew), but without knowing that this author said it first, or at least is associated with it in a special way. And this, too, is a surprise that gives a lot of pleasure, such as we always gain from the discovery of an origin, a relationship, an affinity. From all this we may derive a definition of this type: 9) The classics are books that we find all the more new, fresh, and unexpected upon reading, the more we thought we knew them from hearing them talked about. Naturally, this only happens when a classic really works as such—that is, when it establishes a personal rapport with the reader. If the spark doesn’t come, that’s a pity; but we do not read the classics out of duty or respect, but only out of love. Except at school. And school should enable you to know, either well or badly, a certain number of classics among which—or in reference to which—you can then choose your classics. School is obliged to give you the instruments needed to make a choice, but the choices that count are those that occur outside and after school.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Henk

    A bundle full of love for literature, but at times quite hermetic and jarringly focussed on works from men 4) Every rereading of a classic is as much a voyage of discovery as the first reading. 5) Every reading of a classic is in fact a rereading. 6) A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. 9) The classics are books that we find all the more new, fresh, and unexpected upon reading, the more we thought we knew them from hearing them talked about. 11) Your classic author i A bundle full of love for literature, but at times quite hermetic and jarringly focussed on works from men 4) Every rereading of a classic is as much a voyage of discovery as the first reading. 5) Every reading of a classic is in fact a rereading. 6) A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. 9) The classics are books that we find all the more new, fresh, and unexpected upon reading, the more we thought we knew them from hearing them talked about. 11) Your classic author is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you to define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him. A collection of essays on literature from Italo Calvino. Especially the first 14 statements on what a classic read should or could be is brilliant. Some of them I’ve included above, you can find the rest via below link: http://www.openculture.com/2014/08/it... Interestingly enough in this essay Calvino already notes that literature has it hard versus the buzz of modern life in a tv age (and before the internet). The 30 odd essays that follow are on classics as defined by Calvino. The pieces, introductions, commentaries in newspapers and obituaries, are put in a chronologic order and range from Homer to Cesare Pavese, with special fondness for French and Italian authors. Jarringly, despite a nod to Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, not one female writer comes back in an essay, and besides one Persian author, the same goes for none Western writers. The pieces are highly cerebral and often insightful. The Odyssee for instance is presented as a tale of restoration, a tale not unlike the abandoned princesses who turn into stepdaughters, before being made once more into a princess in fairytales. The unreliability of Odysseus, and how his tale can just be a story to explain away in an acceptable manner his absence, is an other perspective brought up by Calvino. The possibility of older, more supernatural mythology clashing and being integrated into then “modern” hero tales like the The Iliad is an other view I never thought of while reading Homer. The essays put behind each other shows a kind of progression in literature till about Stendhal and can serve as a good intro to Western literature development till that point. Orlando Furioso triggered my interest, and Galileo Galilei dissing Acrimboldo is also a new thing for me. The perspective on Cyrano de Bergerac as 17th century sf writer, predicting amongst others gramophones, DNA and supernova’s made me curious. Also the way Calvino writes about Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges and Raymond Queneau intrigued me. In general it is nice to get some background on the setting of the writers and how this influenced their books. Interestingly, Calvino often doesn’t pick the more known works of the writers. Sometimes the picks are so obscure, like a nautical non-fiction from Joseph Conrad instead of Heart of Darkness, that it feels a bit show off erudite like from Calvino’s side. The bundle is sometimes not very inviting at times, maybe also because Italian poetry is not my thing. The love for literature is however clearly present and I can imagine myself returning to this bundle when I end up picking up some of the books Calvino writes about in Why Read the Classics?.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ted

    127th book of 2020. I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time: It is a book that has managed to elude me, by being hard to get hold of or else expensive to get hold of. I am in debt to my old university housemate who bought and gifted me this. Despite wracking my brain for a Calvino related anecdote involving us, I cannot think of one. The only thing that comes to mind is reading my first ever Calvino, Invisible Cities, whilst lying on my bed in our old house in Chichester. So can give only 127th book of 2020. I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time: It is a book that has managed to elude me, by being hard to get hold of or else expensive to get hold of. I am in debt to my old university housemate who bought and gifted me this. Despite wracking my brain for a Calvino related anecdote involving us, I cannot think of one. The only thing that comes to mind is reading my first ever Calvino, Invisible Cities, whilst lying on my bed in our old house in Chichester. So can give only my thanks; it was worth it. - Italo Calvino All that can be done is for each one of us to invest our own ideal library for our classics; and I would say that one half of it should consist of books we have read and that have meant something for us, and the other half of books which we intend to read and which we suppose might mean something to us. We should also leave a section of empty spaces for surprises and chance discoveries. Calvino writes with grace in both his fictions and his essays. He is a fantastic writer in the fact I believe he is quite multifaceted, and by that I also mean that my own view of him is multifaceted. My lecturer referred to him once as being ‘icy’ – a term I have adopted as my own in reference to him. In fact, the full quote, as I have quoted before in my The Baron in the Trees review: “An icy postmodernist”, whom one “admires more than enjoys”. In some cases, I would agree. I am in awe of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, but my enjoyment when reading it is another matter entirely. Any iciness, postmodernist-ness, is void here – what is left is Calvino at his intelligent and most graceful self. The first essay is the title essay, and Calvino attempts to define a ‘classic’ novel, which ironically, his own novels fall into, in my opinion. He proposes 14 definitions, headings, and then further expansion into several; my favourite headings are: 5. A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before. 6. A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers. 9. 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. After the title essay, in a further 35 essays, Calvino journeys through many essays on a number of writers and novels. He covers Conrad, Hemingway, Borges, Stevenson, James, Dickens, Twain, Tolstoy, Homer, Dafoe and more. Though I would only recommend these essays to readers particularly interested in the writers, Calvino’s thoughts on them and their style and influence, or simply in the grace and ease of his essay writing in general. Even essays concerning writers I was not aware of, or else uninterested in, I found great enjoyment through Calvino’s prose. The essays are dated between the 60s and the 80s. Of course, the most interesting essays for me were about writers I care for and read: Hemingway, Borges, Twain, Conrad, etc. The essays that surprised me the most were on Gadda and Pliny. I considered adding quotes and thoughts on Calvino’s thoughts on other writers, but for one, I’d spoil it, and for another, it would end up being too like a Borges story, wouldn’t it? My thoughts, on Calvino’s thoughts, on someone else. Or even, sometimes, my thoughts, on Calvino’s thoughts, on another writer’s thoughts, on a final writer. We don’t have time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen Witzler

    I did not read every word of this book about books as I have not read more than a few of the classics discussed...but I still loved it. The first chapter is Calvino's fourteen point definition of a "classic" (with elaborations after each point). I copied it out word for word (including that wonderful word "pulviscular") into my own Notebook of Books (it has manatees on the cover) so that I can read this perfect rendering of all I have ever felt for all of literature over and over again in my own I did not read every word of this book about books as I have not read more than a few of the classics discussed...but I still loved it. The first chapter is Calvino's fourteen point definition of a "classic" (with elaborations after each point). I copied it out word for word (including that wonderful word "pulviscular") into my own Notebook of Books (it has manatees on the cover) so that I can read this perfect rendering of all I have ever felt for all of literature over and over again in my own hand. Then, in thirty-five short essays, Calvino shares his thoughts on the classics that he himself, holds dear. (I'm making a Goodreads shelf of his selections.) No women. A lot of Italians, a lot of French, one Persian I hadn't heard of before - Nezami's Haft Peikar - and bookskimmers beware, the writer Cyrano de Bergerac, NOT the play by Rostand. Calvino loves Dr. Zhivago (the longest piece), and Ariosto, Stendhal, Gadda, and Montale each get TWO essays. They are in chronological order and begin with The Odyssey and end with Pavese's The Moon and the Bonfire. No Shakespeare, no Dante, no religious texts, and as I said no women -- but still all a pleasure.

  8. 5 out of 5

    W.D. Clarke

    At their best these essays make you long to rush out and read those writers that Calvino is dealing with and considers to be his personal "classics" (e.g. those on Nezami*, Voltaire, Diderot, Stendhal*, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Twain, Conrad, Pasternak*, Hemingway* and Queneau*...quite the majority of them, in fact. But as this this a collection assembled after the author's death, and anyhow like any selection of occasional essays from across four decades of a career, there are also i At their best these essays make you long to rush out and read those writers that Calvino is dealing with and considers to be his personal "classics" (e.g. those on Nezami*, Voltaire, Diderot, Stendhal*, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Twain, Conrad, Pasternak*, Hemingway* and Queneau*...quite the majority of them, in fact. But as this this a collection assembled after the author's death, and anyhow like any selection of occasional essays from across four decades of a career, there are also included here those essays which are a bit of a chore to read, which require you to have already read the writers, or read them recently in order to really "get" the pieces (e.g. those on Ovid, Ariosto, James, Gadda, Montale, Ponge, and (alas!) Borges. A very good innings, then, all in all, and now I long to also revisit the maestro's own fiction, which I haven't done for some years.... *note: the starred essays were particularly moving, and/or seminal—reflecting, no doubt, Calvino's affinity for, and sympathy with, his subjects, as much as his remarkable erudition, which is evident always & everywhere throughout, albeit with great modesty and elegance....

  9. 4 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

    Calvino lists off a lot of the writers he considers classics: Homer, Tolstoy, Ovid, Pasternak, Bergerac. Made me want to read Pliny. Pavese, Xenophon, Dickens, Balzac, Gadda, Hemingway, Borges. Covers ancients and moderns. Points out common threads between them, and how each approaches their art seriously, but in unique ways, conveying a particular aesthetic and conception of the world. I tend to agree that a classic should be reread, that we all need to define our own set of classics, that a librar Calvino lists off a lot of the writers he considers classics: Homer, Tolstoy, Ovid, Pasternak, Bergerac. Made me want to read Pliny. Pavese, Xenophon, Dickens, Balzac, Gadda, Hemingway, Borges. Covers ancients and moderns. Points out common threads between them, and how each approaches their art seriously, but in unique ways, conveying a particular aesthetic and conception of the world. I tend to agree that a classic should be reread, that we all need to define our own set of classics, that a library should be composed both of books we have read and intend to reread and about half of which books we have yet to read. When we read classics for the second time in fact, in some cases we are reading them for the first time. Calvino's clear arguments are compelling and interesting, whether you have read works by the author he is discussing or not. It is not a perfect prescriptive list of authors for you to read, but it will allow you to consider new angles to authors you have undoubtedly heard a lot about. He even includes one obscure Eastern work (not readily available in English) amid the above-mentioned and the go-to Italian works, like Orlando Furioso. Traditionally, Eastern authors are ignored in compendiums like this one, and I often wish great Western authors read more Chinese, Japanese, Indian and other non-European classics. Hence why I avoid a lot of Harold Bloom's books. But there is much to be gained from analyzing the Western archetypes, defining and redefining the heroes. Is every story either an Odyssey or an Iliad? I doubt it. But the generalizations critics make are not useless. You don't have to agree with them to appreciate their viewpoints. I was not impressed with the Stendhal I've read, but Calvino convinced me to give his works another shot. I already knew Flaubert was brilliant, but the inter-textual anecdotes Calvino provided were valuable. Still, I would not consider Calvino an authority on these matters, especially since he read most of the foreign works in Italian translation. Leopardi and Borges seem to have a bit closer understanding of the non-canonical works. And he is astute enough to encourage the reader to not read outside sources, that the primary texts are all you need. It is almost an invitation to drop the book you are reading and go read the classics themselves instead. That is the best advice in the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Just found my old copy of this at my parent’s house this Xmas eve. Flicking through I am reminded why I recalled it so fondly. Excellent pieces on Tirant lo Blanc (which i still need to read!), Diderot, Gadda, Montale, Queneau, Dickens and many more. Recommended to any and all book lovers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    I was prescribed this book for an MA I am about to start this September, though this was actually very convient for me as I have been meaning to read this for a while. Essentially, this collection of essays are calvino espousing what he loves about some of his favourite authors and works of fiction. It's organised in a general chronological order of when an author was active (Homer before Hemingway). The real joy that comes from reading this collection is the the unbridled enthusiasm Calvino has f I was prescribed this book for an MA I am about to start this September, though this was actually very convient for me as I have been meaning to read this for a while. Essentially, this collection of essays are calvino espousing what he loves about some of his favourite authors and works of fiction. It's organised in a general chronological order of when an author was active (Homer before Hemingway). The real joy that comes from reading this collection is the the unbridled enthusiasm Calvino has for the works he is reviewing. In one essay he goes back to a poet he had been taught in school and compares the poet's works to the misremembered lines that calvino has had floating in his brain since adolescence and endeavours to understand *why* exactly his brain changed the phrasing or the metre. This collection has really opened me up to authors I never had a interest in reading, or even knew existed. So far I've bought a copy of Pliny the Elder's Natural History and have decided to try and get my hands on some of the works of Balzac, Ariosto, Montale, Francis Ponge, and Jorge Luis Borges. One shortcoming is that the collection is entirely filled with male authors (unless I seriously missed something), however I'd most likely put that down to history being unkind to female writers, also this collection was not organised by him as its publication was posthumous.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Italo Calvino brilliantly review some most known classics, such as: Odissey by Homer Anabase by Xenofante Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand Robison Crusoe by Daniel Defoe Candide by Voltaire Jacques le Fataliste by Denis Diderot La Chartreuse de Parma by Stendhal Our Mutual Friend by Dickens Daisy Miller by Henry James Doctor Jivago by Boris Pasternak among many other celebrated authors.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Esther

    Calvino is not only a brilliant author but also an enigmatic bookworm. He weaves his multi-layered logic with the specific authors and books he’s referencing (one author per essay; 36 essays). If one have read the author/book he’s referencing, it’ll add deeper insights/logic of thought. If not read yet, one’ll be encouraged to read that author/book ASAP. Highlights: Ovid and Universal Contiguity Candide, or Concerning Narrative Rapidity The City as Novel in Balzac Jorge Luis Borges The Philosophy of Calvino is not only a brilliant author but also an enigmatic bookworm. He weaves his multi-layered logic with the specific authors and books he’s referencing (one author per essay; 36 essays). If one have read the author/book he’s referencing, it’ll add deeper insights/logic of thought. If not read yet, one’ll be encouraged to read that author/book ASAP. Highlights: Ovid and Universal Contiguity Candide, or Concerning Narrative Rapidity The City as Novel in Balzac Jorge Luis Borges The Philosophy of Raymond Queneau Notes: P83: The Book of Nature in Galileo Philosophy is written in this enormous book which is continuously open before our eyes (I mean the universe), but it cannot be understood unless one first understands the language and recognises the characters with which it is written. It is written in a mathematical language, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures. Without knowledge of his medium it is impossible to understand a single word of it; without this knowledge it is like wandering hopelessly through a dark labyrinth. (Il Saggiatore - Galileo) P124: Knowledge as Dust-cloud in Stendhal Stendhal claims, ‘there is no originality in truth except in the details’. P197: The World is an Artichoke The world’s reality presents itself to our eyes as multiple, prickly, and as densely superimposed layers. Like an artichoke. What counts for us in a work of literature is the possibility of being able to continue to unpeel it like a never-ending artichoke, discovering more and more new dimensions in reading. P223: Francis Ponge Re: read FP’s The Voices of Things Instructions for use are: a few pages every evening will provide a reading which is at one with Ponge’s method of sending out words like tentacles over the porous and variegated substance of the world. P240: Jorge Luis Borges The osmosis between what happens in literature and in real life: the ideal source is not some mythical event that took place before the verbal expression, but a text which is a tissue of words and images and meanings, a harmonisation of motifs which find echoes in each other, a musical space in which a theme develops its own variations. P241: The power of the written word is, then linked to lived experience both as the source and the end of that experience. As a source, because it becomes equivalent of an event which otherwise would not have taken place, as it were; as an end, because for Borges the written word that counts is the one that makes a strong impact on the collective imagination, as an emblematic or conceptual figure, made to be remembered and recognised whenever it appears, whether in the past or in the future. ..maximum concentration of meanings in the brevity of his texts. Re: Borges ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’. The hypothesis about time are put forward in TGOFP are each contained (and almost hidden) in just a few lines. First there is an idea of constant time, a kind of subjective, absolute present (‘I reflected that everything happens to a man in this very moment of now. Centuries and centuries, but events happen only in the present; countless men in the air, on land and sea, and everything that really happens, happens to me..’). Then an idea of time determined by will, the time of an action decided on once and for all, in which the future would present itself as irrevocable as the past. Lastly, the story’s central idea: a multiple, ramified time in which every present instant splits into two futures, so as to form ‘an expanding, dizzying web of divergent, convergent and parallel times’. This idea of an infinity of contemporary universes, in which all possibilities are realized in all possible combinations, is not a digression from the story, but the very condition which is required so that the..

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    The short answer to the question posed in the title if this book is: For Love. For the joy of reading. To discover, for oneself, what books you will consider personal classics. Calvino does an excellent job in communicating why certain books and writers are, for him, the stars by which he navigated his own course through the literary firmament. I loved the piece on Hemingway in which Calvino explains the personal importance Hemingway holds even while acknowledging the limitations of his worldvie The short answer to the question posed in the title if this book is: For Love. For the joy of reading. To discover, for oneself, what books you will consider personal classics. Calvino does an excellent job in communicating why certain books and writers are, for him, the stars by which he navigated his own course through the literary firmament. I loved the piece on Hemingway in which Calvino explains the personal importance Hemingway holds even while acknowledging the limitations of his worldview. I love how passionate he gets about The Charterhouse of Parma - so passionate that I might give it a try....maybe. But best of all for me was the short piece on a French writer I have never heard of; Francis Ponge. In the piece on Ponge I see how heavily Ponge's microcosmic evaluations of everyday things (or at least this is how Calvino reads Ponge, I have never read Ponge) remind me very much of Calvino's own way of writing, particularly in the Cosmicomics stories. Now I must read Ponge!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jakub

    A great collection of thought provoking musings on the literature admired by Calvino. Most of it "global" classics but some not so well known outside of Italy. As with such musings, they show how Calvino views literature and what he values. A great read to pick out and read one by one at an easy pace. A great collection of thought provoking musings on the literature admired by Calvino. Most of it "global" classics but some not so well known outside of Italy. As with such musings, they show how Calvino views literature and what he values. A great read to pick out and read one by one at an easy pace.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Iluvatar .

    Very interesting study about literature, greek-roman poetry and science. Every chapter is from a published essay from different times. Some chapters are about : The Odessa , Ovid , Stendhal , Tolstoy, Dickens, Balzac , Conrad , Pasternak and Borges . and more interesting people and literary works , a book worth reading and Calvino proves he is a capable writer and literary critic .

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Calvino is somewhat less charming as a literary critic than as a novelist. The introductory essay, "Why Read the Classics?," is an old favorite of mine, and I was glad to revisit it. But from there on out, I was mostly left cold. Granted, I hadn't read most of the books he was discussing-- Ovid, Xenophon, Pavese, Gadda, Montale, certain works by Flaubert-- so I was bound to be a bit less engaged than someone who had read the books in question. But even when I had read them (Stendhal, Homer) I wa Calvino is somewhat less charming as a literary critic than as a novelist. The introductory essay, "Why Read the Classics?," is an old favorite of mine, and I was glad to revisit it. But from there on out, I was mostly left cold. Granted, I hadn't read most of the books he was discussing-- Ovid, Xenophon, Pavese, Gadda, Montale, certain works by Flaubert-- so I was bound to be a bit less engaged than someone who had read the books in question. But even when I had read them (Stendhal, Homer) I wasn't terribly impressed. A notable exception: his essay on Hemingway is excellent, largely because it's one of the few writings on the man that manages to transcend both worship of and vicious hatred of Ernest H. Calvino is still probably my favorite writer ever-- if anyone is reading this, there's next to nothing of his stuff on my GoodReads profile because I devoured most of it in high school and college-- but this is easily the weakest of his works that I've encountered.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This book was not exactly what I expected... Previous to reading this book, I thought it would be a long essay about the importance of reading the classics, and I was hoping to find in it important arguments and thoughts ont his topic; given that we live in an era where appreciation of the classics is declining, and in some situations these oeuvres are even being attacked. However, this book turned out to be a collection of essays that Calvino has written about multiple classics, starting with s This book was not exactly what I expected... Previous to reading this book, I thought it would be a long essay about the importance of reading the classics, and I was hoping to find in it important arguments and thoughts ont his topic; given that we live in an era where appreciation of the classics is declining, and in some situations these oeuvres are even being attacked. However, this book turned out to be a collection of essays that Calvino has written about multiple classics, starting with some ancient texts, until arriving to some of the more "modern" classics. These essays have proven to be an interesting read, full of Calvino's deep thought and witticisms, and as such are a valuable collection. It was also delightful to converse with a mind such as Calvino's and learn some of his ways for "analysing" texts. The title of the book may be a bit misleading, but the content is great nevertheless.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Little bit uneven! Loved his essay on Homer, but the Borges one was surprisingly ineffective for me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pritam Chattopadhyay

    Why would we read a classic at all? How critically is a Classic taken today? Can it contend for our consideration with topics as perceptibly germane as politics or science or economics? The central conviction of Calvino in this work is that reading a Classic is no less than a transformative understanding, a journey unlike any other. He says:” classic is a work which persists as background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway. The fact remains that reading the c Why would we read a classic at all? How critically is a Classic taken today? Can it contend for our consideration with topics as perceptibly germane as politics or science or economics? The central conviction of Calvino in this work is that reading a Classic is no less than a transformative understanding, a journey unlike any other. He says:” classic is a work which persists as background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway. The fact remains that reading the classics seems to be at odds with our pace of life, which does not tolerate long stretches of time, or the space for humanist otium; and also with the eclecticism of our culture which would never be able to draw up a catalogue of classic works to suit our own times.” The thirty-six essays in this most magnificent tome teaches you that: **A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading. **A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before. **A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers. **The classics are those books which come to us bearing the aura of previous interpretations, and trailing behind them the traces they have left in the culture or cultures (or just in the languages and customs) through which they have passed. A classic book is the transcript of human life into language. That venture is not as simple as it sounds, because life is not language. In this regard, writers are trailblazers and pioneers, colonists of sorts, conquering worlds and bringing them into language, sharing them with us, and making them available to us. One might think of language as an umbilical cord that serves as a conduit through which we may enter into communication with the world of others. It seems that real experience is abstracted when it comes to us as language, but the opposite may be true: Only via classics do we wake up to the startling reaches of life. Kafka had said: “Art is the ax that chops into our frozen sea.” In real life, we are locked into our own bodies and minds. All the rest—the reality of others—is, to some extent, guesswork for us. A Classic opens up a world that would or else be opaque and unknowable and enables us to investigate our own inner reaches.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    In fairness, let me start by saying I didn't read this cover to cover-- I skipped around and ultimately only read about 2/3 of the content. This is a collection of essays on works that Calvino considered Classic. Many of them are firmly in the English Literature canon, but some of them are little more obscure and unfamiliar. If you know the work being discussed, the observations and theories are particularly interesting, but if you don't it feels a little like showing up for class without having In fairness, let me start by saying I didn't read this cover to cover-- I skipped around and ultimately only read about 2/3 of the content. This is a collection of essays on works that Calvino considered Classic. Many of them are firmly in the English Literature canon, but some of them are little more obscure and unfamiliar. If you know the work being discussed, the observations and theories are particularly interesting, but if you don't it feels a little like showing up for class without having done the reading. I found the title essay the most useful.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    Interesting book that tours circa 25 of Calvino's must reads. Some very interesting insights into books by some interesting Italian authors/novels like Cesare Pavese, the charterhouse of parma, but also touches some of the greek classics like ovid's metamorphosis and the iliad. Will certainly be buying some of the books recommended in this book. Interesting book that tours circa 25 of Calvino's must reads. Some very interesting insights into books by some interesting Italian authors/novels like Cesare Pavese, the charterhouse of parma, but also touches some of the greek classics like ovid's metamorphosis and the iliad. Will certainly be buying some of the books recommended in this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    180413: the first essay 'why read the classics' is reason enough for the rating. but then, I like Calvino... the only problem is that i have not read many of these, so my reviews will not exceed borges's reviews of hypothetical books. it is also interesting to read reviews that consider political expression eg hemingway, pasternak... 180413: the first essay 'why read the classics' is reason enough for the rating. but then, I like Calvino... the only problem is that i have not read many of these, so my reviews will not exceed borges's reviews of hypothetical books. it is also interesting to read reviews that consider political expression eg hemingway, pasternak...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Colin Bruce Anthes

    I did not read every page of this collection of essays, but only for the best of reasons. Calvino gives each classic in such enticing life, and I so often had to put aside his commentary because it too successfully made me want to read the book itself. My "ideal library" has expanded substantially through this reading, and that is a gift indeed. Additionally, the opening essay, from which the collection takes its name, is one of the finest and most enjoyable bits of theory I've encountered. I'll I did not read every page of this collection of essays, but only for the best of reasons. Calvino gives each classic in such enticing life, and I so often had to put aside his commentary because it too successfully made me want to read the book itself. My "ideal library" has expanded substantially through this reading, and that is a gift indeed. Additionally, the opening essay, from which the collection takes its name, is one of the finest and most enjoyable bits of theory I've encountered. I'll conclude with an except which could well be applied to this collection: "4. A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much a sense of discovery as the first reading. "5. A classic is a book which even when we read it for the irst time gives the sense of something we have red before."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sean Carman

    In this wonderful collection of short essays, Calvino writes about his favorite literary works, from the forgotten fantastical Medieval epic poem Orlando Furioso, which Calvino describes as a Western pre-cursor to The Arabian Nights, to Stendahl's masterpieces The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma. There are also essays on Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, and Jorge Louis Borges. The title is a little misleading: Apart from the brief introductory essay, Calvino does not lecture the reader In this wonderful collection of short essays, Calvino writes about his favorite literary works, from the forgotten fantastical Medieval epic poem Orlando Furioso, which Calvino describes as a Western pre-cursor to The Arabian Nights, to Stendahl's masterpieces The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma. There are also essays on Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, and Jorge Louis Borges. The title is a little misleading: Apart from the brief introductory essay, Calvino does not lecture the reader on the importance of reading the classics, nor does he offer a defense for their relevance. Instead, he celebrates his literary influences in his typically intelligent and entertaining style.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Arden

    best essay is the title one as per usual

  28. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Wooldridge

    Why Read the Classics? by Italian writer Italo Calvino is a collection of 36 essays, all previously published in various magazines and journals, and brought together here for the first time, which demonstrates the extensive breadth of the author's own reading, and in which he writes with eloquence about what he considers to be 'classic' books and authors. As to the definition of a 'classic', Calvino deals with this in the opening chapter, contemplating the elements that might contribute to a piec Why Read the Classics? by Italian writer Italo Calvino is a collection of 36 essays, all previously published in various magazines and journals, and brought together here for the first time, which demonstrates the extensive breadth of the author's own reading, and in which he writes with eloquence about what he considers to be 'classic' books and authors. As to the definition of a 'classic', Calvino deals with this in the opening chapter, contemplating the elements that might contribute to a piece of writing deemed as such. Accordingly, he provides the reader with a dozen or more potential definitions for a 'classic', incorporating elements such as impact, memorability, innovation, importance, style, use of language, plot and character development, amongst other virtues. Ultimately, he does not settle on a particular definition, inviting the reader to choose their own, and whatever is chosen will be right. Of the texts and authors discussed in this collection of essays, some I have read, others I have heard of but not read, and others were completely unknown to me. In the latter group, they were mostly Europeans, often Calvino's fellow Italians, and in some cases poets (which is usually outside the scope of my preferred reading). Some of the better known authors that Calvino writes about include, Stevenson, Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemingway and Conrad. The essays are generally quite short (as magazine articles generally are), and quite academic in style. They appear to have been written for an audience that has accomplished tertiary qualifications in Literature, or even for Calvino's personal amusement. Some were easier to digest than others, and it certainly helped if I was familiar with the author or text being discussed. Others went completely over my head, and were dry and inaccessible to my tiny brain. Overall, this is one for the scholars, or those with aspirations in that direction, and I doubt that it would have a broad appeal amongst general readers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    A collection of essays by the late Italian author on the classics starting from the ancient Greeks to Raymond Queneau. Mostly short and mostly enlightening. As with all collections, some essays were better than others. The problem with a book like this is that I now want to read the books mentioned that I have not already read. Standing out for me was the essays on Stendhal, Robinson Crusoe, and Dickens' Out Mutual Friend. I'm sure you will find others. A collection of essays by the late Italian author on the classics starting from the ancient Greeks to Raymond Queneau. Mostly short and mostly enlightening. As with all collections, some essays were better than others. The problem with a book like this is that I now want to read the books mentioned that I have not already read. Standing out for me was the essays on Stendhal, Robinson Crusoe, and Dickens' Out Mutual Friend. I'm sure you will find others.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Raum

    Italo Calvino is my favorite author: I love the elegant lightness of his writing style, and the way he can be refreshing and original even when he deals with the most difficult topics. Some authors become like friends, and for me Calvino is a sort of 'uncle'. Imagine what happens when an author you consider a friend talks about those books that you read and reread -- those books that have been with you in an important phase of your life, and that even after years are like family members you want Italo Calvino is my favorite author: I love the elegant lightness of his writing style, and the way he can be refreshing and original even when he deals with the most difficult topics. Some authors become like friends, and for me Calvino is a sort of 'uncle'. Imagine what happens when an author you consider a friend talks about those books that you read and reread -- those books that have been with you in an important phase of your life, and that even after years are like family members you want to visit now and then. Meanwhile, the books are still the same, but you -- the reader -- have changed and carry new questions with you. Will those beloved books give you the answers? I think so. Those books are 'my' (or your) classics.

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