‘Cosmicomics’ by Italo Calvino – It’s Cosmic Fun!

 

‘Cosmicomics’ by Italo Calvino (1965) – 151 pages                      Translated from the Italian by William Weaver

It still stuns me that even while I’m standing in one place or sitting or even lying down, I’m traveling through space at thousands of miles an hour.

In ‘Cosmicomics’, Italo Calvino’s playful conceit is that there were people, a family, around to witness the creation of the Universe, the Sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets. Humans with their naive cute notions were there at the time the dinosaurs walked the Earth and the time when dinosaurs became extinct. Humans saw it all, or at least the young guy called Qfwfq and his family saw it all. ‘Cosmicomics’ is a laugh riot, but much more than that.

There’s Grandma, Grandpa, and Mother and Father, as well as the boy and his sister as well as some of their neighbors, and especially there is always a lady or girl friends to help Qfwfq on his way.

Having read some of Italo Calvino’s earlier works such as the ‘The Nonexistent Knight’ and ‘The Baron in the Trees’, I was well familiar and delighted with his playful approach to his fiction. I was a bit afraid that his later work would lose that childlike attitude, but happily in ‘Cosmicomics’ he kept that light-hearted spirit. ‘Cosmicomics’ is great fun to read.

Every story in ‘Cosmicomics’ starts out with a, shall we say, spurious scientific notion. The first story, “The Distance of the Moon”, begins with:

At one time, according to George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth.”

At this point, you may think these stories are very scientific, too scientific to be any fun, and you would be wrong.

So then we proceed to a story about a group in a boat raising a ladder and grabbing a hold of the moon. Actually the story winds up being very romantic, when our hero gets stuck on the moon with his lady love as the moon moves away from Earth. Read it for yourself.

In the second story, ‘At Daybreak’, Father and Mother and Granny are all there as the Earth begins to solidify via the condensation of a shapeless nebula. For the family, the transformation starts out as a troublesome itching for which they all have to scratch themselves.

Italo Calvino was a member of the Parisian literary group Oulipo along with Georges Perec and others. Calvino’s specialty was the short story while Perec wrote long novels, but they are both playful and like to play games with their readers.

Sometimes Calvino’s playful exuberant constructs seem almost magical; other times as he continues with them to the merciful end it feels like he is kicking a dead horse or at least beating a lame construct. Fiction is all about taking chances.

In the third story, ‘ A Sign in Space’, first we are given the information that it takes the Sun 200 million years to make a complete revolution of the Milky Way galaxy. So our hero in the story puts up a sign at a point in space so he can tell when the Sun has made a full revolution.

Italo Calvino puts the fun back in fiction for me.

 

Grade:    A

 

 

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Charles Behlen on December 28, 2020 at 7:22 PM

    As he aged, Gore Vidal came to prize one writer above almost all the others: Italo Calvino.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Charles,
      Yes, I remember Gore Vidal back in the day. I read and liked a couple of his novels, but now it seems that the world has pretty much forgotten him whereas Italo Calvino is probably shining brighter than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. He *is* fun and this is such a wonderful read – one of my favorite Calvinos!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. I’ve struggled with Calvino, but would try short stories. Hope you had a good Christmas, and all the best for 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Annabel,
      One approach to Italo Calvino is to read his very first works like ‘The Nonexistent Knight’ and ‘The Baron in the Trees’. These are simple, easy to follow, and really funny.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  4. I’ve got The Baron in the Trees, but I think I need this one too…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Lisa,
      Both are mighty fine and playful. If I remember correctly ‘The Baron in the Trees’ is a novella while ‘Cosmicomics’ is a collection of related stories.

      Like

      Reply

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