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t zero by Italo Calvino

t zero (edition 1976)

by Italo Calvino

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6551014,692 (3.83)6
Title:t zero
Authors:Italo Calvino
Info:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1976), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 152 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:italian, fiction, oulipo, short stories

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t zero by Italo Calvino


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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I never know where I will end up when reading anything by Italo Calvino, but I do know that I will be in for an interesting journey. Having studied way too much physics and math for most anthropologists, I enjoyed letting my mind wander through Calvino's earthly evolution. The part that always seems to stick out in my mind of this book is when the narrator and Sybil are sitting on the back porch watching the moon disintegrate.
  VeritysVeranda | Sep 29, 2013 |
*note to self. Copy from A. different cover and edition (scan when read)
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Où l'on assiste aux derniers jours de Qfwfq, à sa mort, et à ce qui vient ensuite. Pour commencer, les aventures des Cosmicomics se poursui-vent. De la même façon que Qfwfq y avait vécu l'apparition des couleurs, la fin des dinosaures, et dix autres choses, il nous raconte maintenant comment des morceaux de la lune sont tombés sur la terre, comment apparurent les oiseaux, qu'on n'attendait plus, comment le monde terrestre faillit devenir en tout et pour tout un énorme cristal. Cela se termine par un accident de la route, mortel. Alors, dans une deuxième partie, se développe le Credo, ou plutôt le De natura rerum qfwfquéen, ou Des cellules et de l'amour : et c'est la seconde mort de Qfwfq. (' Dans la reproduction asexuée, écrit George Bataille, l'être simple qu'est la cellule se divise en un point de sa croissance... il apparaît dans sa mort un instant fondamental de continuité de deux êtres. ') Après quoi, viennent les récits, qui ne commencent ni ne finis-sent du ' temps zéro ' : une chasse au lion à l'arc, une poursuite automobile de série noire dans un embouteillage, une femme et deux hommes à la recherche les uns des autres avec trois télé-phones et trois voitures - récits où Qfwfq n'est plus qu'au mieux Q (le chasseur) attendant l'instant, qui n'arrive pas, où F (la flèche) atteindra ou non L (le lion), qui s'élance. Pour finir, celui qui parle encore, c'est Edmond Dantès, quelque part entre le château d'If, les îles de Monte-Cristo, d'Elbe, de Sainte-Hélène, et la table de travail d'Alexandre Dumas : ' De ma cellule, il m'est difficile de dire comment est fait ce château d'If où depuis tant d'années je me trouve prison-nier... '
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
The first two sections of this book are essentially a reprise of Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, with more adventures of Qfwfq. The first four stories are the same as most of those in Cosmicomics: Qfwfq narrates an episode from his life, inspired by an over-the-top interpretation of contemporary science. (Someday I will write a paper about his portrayal of science, arguing that he is an sf writer at heart.) These manage to be fun satires of scientific principles at the same time they are serious depictions of life, dying, and love. I liked "The Soft Moon," but "The Origin of Birds," which is done in the form of a described comic book, is even better-- it shouldn't work, but does anyway. The adventures of Qfwfq in the middle section, three linked stories, are about his (its?) romance with Priscilla, formed from himself after asexual reproduction. This didn't really engage me. The last section consists of four weird stories of people overthinking their current situations when they are trapped in one moment in time, and I liked these a lot. Especially good were "The Chase," where a man is in a car chase but gets stuck at an awkward traffic light, and "The Night Driver," about a man driving to his lover's home worried that his lover may be driving to him. As always, Calvino mixes science with whimsy and serious meditations with postmodernism to create something (usually) delightful.
1 vote Stevil2001 | Oct 4, 2010 |
This is a bit of a strange mix of stories. Some are narrated by Qfwfq, who tells in first person stories of his experiences as various entities such as a unicellular organism at the creation of the universe. Others read like a well-written, literary version of a physicist's thought experiments.

All are interesting and thought-provoking, but get a little bogged down in places because of the very foreignness of the experiences Calvino is describing. In "Mitosis", for example, Qfwfq is telling of his time as a unicellular organism, but at every word he uses he must stop and explain that really, of course, time, space, identity and other things had no meaning for him then, as he was unaware of anything beyond his own being. Even to speak of being unaware doesn't make sense because it implies an awareness of being unaware, etc etc etc. Basically nothing can be said to really exist or happen in the way we understand things, so it makes it very difficult to tell the story. Good on Calvino for trying, and it mostly comes off, but not always.

I very much liked the imagery of the blood and the sea - the sea being the place where our lives originated, and the blood being the life inside us now. The external becomes internal, the shared becomes separate, cut off from each other. The closest we get to return is death, but even that cannot get us back to the shared, mixed sea in which we all once swam.

The title comes not from the beginning of the universe, as I at first thought, but from one of the 'thought experiments' towards the end. A hunter is shooting an arrow at an attacking lion, and Calvino freezes the action at the moment when the arrow is unleashed but the outcome is still unclear - will it hit the lion, killing it and making the hunter famous, or will it miss, allowing the lion to pounce on the hunter and tear him to pieces?

With time paused, the hunter has time to consider the philosophical implications of his situation. He has a feeling he has been in this situation before, and attributes it to the theory in astrophysics that the universe is currently expanding, but will at some point start to contract again back to a single tiny point, before expanding again. The process is not one of continuous expansion, then, but of a regular pulse, in and out, in and out. To complicate things, it's not just space that contracts and expands, but space-time. So as space contracts, time will also go backwards. In theory, then, the hunter will experience this situation with the lion not just at the current point t zero, but again in reverse, and again as the universe expands again and contracts again (t1, t2, t3, etc.). And he might already have experienced it in past cycles (t-1, t-2, t-3, etc.) In fact, he has no way of knowing whether he is going backwards or forwards in time.

It's all interesting stuff, and I think it's the use of this algebraic notation which gives it a physics thought experiment feel. Even when describing a night-time drive to meet his girlfriend, he calls the girlfriend Y and his potential rival Z, and the towns between which he is driving A and B. The result is a weird, heady mixture, not always entirely satisfying but always innovative and thought-provoking. ( )
1 vote AndrewBlackman | May 6, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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According to the calculations of H. Gerstenkorn, later developed by H. Alfven, the terrestrial continents are simply fragments of the Moon which fell upon our planet.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156924005, Paperback)

A collection of stories about time, space, and the evolution of the universe in which the author blends mathematics with poetic imagination. “Calvino does what very few writers can do: he describes imaginary worlds with the most extraordinary precision and beauty” (Gore Vidal, New York Review of Books). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:36 -0400)

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