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Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino


by Italo Calvino

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (35)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
I've ranted before about the star system here on Goodreads (all the more appropriate à propos 'Cosmicomics' with its cosmological concerns). Compared to much else out there, this is a five-star read - the sheer inventiveness, the humour, the liveliness of the prose... But how else to indicate that these stories weren't quite in the same league as 'Invisible Cities', say, or the novellas that comprise the trilogy, 'Our Ancestors'?

Anyway, here 'old Qwfwq' informs us about the origins of the universe and of life, events to which he has personally borne witness. The scenarios allow Calvino to indulge in a series of surrealist cosmic jokes. The very best of the stories did show the great man at the peak of his form. I enjoyed particularly 'The Light Years' in which messages are sent across the universe over a million centuries and 'The Aquatic Uncle' where Qwfwq's love interest falls in love with his mother's brother who happens to be a coelacanth-like fish.

No doubt, there's a philosophical point being made here about our smallness in relation to the vastness of time and the universe, but this being Calvino, he delivers it in as flippant a manner as possible. And its lineage is clear to see in Douglas Adams' 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and his many imitators. ( )
  PZR | Jul 28, 2018 |
I'm afraid I've really grown to dislike this stuff. ( )
  triphopera | Apr 14, 2018 |
SO MUCH Is packed into this tiny novel. This is not really a novel. This was a masterpiece.
Italo managed to make very complex scientific theories VERY SIMPLE and INTRIGUING. He made the world so much easier to understand for idiots like me. He validated many question I have had about evolution, Universe, dinosaurs, etc. My brain simply shuts down when it comes to scientific theories like of course, The Big Bang theory... etc
If Italo were here right now I would buy him a really fancy bottle of wine and cook him a feast to thank him for this beautiful piece of Literature.
Why isn't this required reading in school?
also: I want all of his work, right now! ( )
1 vote XoVictoryXo | Jun 28, 2017 |
The form for the short stories in this book is that Calvino takes one of man’s latest findings about the universe or evolution, states it in the first paragraph, and then builds a creative, impossible story around it, narrated by a being called ‘Qfwfq’, and including others with mathematical or scientific type names, such as Dean (k)yK, or Mrs. Ph(i)Nk0.

These intelligent, human like beings inhabit space particles or live hundreds of millions of years, and yet have foibles like little attractions and jealousies, or needing to scratch themselves on the early grainy matter of the solar system. Children will play marbles with atoms along spacetime’s curves. A newly evolved creature on land will argue with the old Uncle who believes that land-living is going to be a ‘limited phenomeon’. Two beings will bet on events in the early universe, starting with supernova formation and then quickly getting into mundane things in mankind’s history on the earth, begging the question whether what we do is pre-ordained or not. Observers on earth and distant planets will communicate with signs that take 100 million years to reach one another. A sightless mollusk will make the eyes of others possible, and ‘see’ his loved one through the images collected by those eyes.

In short, in all this dancing across time and space, anything is possible, and the stories are uniquely playful. While the concepts and names sound nerdy, there is a lightness throughout Calvino’s writing. In making his characters transcend the limitations we humans are bound to, he seems to gently point out how small we are in the universe, but at the same time how One we are with it, and to each other. ( )
3 vote gbill | Feb 2, 2016 |
Calvino's novel is similar to Borges in the high-concept, borderline metaphysical premises, but more focused on the characters rather than following all the consequences of that premise. That's not to say that Borges isn't emotional; one of his under-appreciated gifts, and one lacking in most of his wanna-be successors, was in wringing emotional grist out of his evocative images and premises. Instead, Calvino isn't afraid to weave a separate emotional story onto the premise, or wander off-topic as he continues down the tale.

Indeed, Calvino is more interested in using the outlandish settings to more literally represent emotions and relationships that exist in our own lives, albeit in more subtler forums. For example, one of the stories depicts the transition of some species from the land to the sea—but struggling with relatives who have refused to make the change, and seem stuck in their ways yet still insist on their own wisdom.. Our narrator's girlfriend is thoroughly habituated to the land, and he fears of the consequences if he introduces her to his great-uncle. Even if we aren't amphibian, can't we recognize this tale?

This sort of panpsychism pervades the stories, with our narrator Qfwfq taking the form of a dinosaur, a mollusk, pre-creation matter, and more. Calvino's painstaking efforts to depict the sensory experiences of these creatures are what lends the book a poetic edge, since you rarely see those kinds of explorations in prose. There are exceptions of course, like Nagel's "What is it like to be a bat?", but they tend to be specialized forms and not general fiction.

Talking about it with a friend, she mentioned that the book seemed to be more a novel than a collection of short stories, and I'd agree. Resonating throughout many of the stories is love, loss, and dealing with the confluence of the two. Calvino's language is beautiful, yet dwells in melancholy. If this had been his only book I would have thought it a personal obsession, but it instead resonates as a particularly thoughtful thematic choice for a book concerned with the consequences and casualties of cosmic creation. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Italo Calvinoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baranelli, LucaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montale, EugenioContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Una volta, secondo Sir George H. Darwin, la Luna era molto vicina alla Terra. Furono le maree che a poco a poco la spinsero lontano: le maree che lei Luna provoca nelle acque terrestri e in cui la Terra perde lentamente energia.
At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. Then the tides gradually pushed her far away: the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth’s waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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There is a later, expanded work "Complete Cosmicomics" / Tutte le cosmicomiche" that contains significant amount of material that does not exist in this, original edition. Please keep the different editions separate.
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Book description
Colección de todas las cosmicómicas escritas por Italo Calvino.

Table of

The distance of the moon --At daybreak --A sign in space --All at one point --Without colors --Games without end --The aquatic uncle --How much shall we bet? --The dinosaurs --The form of space --The light-years --The spiral.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156226006, Paperback)

An enchanting series of stories about the evolution of the universe. Calvino makes characters out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures. They disport themselves amongst galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen atoms -- and have time for a love life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A series of twelve science-themed short stories by Italian fabulist writer Italo Calvino in which the characters are celestial bodies, physics formulas, and Earth's first life-forms.

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