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Il castello dei destini incrociati by Italo…
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Il castello dei destini incrociati (edition 1998)

by Italo Calvino

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Title:Il castello dei destini incrociati
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The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino

  1. 20
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Two very different approaches to using an oracle, one the Tarot, another the I Ching, to help structure a book's narrative.
  2. 10
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: For those interested in disparate yet intertwining narratives of a somewhat fantastical nature.
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» See also 66 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
This one was a great deal of fun: I was absolutely delighted by this exuberantly postmodern game with literary tropes and retellings.

The castle of the title is located at the centre of a vast forest, where it serves as an inn for a host of inexplicably voiceless guests -- suddenly none of them are able to use their voice. And so they resort to using a pack of tarot cards to tell each other their adventures and the events that led them to this place. This is, of course, a flimsy excuse for Calvino to indulge in a multi-levelled game of connect-the-dots: the stories that he spins off sequences of tarot cards are spurred on by associations, hints, creative liberty, literary allusions and an impish eagerness to take visual details on the card out of context (the symmetrical ten of swords, for instance, is called on to represent opposing armies in one story and a barrier of archangels in another; the ace of cups stands for a forest spring, the fountain of youth, and a magic-beanstalk-type tree). One story’s sequence of cards will, when read the other way, yield a completely different story. And so, as he first builds and then explores his square of cards, Calvino presents a lovely array of stories built around late-medieval, and renaissance-era tropes: retellings of Roland, Faust, Parsifal (among others), even Oedipus in the spirit of courtly romances, Boccaccio and Chaucer.

The second half of the book is similar in setup, but serves as a basis for a retelling of Shakespeare plays, coupled with a few passages of musings on Art and Life that are decidedly Literary Criticism.

It is all a wonderful, tongue-in-cheek game: Calvino only took things seriously enough to adhere to his square of cards to be read in all possible directions. But other than that, it’s sheer indulgence: an erudite, playful writer enthusiastically exploring the worlds of literature and the mechanisms of story construction. More than once Calvino’s boundless enthusiasm reminded me of Borges and his extravagant literary funhouse.

The book must have been an absolute riot to write, and I found it infectious as anything: it made me giggle with delight, repeatedly. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jan 31, 2018 |
having read tarot cards for 20 years i was rather excited, when i seen this made reference to in another book that i wanted to read it. however it's hard to follow and presumptuous. the book starts off with a traveler falling into a castle but lost the power to speak. only to notice that everyone else there is the same way. it's set up in short stories using different tarot cards to tell their story, each one building off of another. unless you know tarot or have an ability to follow it has a small realm of readers that will get it. the writing is confusing. ( )
  tabicham | Jul 22, 2017 |
The images he creates are so beautiful. There's a depth of colour in all of them. I needed this book terribly just now and am glad that I had it in my e-library (though I regret that I did not have the tarot illustrations). ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
The Castle of Crossed Destinies opens with an evocation of Dante's Inferno — the narrator is lost in a dark wood — but then it shifts to an evocation of The Canterbury Tales — various travelers make their way to a castle in a forest. The kicker here is that their misadventures while being lost in the woods have deprived them of their ability to speak. The host produces a deck of tarot cards which they then use to try to communicate their stories by picture and gesture. This deck of cards is the hand-painted Visconti deck from the mid 1400s, which was reproduced and marketed in the 1980s. The book is completely illustrated with each card image as it appears in a story.

The tarot trumps, when viewed in order, are understood to represent the Renaissance idea of a hero's progress as he pursues his quest, but when scattered randomly among the other 56 cards, they merely provide glimpses of character qualities or trials or boons, depending upon the juxtaposition of one card to another. A notion of the medieval court or Renaissance society is doubly invoked through both the setting of this collection of stories and the historic quality of the cards.

But Calvino being Calvino — playful and ironic — and the cards being what they are — ambiguous and subjective of interpretation — most of these stories go in unexpected directions, not necessarily of either the heroic or Chaucerian kind. Over and over again, the cards reveal multiple possibilities of interpretation and demonstrate that they reflect what is in the eye of the beholder at any given moment: ". . . each new card placed on the table explains or corrects the meaning of the preceding cards . . . for the cards conceal more things than they tell . . . each story runs into another story . . . the stories told from left to right or from bottom to top can also be read from right to left or top to bottom . . . the same cards presented in a different order often change their meaning." But this is the way of tarot cards.

The book consists of two parts, the first as described above, set in a castle and using the Italian Renaissance Visconti deck. The second part is set in a tavern and employs the 18th century French Marseille deck. The images are similar between the two decks although some of the cards carry different names. Also, the Renaissance cards were initially used in trick-taking games in which what are called today the "Major Arcana" were then the "greater trumps." No one knows for sure how the game was played. By the 18th century, the Marseille deck had been co-opted for fortune telling and other occult purposes, and this has been the lasting legacy until the later part of the 20th century when countless new decks began to appear which have taken tarot down a Jungian-Campbellian-meditative road. Occultism has taken a back seat to a new incarnation of the heroic quest.

In a postscript Calvino tells us that he wrote these stories so that he could move on from his obsession with the story-telling possibilities of tarot cards: "I realized that tarots were a machine for constructing stories; I thought of a book and I imagined its frame; the mute narrators, the forest, the inn; I was tempted by the diabolical idea of conjuring up all the stories that could be contained in a tarot deck." Of course, with 78 cards the number of iterations would compete with the number of stars in the sky. Before it drove him beyond the pale, he stopped with the two small collections we have here, which grant us a peek into the world of possibilities.

Some of these tales would give even Chaucer's pilgrims pause: "A Grave Robber's Tale," the "Tale of the Vampire's Kingdom." Some reflecting modern issues: "The Surviving Warrior's Tale," in which an army of Amazons defeats battling knights and only one is left to tell about it. Some reference great literature: "The Tale of Roland Crazed with Love" and "Three Tales of Madness and Destruction" which combine Hamlet, Macbeth and Lear all rolled into one.

Not everyone will be charmed by this book, which defies quite a few conventions, but once again Calvino sets himself apart as a master. Indeed, as in so much of his work, there is more here than meets the eye. ( )
6 vote Poquette | Oct 11, 2015 |
"I publish this book to be free of it: it has obsessed me for years."
Wisely, Calvino states this in the "Note" at the end of The Castle of Crossed Destinies". I imagine many readers who happen about the book may wish he hadn't. I am glad he did.

Calvino, along with Kundera and Saramago, was one of the most inventive writers of his generation. This book somehow wins as art, but fails with the heart. I might compare it to those paintings where the artist executes a human head with various vegetables. As an academic and artistic game it is full of fun, but lacks a real soul. However, I never got the feeling that that was the point of this particular book, any more than I got the feeling it was the point of those paintings.

Here is the gist, a group of Chaucer-like pilgrims make their way through a forest, but their experiences in the forest have rendered them speechless. They all come to what might be a castle or a tavern depending on how you look at it. Each wants to tell his tale, but none can speak. Using a deck of tarot cards they begin to vie for the cards so that they might tell their stories of what happened to them in the forest. The cards are depicted alongside the text. As they each tell their tales, as in life, the cards from one's story interlaces with the cards of the others.

As an imaginative treatise of how and why we tell stories, and of the nature of stories and storytelling, this is wonderful fun and a great pleasure to read. As fiction, it is a bit soulless.

"I always feel the need to alternate one type of writing with another, completely different, to begin writing again as if I had never written anything before." Thus Calvino ends the book. And until his death from cancer, that was one thing his readers could be sure of. I wonder what dreams he would be spinning out for us now if he had lived to Saramago's age.


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1 vote lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mitten in einem dichten Wald bot ein Schloß denen Zuflucht, die unterwegs von der Nacht überrascht wurden: Rittern und Damen, königlichen Gefolgen und einfachen Wanderern.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156154552, Paperback)

A series of short, fantastic narratives inspired by fifteenth-century tarot cards and their archetypical images. Full-color and black-and-white reproductions of tarot cards. Translated by William Weaver.A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:06 -0400)

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