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Mr. Palomar

by Italo Calvino

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,627227,647 (3.91)23
A novel of a delightful eccentric on a search for truth, by the renowned author of Invisible Cities.   In The New York Times Book Review, the poet Seamus Heaney praised Mr. Palomar as a series of "beautiful, nimble, solitary feats of imagination." Throughout these twenty-seven intricately structured chapters, the musings of the crusty Mr. Palomar consistently render the world sublime and ridiculous.   Like the telescope for which he is named, Mr. Palomar is a natural observer. "It is only after you have come to know the surface of things," he believes, "that you can venture to seek what is underneath." Whether contemplating a fine cheese, a hungry gecko, or a topless sunbather, he tends to let his meditations stray from the present moment to the great beyond. And though he may fail as an objective spectator, he is the best of company.   "Each brief chapter reads like an exploded haiku," wrote Time Out. A play on a world fragmented by our individual perceptions, this inventive and irresistible novel encapsulates the life's work of an artist of the highest order, "the greatest Italian writer of the twentieth century" (The Guardian).… (more)
  1. 20
    Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (P_S_Patrick)
    P_S_Patrick: Thes two books are in some ways very like each other, and in some ways quite the opposite. In Mr Palomar various locations, things, and thoughts are described precisely with the utmost eloquence and detail, whereas in Invisible Cities, it is one place being described in many different ways, hazy, as if seen through lenses of different qualities, and warping mirrors. But the effect is much the same, both books give you something to think about, make you see things in different ways, and are a pleasure to read. Both books also contain no strong plot, and consist of many small and diverse sections, and in a way, could be dipped into. Where Palomar gets very much into the mind of the protagonist, and his fixed, elaborate, and definite interpretations of reality, Invisible Cities is similar in that the recollections are also told from the point of view of the narrator, but differ each time, none being tied to reality, all of them containing aspects of truth found through how you interpret them. If you enjoyed reading one of these books, you should enjoy the other.… (more)
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» See also 23 mentions

English (17)  Italian (2)  Romanian (1)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Mr. Palomar, Calvino mentions elsewhere, is another one of his literary exercises. It is not as fascinating or developed as Cosmicomics or Winter's Night, but a worthwhile read. Mr. Palomar observes various phenomena, draws cosmic and personal connections, and then moves on. He is more a mouthpiece or a device for the author than a character. The observations are astute and frequently fascinating, though disconnected, arbitrary and exotic. Whether he is examining the sunset or an albino gorilla, our narrator always has a skewed and charming perspective. There is less knowledge and more humor and pathos in these contrived scenes.

An enjoyable, languorous atmosphere beset with gem-like set-pieces. A metaphorical journey through the mind of a literary master and more polished than his other books of reminiscences.

This is still a minor work of slight literary interest, and I would recommend The Cloven Viscount or Nonexistent Knight for those new to the author. ( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
Io AMO Calvino.
Questo è ormai uno dei punti fermi della mia disordinata e informe vita .
Non ho ancora letto tutta la sua bibliografia, ma intendo farlo.
Palomar è uno dei suoi scritti che mi ha conquistata dalla prima pagina, anzi credo che il primo racconto-osservazione possa essere il mio preferito (lettura di un'onda).
Palomar è un uomo ossessionato dal bisogno di descrivere pienamente ciò che vede, ma il suo compito non si risolve in uno sterile elenco di "cose viste". Egli è spinto dal profondo desiderio di capire quello che lo circonda. La descrizione febbrile e minuziosa dell'onda (così come del prato e le erbe che vi crescono) rivela un bisogno di affondare le mani nella realtà delle cose. La buona osservazione produce e presuppone anche una comprensione profonda (almeno un primo abbozzo).
Palomar sembra un osservatore molto alienato dal resto del mondo, forse freddo, apatico di primo impatto, è in realtà un uomo profondamente sensibile con una vita interiore in subbuglio. Riflette sul mondo esterno, sull'universo, sui rapporti e sulle convenzioni sociali e su quanto queste siano limitate, quasi friabili come la sabbia su cui cammina al mare e talvolta il suo riflettere troppo porta alla situazione finale d'imbarazzo. Palomar riflette su se stesso e per me il senso di alienazione maggiore si sete proprio quando quest'osservatore osserva sé.
I pensieri di Palomar possono sembrare a tratti macchinosi, catalogatori, per qualcuno, peggio ancora "scientifici", ma questo per me è un altro punto a favore del libro. Spendiamo un paio di parole tanto per ricordare che materie scientifiche e umanistiche non sono mondi opposti e il divario che fra esse si è creato (e non mancano quasi mai i reciprochi sorrisetti di superiorità o disprezzo dalle due parti del varco, ahimè) è ridicolo e privo di significato.
In Palomar Calvino trova la bellezza nell'osservazione (quasi) scientifica e la esprime in maniera semplice e bella, quasi non ci fosse altro modo per parlare di ciò che il personaggio (Calvino?) vede: dalla luna che da spettro pomeridiano prende consistenza di luce, ai lontani pianeti di Giove e Saturno (bianco e luminoso con un segno scuro che rende il distacco con gli anelli), fino alle onde dove forse la complessità descrittiva è maggiore per tutti i contributi ondosi da considerare, tanto che ad un certo punto bisogna accontentarsi e andare. Forse le onde sono complesse quanto lo sono i rapporti sociali, con relative convenzioni e tutto il significato che queste portano con loro, e ancora sono complesse quanto lo stesso io di chi osserva: Palomar o Calvino.
Palomar è in fondo l'alter ego di Calvino e mai mi è sembrato di aver così vicino l'autore mentre leggevo il libro. Nel momento in cui osservando le stelle il nostro amico si contorce fra mappe, torce, stelle in cielo nella mia mente aveva le fattezze di Calvino ( e forse sono folle io), il punto è che mi ha restituito una scena reale, con la lieve ironia di sempre, tanto che non mi sarei meravigliata di ritrovarmi davanti agli occhi lo scrittore che tenta malamente di guardare le stelle. Questo per me non è affatto poco.
Bene, ho sproloquiato abbastanza e non ho nemmeno ancora finito il libro! ( )
  Polpofemo | Mar 16, 2019 |
Harold Bloom mentions in How to Read and Why (pp.64-66) why Italo Calvino was one of the greatest short story writers and refers specifically to Calvino's "wisdom" (p. 64). Calvino's wisdom is not wanting in this collection of short stories centred on the life of Mr Palomar. Each section of the book focuses on a particular activity of Mr Palomar's in various locations, with each story within the theme based around a particular sub-theme. I have often read of literary "constellations" (p. 107), where literature in sum forms "an imaginary outline or meaningful pattern" not in the sky, but in the mind. At first, Mr Palomar appears to be suffering from some kind of introverted social awkwardness. Yet as the stories progress, Calvino's wisdom shines through as I began to identify with Palomar and to see his own wisdom beyond his apparent social ineptitude. What I discovered was that Mr Palomar was self-aware, to the point where he is conscious of his failings yet continues to deceive himself. Yet (p. 107):The universe can perhaps go tranquilly about its business; he surely cannot. The road left open to him is this: he will devote himself from now on to the knowing of himself, he will explore his own inner geography, he will draw the diagram of the moods of his spirit, he will derive from it formulas and theories, he will train his telescope on the orbits of the course of his life rather than those of the constellations.Here is where I made the connection with Bloom. Bloom often writes of characters "overhearing" themselves, but Calvino makes Mr Palomar "overlook" himself, finding:We can know nothing about what is outside us, if we overlook ourselves... the universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves.This link between the individual and environment echoes James Allen's "environment is but his looking glass" (Calvino writes "The universe as mirror") when writing of the interaction between inner and outer life (but with a sense of manifestation of inward conditions on the outside). Palomar laments that he is not like this (104): To the man who is friend of the universe, the universe is a friend. Recently, I have been learning more about induction versus deduction in terms of my academic work. Here, Calvino outlines how Mr Palomar is a deductivist (p. 98), rather than an inductivist, and how Palomar likes to construct models of principles and experience, and to force things into the model when experience fails to live up to his model. Yet for all Mr Palomar's attempts to remain aloof, his models never fit, and when he looks away from the rational geometric designs of his models, he sees human suffering, much like a person who tries to deny their emotions until the pot boils over and the emotions spill out. I came to see much of myself, and dare I say much of all of us, in Mr Palomar. The stories seem to grow like a human, from childhood to adolescence, to age and wisdom. My fondness for Mr Palomar grew as his journey progressed. There is much material for introspection in this work, and I found that my selfish desire to introspect through, rather than with, Mr Palomar, was forgiven by Calvino at the conclusion. A remarkable work with a tenor that does not, to the best of my knowledge, exist anywhere in Anglophone writing. ( )
  madepercy | Dec 26, 2018 |
I'd started reading this book a long time ago but didn't get very far for reasons long since forgotten. Having just re-read the brilliant 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller', I picked it up again. Being by Calvino, one of my literary heroes, I knew it would never be less than interesting.

The book has no story as such at all, comprising a series of reflections. That rules it out for all of those readers who like their fiction to be plot-driven. And in the hands of another writer, this might be a recipe for tedium. Calvino, of course, wasn't just another writer. In William Weaver's translation, the prose is beautifully spare and exact. The melancholic, philosopher-fool Palomar is a wonderful invention. His meditations upon anything from waves to a gecko to a Parisian cheese shop are a joy, at once comic and profound. 'Mr Palomar' reminds me of Bodil Malmstem's 'The Price of Water in Finistère'. It is a Tardis of a book - outwardly slight and yet, between its covers, gaining in depth and weight. ( )
  PZR | Jul 28, 2018 |
I wanted to give this book one star as I "did not like it", but out of respect for many admiring readers of it here, give it two stars instead. I am now finished with my subjection of Italo Calvino. He just does not do it for me. Sorry. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beeke, AntonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ryömä, LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A novel of a delightful eccentric on a search for truth, by the renowned author of Invisible Cities.   In The New York Times Book Review, the poet Seamus Heaney praised Mr. Palomar as a series of "beautiful, nimble, solitary feats of imagination." Throughout these twenty-seven intricately structured chapters, the musings of the crusty Mr. Palomar consistently render the world sublime and ridiculous.   Like the telescope for which he is named, Mr. Palomar is a natural observer. "It is only after you have come to know the surface of things," he believes, "that you can venture to seek what is underneath." Whether contemplating a fine cheese, a hungry gecko, or a topless sunbather, he tends to let his meditations stray from the present moment to the great beyond. And though he may fail as an objective spectator, he is the best of company.   "Each brief chapter reads like an exploded haiku," wrote Time Out. A play on a world fragmented by our individual perceptions, this inventive and irresistible novel encapsulates the life's work of an artist of the highest order, "the greatest Italian writer of the twentieth century" (The Guardian).

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