Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Penguin Modern Classics)

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9780141189697: Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Penguin Modern Classics)

Italo Calvino was due to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard in 1985-86, but they were left unfinished at his death. The surviving drafts explore of the concepts of Lightness, Quickness, Multiplicity, Exactitude and Visibility (Constancy was to be the sixth) in serious yet playful essays that reveal Calvino's debt to the comic strip and the folktale. With his customary imagination and grace, he sought to define the virtues of the great literature of the past in order to shape the values of the future. This collection is a brilliant precis of the work of a great writer whose legacy will endure through the millennium he addressed.

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Review:

Italo Calvino cast his lofty thoughts toward the pending millennium long before the rest of us. Now that the zeitgeist has caught up with him, it seems a good time to revisit his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, an investigation into the literary values that he wished to bequeath to future generations. Calvino, the author of Invisible Cities, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, and other postmodern fictional works, was to deliver these five "memos" (there was to be a sixth) as Harvard's Charles Eliot Norton Lectures in 1985-86, but he died before doing so. These lectures are dense, rigorous, and seemingly full of contradiction. The first is a paean to lightness (though "light like a bird," as Paul Valéry wrote, "and not like a feather"). Lightness is followed by quickness (without "presum[ing] to deny the pleasures of lingering"), exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. The perfect antidote to writerly laziness.

From the Back Cover:

The fate of literature and the book in the so-called postindustrial age is being questioned . . . My faith in the future of literature rests on the knowledge that there are things that only literature, with its particular capacities, can give us. from Six Memos for the Next Millennium

At the time of his death, Italo Calvino was at work on six lectures setting forth the qualities in writing he most valued and which he believed would define literature in the century to come. Six Memos for the Next Millennium is Calvino s testament, containing the five lectures he completed. Now in a new translation by poet Geoffrey Brock, these memos form a stirring defense of literature and an indispensable guide to Calvino s own writings. He devotes one lecture each to the concepts of lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity, drawing examples from his vast knowledge of myth, folklore, and works both ancient and modern. Readers will be astonished by the prescience of these lectures, which have only gained in relevance as Calvino s next millennium has dawned.

Italo Calvino(1923 1985) attained worldwide renown as one of the twentieth century s greatest storytellers. Born in Cuba, he was raised in San Remo, Italy, and later lived in Turin, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. Among his many works are Invisible Cities, If on a winter s night a traveler, The Baron in the Trees, and other novels, as well as numerous collections of fiction, folktales, criticism, and essays. His works have been translated into dozens of languages.

Geoffrey Brock is an award-winning translator and poet whose translations include works of Umberto Eco, Cesare Pavese, and others.
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