FUCKING MINDFUCK I became aware of two facts after reading this book Sometime people can be way over creative And sometime this over creativity can be real pain in the umm let s go with rear.So, what is cosmicomics I may say it is comics of the universe it is book of twelve short stories, with setting in all across the universe and from time even before big bang to present day, and telling us the story of evolution of the universe.But that is about something written on the pages of this book, but not what the book itself is This book is stupendous blast of creativity Well, creative is a word short of describing this book.Where shall I begin Maybe with the fact that, this book cannot be tied down to a particular genre Nope I don t think such trivial things such as, genre existed for Calvino This book is everything ranging from magical realism, science fiction, and philosophy Or maybe with the fact that, there are no humans in this book Yes, you got it right no humans and please, no aliens either.Well, we have old Qfwfq as our narrator of the stories And what is Qfwfq I don t know and looks like Calvino also never decided what is Qfwfq But collecting from the stories, he is some kind of anthropomorphized shape shifter He is dinosaur in one story and mollusc in another And he has been there even before universe came into existence Qfwfq What kind of name is that Let me tell you that Qfwfq is the least strange name How about Captain Vhd Vhd, Granny Bb b, Mr Hnw, Uncle N ba N ga, little Xlthlx, Dean k yK And there are manynames, that look like mathematical formula and I don t even know how to type them.Have you started realising the strangeness of this book But the real deal of being strange begins with the stories.Each stories begins with a scientific fact followed by a story developed around that fact, narrated by our very own old Qfwfq.First story, The Distance of the Moon starts like this 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. How well I know old Qfwfq cried, the rest of you can t remember, but I can We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon when she was full nights as bright as day, but with a butter colored light it looked as if she were going to crush us And in the next page There were nights when the Moon was full and very, very low, and the tide was so high that the Moon missed a ducking in the sea by a hair s breadth well, let s say a few yards anyway Climb up on the Moon Of course we did All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up.Climbed up on the moon like this Easy peasy, eh Not so easy What, you got a question Let Qfwfq complete that for you. Now, you will ask me what in the world we went up on the Moon for I ll explain it to you We went to collect theIn simple words, Calvino leaves no stone unturned.But, a big but, these are the things that surround the story, at the center of this is a love triangle Yes a love triangle and this story has very sad and heart breaking end Powerful ending, that will not make you cry but make you think, what loving and being loved is about Calvino packs a good amount of humour in each story, and many underlying themes, one story is about a person who is too self conscious and many stories have characters who are laggards, who refuse to accept the change that occurs in the universe Now tell me, how much creativity, strangeness, humour, drama, philosophy can be packed in a 15 page story You will be surprised, that is all I can say.Now with so much ofeverythingin every story starts the problem of being pain in the umm rear.With so much richness in the stories and every story being completely different, it becomes hard to absorb the stories I read four stories on first day, and by the time I finished fourth, I did not have stamina to read a single wordI was drained, I was puzzled I sat wondering, what was that I just read What the fuck was that different situation but the same question Second day, I thought I m ready to read any amount of story Well, thinking and reality are two different things, so it happened I was again wrong I somehow finished the book that day, but ended up missing all the fun Yeah, that is something like my reading experience of this book, that punch definitely signifies Calvino s over creativity What I m trying to say is that these stories took a little time to sink in, and can be enjoyed most if read slowly with wide gap between reading of two stories It will make a lotsense when I tell you that I rated this book with 3 stars on the day I finished it, 4 stars a week later and 5 stars after penning down this review.Pheww That s it Now that I m done, I guess that the first two words of my review will make a lotsense to you. Twelve dazzling stories from Calvino, where his ambition here was to create a ludic fiction that could reflect complex advances in science without losing his playful nature and sense of magic and lightness The stories he wrote were direct attempts to assimilate new thinking in cosmology in recognisably human and comic dimensions.Calvino prefaces his stories with a fact or hypothesis about the universe, then he moves on to get inside these vast abstractions, with his trademark qualities that give them a recognisable voice, which twists around the reader with a nimble and often humorous plot Through his frequent fumbling narrator the unpronounceable Qfwfq, Calvino makes the argument that there is no corner of the cosmos that cannot be enlightened by human imagination And as imaginative writers go, Calvino was up there with the bestof them Trying to describe such a diverse and entertaining mix, in which he wrestles with chaos and order, the profound and the absurd, is enough to send ones head spinning full of stars Who else could have come up with idea of scooping milk from the moon, and grumbling even before theBig Bang Calvino simply had no boundaries, he could go off in all directions, crossing the literary frontier into uncharted places to show anything is possible, if one simply opens the flood gates of the mind How does one simply lump Calvino into a single category it s almost impossible.Although this wasn t the Complete Cosmicomics which featuresstories plucked from other Calvino books , these original 12 tales werethan enough to enter Calvino s Universe and come out the other side with sheer delight Even though this was my 8th Calvino, he s like a jack in the box that never gets boring, no matter how many times you open the lid Faves A Sign in SpaceWithout ColorsThe Aquatic UncleThe Light Years Le Cosmicomiche Cosmicomics, Italo CalvinoCosmicomics is a collection of twelve short stories by Italo Calvino first published in Italian in 1965 and in English in 1968 Each story takes a scientific fact though sometimes a falsehood by today s understanding , and builds an imaginative story around it The Distance of the Moon, the first and probably the best known story Calvino takes the fact that the Moon used to be much closer to the Earth, and builds a story about a love triangle among people who used to jump between the Earth and the Moon, in which lovers drift apart as the Moon recedes.At Daybreak Life before matter condenses.A Sign in Space The idea that the galaxy slowly revolves becomes a story about a being who is desperate to leave behind some unique sign of his existence This story also is a direct illustration of one of the tenets of postmodern theory that the sign is not the thing it signifies, nor can one claim to fully or properly describe a thing or an idea with a word or other symbol.All at One Point The fact that all matter and creation used to exist in a single point Naturally, we were all there old Qfwfq said where else could we have been Nobody knew then that there could be space Or time either what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines Without Colors Before there was an atmosphere, everything was the same shade of gray As the atmosphere appears, so do colors The novelty scares off Ayl, Qfwfq s love interest.Games Without End A galactic game of marbles back before the universe had formed muchthan particles.The Aquatic Uncle A tale on the fact that at one stage in evolution animals left the sea and came to live on land The story is about a family living on land that is a bit ashamed of their old uncle who still lives in the sea, refusing to come ashore like civilized people.How Much Shall We Bet A story about betting on the long term evolution of mankind.The Dinosaurs How some dinosaurs lived after most of them had become extinct, and how it felt to be that last existing dinosaur in an age where all the current mammals feared his kind as demons.The Form of Space As the unnamed narrator falls through space, he cannot help but notice that his trajectory is parallel to that of a beautiful woman, Ursula H x, and that of lieutenant Feni, who is also in love with Ursula The narrator dreams of the shape of space changing, so that he may touch Ursula or fight with Feni.The Light Years The unnamed narrator looking at other galaxies, and spotting one with a sign pointed right at him saying I saw you Given that there s a gulf of 100,000,000 light years, he checks his diary to find out what he had been doing that day, and finds out that it was something he wished to hide Then he starts to worry.The Spiral A story about life as a mollusc, and the nature of love and writing 2003 1380 198 1382 1387 9647359152 20 1383 155 19651380 1383 . Climb up on the Moon Of course we did All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up This is what happens when you let a poet loose in a library full of science books he will turn everything on its head and take you sailing across the galactic plane watching suns coalesce from the primordial dust, he will hold a conversation across light years with neighboring galaxies, he will dance around a multicolored, sparkling crystal gardeen, play marbles with hydrogen atoms along the curvature of space and chase skirts down gravity wells, running on parallel lines that must somehow meet in the future of desireNow, you will ask me what in the world we went up on the Moon for I ll explain it to you We went to collect the milk, with a big spoon and a bucket Moon milk was very thick, like a kind of cream cheeseJoyful and energetic is how I would describe best this collection of strange and improbable stories, just like the newly spawned monocellular entity in Mitosis, ready to reach out of itself and go exploring the universe The narrator in most of the stories is Qfwfq an intelligent, self aware entity that witnessed everything at first hand the Big Bang, the Moon growing out of the Earth s core like a mushroom, the first spiral shell of a mollusk and the disappearance of dinosaurs, the death of the Universe from enthropy and its rebirth in the explosion of a giant black holeTo explode or to implode said Qfwfq that is the question whether tis nobler in the mind to expand one s energies in space without restraint, or to crush them into a dense inner concentration and, by ingesting, cherish themIn his own recollections, witnessing this universe journey in time is all a bit like growing up in one of those noisy extended Italian families, with weird uncles and cousins everywhere, with unruly offsprings vying for attention and embarrassing oneself at every stepThere was also a cleaning woman maintenance staff she was called only one, for the whole universe, since there was so little room To tell the truth, she had nothing to do all day long, not even dusting inside one point not even a grain of dust can enter so she spent all her time gossiping and complainingfrom All At One Point Started at the peak of the race to the Moon between 1963 and 1968, it is not surprising that space and planetary science are the favorite subjects of the tales Later stories getinto time relativity, semiotics and genetics Considered from the point of view of science fiction, the major difference and obstacle in such categorizing Calvino comes from his focus on the distant past and on abstract concepts instead of on the future of humanity.The major themes I ve identified in this book assembling over two decades of Calvino returning to the adventures of Qfwfq The Moon The Distance to the Moon, The Mushroom Moon, The Soft Moon The Stars The Light Years, At Daybreak, Games without End The Earth Without Colours, Crystals, The Meteorites, The Stone Sky Evolution The Aquatic Uncle, Dinosaurs, The Spiral, The Origin of Birds Genetics Mitosis, Meiosis, Death from the Priscilla sequence, Blood Sea Time, mathematics and logic t zero, The Night Driver, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Chase Science is not the only inspiration for the author Every tale introduces a mythical element, a literary reference, a love triangle, an experimental approach to link the real with the fanciful, the esoteric, the subconscious The author will often set up to muddle things up and subvert the expectations of the reader, provoking him to look at the past of our world from a slanted perspectiveI ve used expressions that have the disadvantage of creating confusion with what is different nowadays while they have the advantage of bringing to light what is common between the two timesWorld Memory looks at what defines humanity and what is worth preserving for posterity It also gives a key to decoding the style used in all these cosmic comediesA mass of coldly objective and incontrovertible information would run the risk of presenting a far from truthful picture, of falsifying what is most specific in any situation Suppose we received from another planet a message made up of pure facts, facts of such clarity as to be merely obvious we wouldn t pay attention, we would hardly even notice only a message containing something unexpected, something doubtful and partially indecipherable, would break through the threshold of our consciousness and demand to be received and interpreted If I have a complaint about the collection, and I do as witnessed by my lower rating, it is that Calvino tends to get too enad of this deliberate obfuscation of facts, sliding into navel gazing His logical edifices look like fragile houses of cards ready to tumble at a closer inspection from arigorous reader This is apparent especially in later stories, as the first set of twelve went down without a hitch, but the later ones needed a loteffort and concentration on my part to follow through Here s an example where the Chateau d If becomes an Escher etching, an absurd labyrinth from which there is no escape, a Looney Tunes cartoon, a mad game of PortalThe walls and the vaults have been pierced in every direction by the Abbe s pick, but his itineraries continue to wind around themselves like a ball of yarn, and he constantly goes through my cell as he follows, each time, a different course He has long since lost his sense of orientation Faria no longer recognizes the cardinal points, indeed he cannot recognize even the zenith and the nadir At times I hear scratching at the ceiling a rain of plaster falls on me a breach opens Faria head appears, upside down Upside down for me, not for him he crawls out of his tunnel, he walks head down, while nothing about his person is ruffled, not his white hair, nor his beard green with mold, nor the tatters of sackcloth that cover his emaciated loins He walks across the ceiling and the walls like a fly, he sinks his pick into a certain spot, a hole opens he dissapears All this flight of fancy used to illustrate what I m still musing about it, which is not a bad thing in itself, but might turn off a casual reader.I m trying to close, but I realize I ve forgotten to introduce the recurrent theme of love as an expression of desire for knowledge, for reaching out of the inner self, as the moving factor behind celestial mechanics and behind evolution of living cellsThe tension towards the outside, the elsewhere, the otherwise, which is what is then called a state of desirefrom Mitosis The move from asexual to sexual reproduction is seen as a process of alienation, of separating what was once whole and letting the halves of the sphere search for each other through eternity PlatoVoid, separation and waiting, that s what we arefrom Meiosis.As a road opener, Calvino s influence can be detected in the writers that came after him, in the effort to renew and experiment with the literary form, in breaking the rules and searching for new forms of expression To my joy, one of these parallels is to a Romanian poet from my own hometown Nichita Stanescu, and I look forward to re reading his poems from this new angle In Ode to Man I see a direct link to Calvino s Stone Sky Din punctul de vedere al pietrelor,soarele i o piatr c z toare,oamenii s o lin ap sareSunt mi care adaugat la mi care i lumina ce o z re ti, din soare sorry for lack of translation vsA stone sky rotated above our heads, onelimpid than yours, but criss crossed, like yours, by clouds at those points where gatherings of chrome and magnesium collected Winged shadows rise up in flight the internal skies have their own birds, accretions of light rock describing spirals, scudding upwards until they disappear from sight There are sudden changes of weather when bursts of leaden rain shower down, or when we have a hail of zinc crystals, there is nowhere else to escape except to slip inside the porous holes of a spongy rock At times the darkness is split by a fiery zigzag not a lightning bolt, but incandescent metal slithering down a vein in the earth I ll finish with a quote Solar Storm , where Qfwfq falls in love with a being of pure energy, an incarnated Aurora Borealis that echoes in part Frankenstein by Mary ShelleySoon all the televisions in the area will start working again, the images of detergents and beautiful girls will occupy the screen again, these gangs of persecutors will disperse, everyone will go back to their ration of daily rationality Me too, I ll go back to my 9 to 5 job and and say goodbye for now to Qfwfq and his playful universe. Italo Calvino S Extraordinary Imagination And Intelligence Combine Here In An Enchanting Series Of Stories About The Evolution Of The Universe He Makes His Characters Out Of Mathematical Formulae And Simple Cellular Structures They Disport Themselves Among Galaxies, Experience The Solidification Of Planets, Move From Aquatic To Terrestrial Existence, Play Games With Hydrogen Atoms, And Even Have A Love LifeDuring The Course Of These Stories Calvino Toys With Continuous Creation, The Transformation Of Matter, And The Expanding And Contracting Reaches Of Space And Time He Succeeds In Relating Complex Scientific Concepts To The Ordinary Reactions Of Common HumanityWilliam Weaver S Excellent Translation Won A National Book Award InNaturally, We Were All There, Old Qfwfq Said, Where Else Could We Have Been Nobody Knew Then That There Could Be Space Or Time Either What Use Did We Have For Time, Packed In There Like Sardines This one pretty much floored me The scope and the way this was written kinda blew my mind.What do I mean Well, it s one hell of an accomplished SF encompassing all time and space from a single viewpoint in what may as well be god but isn t It s a love story with a very complicated relationship of an alien with another alien, it s a love story with time, physics, genetics, and all sorts of real math I will admit that a very great deal of my enjoyment of this novel stems from the fact that I m conversant with real science in a big way and this book incorporates it all very heavily in the narrative.The book is kinda like this think of five or six hella great popular science writers, turn them into short story writers, let it have the feel of Marvel or DC cosmic stage stories, and then have it feel right at home with Neil Gaiman s Sandman.I m not joking It s really that good and that odd And while the science bits and how it s written is very heavy in a way, I don t think it overwhelms the actual stories at all It s unusual and it s very smart, but I wouldn t let that deter you from reading it Indeed, I think everyone should read this and have it be a solid staple of the mind.My only complaint might be a bit idiotic I really think these stories would translate perfectly into a real comic I know it s kinda implied in the title, but still I think it would be improved, making it evenreadable and brilliant that is, assuming that the artist is up to snuff. Qfwfq Been there, Seen that, done that.Been where Where the distance of the moon from the ocean was just a ladder away Seen what The formation of galaxies, A colorless world, A time when there was no concept of time.Done what Lived on the nebulae, Lived as a dinosaur, fallen in love with a tadpole.A literary cosmos made up of staggering imagination, Calvino s Cosmicomics exceeded the expectations I always have before reading any of his books and it makes me evenproud of declaring him as my favorite writer A collection of 12 short stories, written by taking cue from random scientific facts theories and re telling of the fragmented tales about evolution of universe through the eyes of our narrator, Qfwfq, who had been a ubiquitous witness as well as part of everything since the universe was created Sounds quite ambitious, especially taking the short story format, but that s where Calvino s talent shines the brightest The relationship established between various scientific concepts, bizarre living beings and their lives thereof, presents a witty commentary on understanding of the environment and coming to terms with innumerable and inevitable changes that takes place in our lives in natural as well as unnatural or uncalled waysCompared to the uncertainties of earth and air, lagoons and seas and oceans represented a future with security.Also there is a subtle social commentary about the nature of human beings who acknowledge world not as one but as a society governed by numerous borders and boundaries and a fine distinction is sited as to who is who according to the place they belongs toBut the others also had wronged the Z zus, to begin with, by calling them immigrants, on the pretext that, since the others had been there first, the Z zus had come later This was mere unfounded prejudice that seems obvious to me because neither before nor after existed, nor any place to immigrate from, but there were those who insisted that the concept of immigrant could be understood in the abstract, outside of space and time. But most importantly, Calvino has presented a poignant and humorous take on humanly nature, feelings and emotions without employing any humans in his narrative yet there are titles and conceptions which constitute a human worldThere were three of them an aunt and two uncles, all three very tall and practically identical we never really understood which uncle was the husband and which the brother, or exactly how they were related to us in those days there were many things that were left vague. All the stories accentuates a particular feature of this cosmos in a highly skillful way wherein Calvino has dilated a single idea into astounding proportions of ace story telling and that s why I can t really pick a favorite story of mine The names of the characters, especially Qfwfq are particularly interesting According to wikiThe name Qfwfq is a palindrome The name may be an allusion to the second law of thermodynamics substituting for f gives Q W Q, which describes a heat engine.Coming from a non science background I can t really grasp all these scientific concepts in their entirety but still marvel at the extent to which Calvino experimented and came up with such brilliant feat of literature This review or rather my gushy ramblings might convey a little about this book andabout my love for Calvino, so I highly recommend adefinite and fantastic review by Stephen M along with reading this book I must add that past and future were vague terms for me, and I couldn t make much distinction between them my memory didn t extend beyond the interminable present of our parallel fall. This is a wonderful set of short stories which comes as no surprise from the Cuban born, Italian Italo Calvino I had previously read If on a Winter s Night A Traveler and Invisible Cities, both I highly recommend, and enjoyed both of them immensely I once heard about the vast differences between all of Calvino s novels that certainly seems true, each one of those books bare vague resemblances to one another the similarities residing in minor things like, short story format, magical realist elements and gorgeous prose Ultimately, Calvino is one of my favorite authors because he can take nearly any premise and breath wonderful imaginative life into them If nothing else, I come away with such vivid and delightful images that I can t help but think he was something of a genius at least with that aspect of writing which I find to be the hardest Any one and their mom can write some poetically tinged block of prose and send it on its way, but it takes a little something extra to create a literary world, living and breathing with the perfect amount of detail it needs, complete unto itself, full of imaginative wonder Calvino, most especially has a knack for these set pieces The best example of that comes in the first story of this collection.Is it a spoiler to describe the first story Can you spoil a short story collection Well, if so, you ve been warned The entire book follows poor Qwfwq, if read literally, he is some sort of shape shifter across species as well as subatomic particles as he experiences the universe at varying times from the moment of its creation, to the development of matter, to the formation of the earth Each story is prefaced with an italicized section detailing a certain scientific theory or maxim The first, called The Distance from the Moon, has a theory formulated by George H Darwin, the famed Charles Darwin s son The prediction is in regards to the origin and formation of the moon At the time of the writing of Cosmicomics, it was believed that the moon was once very close to the earth and that it slowly drifted away from the earth in its orbit Calvino imagines a strange tribe of some sort of half human, half fish type creatures that harvest the moon for the milk that it has They ride on a boat across the ocean, where the moon gets closest to the earth They have to climb a ladder and jump, lingering for a moment between the gravitational pulls of both surfaces until the point where the gravity of the moon overtakes the gravity of the earth and the person is pulled towards the moon Calvino s description of the ocean from that point of view is stunning Imagine the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine The rest of the story plays with this conceit This story may be the longest, and it is his most effective It even follows a strict three act structure with inciting incident, dark night of the soul and denouement I was impressed that this section, which is packed full of mother Lacanian ideas could also be formally compact More than just that, however, is what permeates through all of these stories In all of them, Calvino s imagination shines If you let it, it will take you up in its wonderful world The entire collection is a conjunction of fantasy, science, magical realism and realist emotions One story talks of a left over dinosaur after the others went extinct Calvino tells a story about social ostracism and conflicted identity There is a story about the steady state theory of the universe, the theory all but rejected now In which the character Qwfwq chases another character, Pwfwp throughout the universe He finally notices that he can see the back of his own head in front of Pwfwp, Pwfwp is actually chasing Qwfwq Until he notices that there is an infinite number of Q s chasing P s and vice versa From Q s perspective, he is chasing P, but from P s perspective, P is chasing Q.This is a prime example of Calvino s overall intention with the work He wants to impress upon the reader the arbitrary nature of privileging perspective In an interview within a book called The Uses of Literature Essays, Calvino says thatRobbe Grillet came out with a bitter attack on anthropomorphism, against the writer who still humanized the landscape It is not that Robbe Grillet s argument didn t convince me It is just that in the course of writing I have come to take the oppostire route in stories that are a positive delirium of anthropomorphism, of the impossibility of thinking about the world except in terms of human figures I multiplied his eyes and his nose in every direction until he no longer knows who he isThe point of each story is to simultaneously laugh at how ridiculous it is to compare evolution to human social interaction, yet at the same time indulge, because how else do we know about the world around us In Cosmicomics there is a particular sadness in each story, a loss and tragedy of understanding Even the signs which we take to be words begins to break down, as the meanings of words proliferate and destabilizeI realized that with what seemed a casual jumple of words I had hit on an infinite reserve of new combinations among the signs which compact, opaque, uniform reality would use to disguise its monotony, and I realized that perhaps the race toward the future, the race I had been the first to foresee and desire, tended only through time and space toward a crumbling into alternatives like this, until it would dissolve in a geometry of invisible triangles and ricochets like the course of a football among the white lines of a field as I tried to imagine them, drawn at the bottom of the luminous vortex of the planetary systems, deciphering the numbers marked on the chests and backs of the players at night, unrecognizable in the distanceHe takes anthropocentrism to its logical extreme By applying human characteristic to even the most absurd of things subatomic particles and the original point of matter from which the big bang sprung he exposes it this humanizing for the absurdity it is While reading all these stories, I couldn t stop thinking about the sheer incomprehensibility of the universe From its most minute particles to its cosmic grandiosity, we are stuck amid an ocean of unknowability the basis for our existence only to be reified in arbitrary metaphors even string theorists will tell you that strings are just the best metaphor they came conjure and we are stuck in this self privileged perspective by which we interact with the universe I think about the incredibly miniature, the infinite regress of sub atomic matter and the indomitable vastness of a star, not even ours, ours isn t even that large and my head begins to spin In every story, Calvino harps on this inability for any of us to really understand the incredible nature of the universe I have no way of even picturing how vast the universe is the speed of light 186,000 miles per second still takes some 100 million years to travel between stars If an atom were extrapolated to the size of a solar system, a string would be the size of a tree on earth I struggle to even conceive of this and all the while I envy the certainty of preachers, religious fundamentalists or any person with a disposition for staunch certainty They have, within their understanding, this entire universe, which we lack the vocabulary and imagination to even properly represent, subsumed under a single, perfect explanation It causes them not a single shred of doubt or uncertainty it is completely beyond me My only solace is indulging in what I love reading, writing, learning, and most especially literature, like this beautiful book I am overcome with gratitude and astonishment for having a brain and consciousness capable of appreciating this ever confounding reality we call home and Calvino, for making it so damn wonderful and fun. I m trying to find just the right word to describe these stories Science fables isn t quite right there isn t a moral at the end of each one I m torn between science myths and science legends I think I m leaning towards myths, in the sense of stories that tell how something came to be Let s go with that.Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook The Complete Cosmicomics Cosmic Tales of the Universe s OriginsOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureAlong with his brilliant Invisible Cities 1972 in Italian, 1974 in English , one of Italo Calvino s most enduring creations was his series of whimsical and erudite stories inspired by the origins of the universe and scientific principles, labeled Cosmicomics 1965 in Italian, 1968 in English They are narrated by a mysterious being called Qfwfq, who tells of the Big Bang and the time before that when the universe was a single point without space or dimensions Qfwfq has a refreshingly frank and humorous attitude towards such momentous moments as the birth of our universe, the origins of life, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the first animals to crawl onto land, the early days of the Moon, etc If you seek out these stories, you will find that the most recent edition includes muchthan the original 12 stories Now, for the same price you can buy in print or e book all 34 collected Cosmicomics stories, published as The Complete Cosmicomics 2009 This comprises the original Cosmicomics 1965 , t zero 1967, also published in English as Time and the Hunter , and World Memory and Other Cosmicomic Stories a collection never published in a single English volume, with eight new stories, seven of which are translated into English for the first time for the 2009 collection It s an overused expression, but these stories truly defy easy description Calvino believed that modern fiction was not addressing the most important new developments in cosmology and science in the context of the mid 1960s and amid the space race between the US and Soviet Union So he took it upon himself to address these topics with a literary approach, and on top of that add a whimsical tone to otherwise obtuse concepts like the Big Bang and dimensionless space He also added a romantic element to these stories, as his protagonist Qfwfq is often pining after an elusive female companion, pursuing her across lunar landscapes, deep in the primordial earth, or in the farthest corners of the universe So the big distinction with science fiction is that Calvino is fascinated with our origins, and at the same time uses the lens of literature to inform his comic tales I will split my review into three parts to do justice to each section Cosmicomics 5 stars These are probably Calvino s most accessible and enjoyable stories, and the first US edition translated by William Weaver won the National Book Award for a Translation in 1969 The first story in particular, The Distance to the Moon , combines all the elements I ve described in a delightful tale of the early days when the Moon was much closer to the Earth, and the poignant love story that enfolds around it It s tells the story of Qfwfq, Captain Vhd Vhd, his wife, and Qfwfq s deaf cousin, who took little boats on the ocean to harvest the milk of the Moon using a ladder, big spoons, and buckets The distance between the Earth and Moon is so short that a tall ladder is enough to get there, and gravity reverses midway so you are drawn to the Moon past a certain point, and appear to be hanging upside down from the Earth perspective Calvino s descriptions of this bizarre and fantastic situation are wonderful In reality, from the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up I would cling first with one hand, then with both, and immediately I would feel ladder and boat drifting away from below me, and the motion of the Moon would tear me from the Earth s attraction Yes, the Moon was so strong that she pulled you up you realized this the moment you passed from one to the other you had to swing up abruptly, with a kind of somersault, grabbing the scales, throwing your legs over your head, until your feet were on the Moon s surface Seen from the Earth, you looked as if you were hanging there with your head down, but for you, it was the normal position, and the only odd thing was that when you raised your eyes you saw the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine.There they harvest the milk of the Moon, which is a truly unique and somewhat stomach churning concoction Moon milk was very thick, like a kind of cream cheese It formed in the crevices between one scale and the next, through the fermentation of various bodies and substances of terrestrial origin which had flown up from the prairies and forests and lakes, as the Moon sailed over them It was composed chiefly of vegetal juices, tadpoles, bitumen, lentils, honey, starch crystals, sturgeon eggs, molds, pollens, gelatinous matter, worms, resins, pepper, mineral salts, combustion residue.There develops a strange love triangle between Qfwfq, the Captain s wife, and Qfwfq s deaf cousin whose only passion is harvesting the Moon s milk and exploring its scaly and alien terrain I was surprisingly moved by the ending of this story, as I had initially expected Calvino s story not to be centered on human relationships This story is creative, literate, whimsical, and magical, and if you are interested in this collection I think it will win you over The remaining 11 stories are of equally high quality and charm, and explore a wide range of concepts and themes Taken as whole, they are an amazing achievement and unique in the annals of fantastic literature.Time and the Hunter 2 stars This set of stories is a very different creature indeed It consists of three parts, More of Qfwfq , Priscilla , and t zero These stories are farexperimental, formalistic, complex, mathematical, and frequently impossible to follow In many ways they bear little resemblance to the stories from Cosmicomics, so in reviewing them I gave them a 3 star rating I will separately review each part More of Qfwfq This part consists of four stories, The Soft Moon , The Origin of the Birds , Crystals , and Blood, Sea These stories ostensibly are narrated by Qfwfq, but his presence is fairly limited, and the stories often occupy modern environments, but still exploring Calvino s themes of the romantic pursuit of the Moon, the evolution of birds shown via cartoon strip, the elements that make up the Earth juxtaposed onto New York, and the story of how life in the oceans made its way into our bodies via blood cells It s a muchcerebral literary experimental, and much of the playfulness is gone, but it does represent Calvino s tireless drive to reinvent literary conventions to tackle modern themes Priscilla This is a set of three linked stories, Mitosis , Meiosis , and Death , and I found these stories almost impossible to read or understand, as this passage will show So I am speaking then of the initial phase of a love story which afterwards is probably repeated in an interminable multiplication of initial phases just like the first and identified with the first, a multiplication or rather a squaring, an exponential growth of stories which is always tantamount to the first story, but it isn t as if I were so very sure of all this, I assume it as you can also assume it I m referring to an initial phase that precedes the other initial phases, a first phase which must surely have existed, because it s logical to expect it to exist, and also because I remember it very well, and when I say it s the first I don t in the least mean first in the absolute sense, that s what you d like me to mean but I don t I mean first in the sense that we can consider any of these identical initial phases the first, and the one I refer to is the one I remember, the one I remember as first in the sense that before it I don t remember anything And as for the first in the absolute sense, your guess is as good as mine, I m not interested.My mind was reeling after pages of this type of exposition It just went on and on, without any conceivable storyline It s very much a literary experiment, but for me these stories had no appeal t zero This is the set of four stories that really go off the deep end of mathematical experimental literature, and I challenge anyone other than a theoretical mathematician with an advanced literature degree out there to make any sense of the stories at all It was so completely impenetrable that I just skimmed through the pages until they became a blur You re welcome to give them a try, but don t say I didn t warn you Again, a sample may help to illustrate what I mean I find myself in a random space time intermediary point of a phase of the universe after hundreds of millions of billions of seconds here the arrow and the lion and I and the bush have found ourselves as we now find ourselves, and this second will be promptly swallowed up and buried in the series of the hundreds of millions of billions of seconds that continues, independently of the outcome, a second from now, of the convergent or divergent flight of the lion and of the arrow then at a certain point the course will reverse its direction, the universe will repeat its vicissitude backwards, from the effects the causes will punctually arise it will be forgotten in the dispersal of billions of combinations of neurons within the lobes of brains, so that no one will know he s living in reversed time just as I myself am not now sure in which direction the time I move in is moving, and if the then I m waiting for has not in reality already happened just a second ago, bearing with it my salvation or my death.World Memory and Other Cosmicomic Stories 4 stars These stories represent a welcome return to the tales of the world s early days, narrated by Qfwfq in his inimitable style After the incomprehensible mess of t zero , it was nice to readof the fables of how the moon formed from the sea, waves of land thrusting themselves up from the primordial seas, carrying various odd characters on their crests The Mushroom Moon , a very haunting story of the decrepit old Moon and it s encounter with a modern world junkyard and the efforts of an army of young women in an ultra modern ultra consumerist New York to save the Moon The Daughters of the Moon Here is a memorable image We crossed one of the bridges that link Manhattan to the mainland Now we were going along a multi lane highway, with other cars alongside us, and I kept my eyes fixed on the road ahead, fearing the laughter and crude comments that the sight of the two of us was no doubt prompting in the cars on either side But when a saloon car overtook us, I nearly went off the road in surprise crouched on its roof was a girl with her hair spread out in the wind For a second I thought my passenger was leaping from one fast moving car to another, but all I had to do was turn my eyes round ever so slightly to see that Diana s knees were still there at the same height as my nose And it was not just her body that glowed before my eyes I saw girls everywhere, stretched out in the strangest of poses, clinging to the radiators, doors, mudguards of the speeding cars their golden or dark hair was the only thing that contrast with the pale or dark gleam of their skin One of these mysterious female passengers was positioned on every car, all stretching forwards, urging the drivers to follow the Moon.He also includes The Stone Sky , an inversion of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which two being dwell within the Earth s core, but the female named Rdix has this irresistible urge to explore the upper layers near the crust where ephemeral beings like humans dwell Calvino s imagery here is again unique and refreshing he delights in inverting our conventional perspectives and examining non human perspectives Border areas, passages between one earthly layer and another, gave her a mild vertigo We knew that the Earth is made up of superimposed roofs, like the skins of an enormous onion, and that every roof leads you to a roof higher up, and all of them together prefigure the final roof, the point where the Earth ceases to be Earth, where all the inside is left on this side, and beyond there is only the outside For you this border of the Earth is identified with the Earth itself you think the sphere is the surface that wraps it, and not its total volume you have always lived in that flat, flat dimension and you don t even imagine that one can live elsewhere and in a different way For us at that time, this border was something we knew existed, but we didn t think we could see it without leaving the Earth, a prospect which seemed to us not so much frightful as absurd That was where everything was flung out in eruptions and bituminous spurts and smoke holes, everything that the Earth expelled from its innards gases, liquid mixtures, volatile elements, base matter, all types of waste It was the world in negative, something that we could not picture even in our minds, the abstract idea of it was enough to give us a shiver of disgust, no, of anxiety or rather a stunned sensation, a kind of as I said vertigo yes, that s it, our reactions werecomplex than you might think, especially Rdix s , into which their crept an element of fascination, a kind of attraction to the void, to anything double faced or absolute.
Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy 1952 1959 , the Cosmicomics collection of short stories 1965 , and the novels Invisible Cities 1972 and If On a Winter s Night a Traveler 1979.His style is not easy to classify much of his writing has an air reminiscent to
- 153 pages
- Le cosmicomiche
- Italo Calvino
- 01 October 2018 Italo Calvino