Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings


From one of modern literature’s most captivating and elusive masters comes a posthumous volume of thoughtful, elegant, and quick-witted autobiographical writings, all previously unpublished in English. Here is Italo Calvino paying homage to his literary influences and tracing the evolution of his signature style. Here are his reminiscences of Italy’s antifascist resistance and the frenzy of politics and ideas of the postwar era.

The longest and most delightfully revealing ...

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Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings

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From one of modern literature’s most captivating and elusive masters comes a posthumous volume of thoughtful, elegant, and quick-witted autobiographical writings, all previously unpublished in English. Here is Italo Calvino paying homage to his literary influences and tracing the evolution of his signature style. Here are his reminiscences of Italy’s antifascist resistance and the frenzy of politics and ideas of the postwar era.

The longest and most delightfully revealing section of the book is Calvino’s diary of his travels in the United States in 1959 and 1960, which show him marveling at color TV, wrinkling his nose at the Beats, and reeling at the outpouring of racial hatred attending a civil rights demonstration in Alabama. Overflowing with insight and amusement, Hermit in Paris is an invaluable addition to the Calvino legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Surprising, tart, and distinctive, like [Calvino] himself.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A book that any Calvino lover will want to purchase, pronto!”The Seattle Times

“Distinguished by a sly philosophic humour. . . . a sensuous immediacy of detail and a droll wit. . . . a magnificent addition to the Planet Calvino.” – The Guardian

The New York Times
The risk in gleaning the papers left by a writer is that one fundamental part of authorship is choice: what to leave and what to change and, of course, what to take out. Sometimes the choice has been clearly made, as in ''Six Memos.'' Here it has not; and choice is left to the reader. — Richard Eder
The Washington Post
We have this collection of autobiographical writing and other pieces, which his wife found after his death, gathered in a folder; they are presented here in the order in which they appeared in print. The collection includes a diary of Calvino's trip to America in 1959-60, in the form of letters to a friend. Calvino was inclined to publish this diary as a book, the title of which was to be "An Optimist in America," but he decided it was too slight; it is the centerpiece of this volume, the longest and certainly to Americans the most interesting of the pieces included. The title A Hermit in Paris comes from a very late piece in which he describes his life as an outsider in Paris: odd, because the bulk of the volume describes his childhood, coming of age and maturity as an Italian and an Italian writer in Italy. — John Crowley
The Los Angeles Times
This is perhaps the central accomplishment of Hermit in Paris -- the eagerness it roused in me, and will no doubt in others, to return to Il Maestro's earlier books and to read them in a different, deeper context. — Michael Mewshaw
Publishers Weekly
This new volume of autobiographical writings (never before translated into English) by Calvino, whose short stories and novels gave him international acclaim as one of the 20th century's most important Italian fiction writers, is a welcome addition to his extensive works as well as to The Road to San Giovanni, a posthumous collection of autobiographical essays published more than a decade ago. This volume includes a series of articles and interviews that builds on the understanding of Calvino's life after World War II when he returned to Italy from the Communist resistance in the Alps, a period when Calvino felt a "moment of uncertainty" and a "perplexity about" his vocation as a writer before producing his first novel, The Cloven Viscount. The articles also feature Calvino's views on some of his most popular novels: "In the United States... the book of mine that became a hit was the one that you would have said was the furthest from American reading habits: Invisible Cities." But it is Calvino's lifelong fascination with America that makes this collection remarkable: more than half the book is given to an "American Diary 1959-1960," written during Calvino's two years traveling in the U.S., as he explores New York's thriving Greenwich Village and Actors Studio; a "violent, tough" Chicago; San Francisco's "squalid and filthy" beatnik scene; and Montgomery, Ala., where Calvino (who died in 1985) finds himself "in the middle" of "crucial days of struggle" of the Civil Rights movement. His diary reveals an obsession with what he later says most interests him as a writer: "daily life as the constant nourishment for writing." (Mar. 11) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
One of the most important and influential Italian writers of the 20th century, Calvino is best known for his inventive novels. This collection, put together by his widow and published in English for the first time, consists primarily of autobiographical writings, newspaper and magazine interviews, and articles. The longest is an account of his journey to the United States in 1959-60, which includes his observations on civil rights issues and a letter-diary about life in New York City. Several other essays deal with his political views, with an important piece from 1979 explaining his past as a Communist-Stalinist. Throughout his body of work, Calvino was the ultimate anonymous observer; he hesitated to write about himself because he found himself uninteresting. Thus, admirers of Calvino who expect a thorough account of his rich life and disclosure of some unknown details will perhaps be less than satisfied with this book, but otherwise it is excellent. Highly recommended for all large literature collections in academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.]-Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375714269
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/10/2004
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,472,146
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Italo Calvino (1923—1985) was born in Cuba and grew up in San Remo, Italy. He was a member of the partisan movement during the German occupation of northern Italy in World War II. The novel that resulted from that experience, published in English as The Path to the Nest of Spiders, won widespread acclaim. His other works of fiction include The Baron in the Trees, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Cosmicomics, Difficult Loves, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Invisible Cities, Marcovaldo, Mr. Palomar, The Nonexistent Knight & the Cloven Viscount, t zero, Under the Jaguar Sun, The Watcher and Other Stories, and Numbers in the Dark. His works of nonfiction include include The Road to San Giovanni and Six Memos for the Next Millennium.

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Table of Contents

Stranger in Turin 3
The Writer and the City 6
Questionnaire, 1956 7
American Diary 1959-1960 16
The Cloven Communist 121
Political Autobiography of a Young Man 130
A Letter in Two Versions 157
Objective Biographical Notice 160
Hermit in Paris 167
Where I Was on 25th April 1945 176
Dialect 180
The Situation in 1978 184
Was I a Stalinist Too? 192
The Summer of '56 200
The Duce's Portraits 207
Behind the Success 221
I Would Like to Be Mercutio 234
My City Is New York 235
Interview with Maria Corti 240
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