From the Publisher
"The curious quirks that would shape Calvino's eccentric orbit can be described, along with the exuberant talent and sense of magic that would make that orbit a flaming one." -Los Angeles Times
"With seventeen books in print, Italo Calvino enjoys a privilege that few foreign writers ever achieve here: virtually all his works can be read in English... Calvino's ready availability is of course a sign (and support) of his canonical status in world literature, the capacity of his fiction to be significant in many different cultures... Tim Park's translation is perfectly in tune with the various dialects and discourses that Calvino assimilated during his career. By the '80s his supple Italian was tossing off polylingual arpeggios, technical jargons, nonce words... More than accurate and readable [Park's] version is inventive." -The New York Times Book Review
"Numbers in the Dark is a glorious grab bag... with gems from every phase in Calvino's career." - San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle Book Review
"Warmly and expertly translated by Tim Parks, a gifted writer himself." -Esquire
In "The Flash," one of the short fictions collected in Numbers in the Dark, the narrator steps into the street in the middle of a crowd and suddenly discovers that "I understood nothing...I didn't understand the reasons for things or for people, it was all senseless, absurd. And I started to laugh." Everyday reality reasserts itself, but the narrator finds himself longing for another visitation, to once again "grasp that other knowledge, found and lost in an instant." His experience parallels the effect Italo Calvino's fiction can have on the reader: without warning other meanings, other forces, are revealed under the surface of our world.
In such distinctive works as The Baron in the Trees, Invisible Cities, and The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Mr. Calvino unearthed and celebrated the uncanny, the remarkable, the mysterious. Numbers in the Dark gathers a variety of miscellaneous worksfables, short stories, dramatic monologues, written between 1943, when Calvino was l9, and 1984. (Mr. Calvino died in 1985.) One of the surprises of the collection is that Mr. Calvino's distinctive style (droll, straightforward, exact in its descriptions) developed very early. Another is that much of his earliest work was overtly political, albeit a politics cloaked in fables.
Some of the pieces read like works dashed off and never picked up again (indeed, "The Queen's Necklace" is composed of the first pages of a novel Mr. Calvino began in the 1950s and put aside). Several of the short stories read like early versions of ideas Mr. Calvino would return to in his later, famous works of fiction. The pleasures here are the pleasures to be found in his 17 other volumes: an encounter with a profoundly original, humane, playful imagination, looking at the world with a fresh eye, inviting us to join him in a search for that nourishing "other knowledge" that lies somewhere just under the surface of the mundane world. Numbers in the Dark is a consistently entertaining and moving collection and a necessary addition to any Calvino admirer's shelf.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A collection of previously uncollected stories from the late Italian fabulist. (Oct.)
Calvino is best known as a fabulist, and indeed his writing, nearly always short forms or broken up episodically in the case of his novels Mr. Palomar (LJ 9/15/85) and Invisible Cities (1978), justifies itself not by character or plot but in moral and meaning. As a teenager in 1943, Calvino wrote, "One writes fables in periods of oppression. When a man cannot give clear form to his thinking he expresses it in fables." The early pieces, written during the last days of fascism in Italy, reflect a concern with the survival of human relationships in a time of overweening government and takes a bitter delight in the unpracticed exercise of authority by ordinary men. Later stories reflect on the conflict between imagination and repetitive industrial labor. Both themes are picked up in "The Workshop Hen," about a man who squeezes in two-word thoughts about his son's engagement in between the careful manipulations of the four heavy machines he is charged with operating. At the same time he is plotting the abduction of the chicken kept by the security man in charge of maintaining factory production quotas. Later works include an interview with the sole surviving Neaderthal and a chat with Henry Ford about his invasive business practices. These stories reward the patient reader with wisdom, humor, and insight. Highly recommended for collections of literary fiction.Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
School Library Journal
This fine collection contains an interesting variety of selections, from parable to polemic, with complex and challenging characters, situations, and themes. Some of the older stories have allusions that may not be apparent to [the reader], but the universal ideas are expressed in a new and clever way. Calvino presents a different world view, expressed with wit, humor, irony, and wicked perception. Students who discover this book will be rewarded and tempted to read other works by this master storyteller. Margaret Hecklinger, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA