I admit, I’ve not been what you’d call a fan of experimental literature, but I may be revising my opinion. I recently discovered Italo Calvino through some of his excerpts, and was pleasantly surprised to find I loved all of his pieces. I didn’t hesitate to purchase two of his books, and will review them when I’m finished.
One excerpt from his novel “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller” was the first to hook me, but “The Flash” was my favourite. I found it a simple allegorical illustration of how it feels to have an epiphany about the difference between the superficial reality our Ego can perceive, and those brief glimpses of the true reality free of all physical limits like time and space. It’s an illustration nearly everyone can relate to, and describes those moments of clarity we can find through dreams and meditation. In those timeless moments between sleep and wakefulness, dreams can provide instant and perfect clarity through emotion without using any language at all, and yet no matter how hard we fight to hold onto it, that understanding is fleeting, fading back into our subconscious when we’re fully awake.
Traditionally, I’ve found heavy literature hard to read because it’s not easily digestible, and I always end up reading it two or three times at least while trying to tease out more meaning. Calvino’s stories however, offer fascinating examples of how a writer can define and show us new ways to understand the ultimate Universal Truths we all recognize, despite being told through the extremely narrow lens of the authors’ experience. Personally, I think it requires a lot of thought on the part of the reader to try and find what’s relatable, and then use those understandings as a kind of Rosetta stone to extrapolate what everything else means. Calvino is intriguing because I would say he writes equal parts Philosophy and Literature, but I don’t consider it storytelling, which makes sense because I don’t sense he wants to tell us a story so much as show us a path to deeper truths through the mundane fog of triviality.
If you haven’t heard of Calvino, or read any of his work, then try the excerpts in the links above. Great stuff!