Numbers in the Dark
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Written between 1943 and 1984, the stories in Numbers in the Dark span the career of one of fiction’s modern masters: from Italo Calvino’s earliest fables, to tales informed by life in World War II–era Italy, to the delightful experimentation that would define his later work. Here are speculative stories on life in the digital age, genre-bending wonders, and “impossible interviews” with the likes of Montezuma and a Neanderthal. Deftly translated by Tim Parks, Numbers in the Dark shows off Calvino’s lifelong gift for subtle humor and shimmering philosophical insight.
“Numbers in the Dark is a glorious grab-bag . . . [with] enough gems from every phase in Calvino’s career to make it feel indispensable.” — Seattle Times
one eye in an exaggerated wink. Seeing him there, well fed and fancy free – or so it seemed to Tommaso – while he was swallowing forkfuls of boiled and quite insubstan tial cauliflower, the older man went into such a rage that the aluminium plate started to rattle on the zinc table as though there were spirits about. Pietro shrugged his shoulders and left. By now the last workers were likewise hurrying out of the canteen, and Tommaso, greasy lips sucking on a soda bottle full of wine, dashed off
aspect of the ceremony, he started soaping himself. Thus we embarked on that joyful treat washing is when it is rare and hard to come by. The pool, which we could scarcely both fit in, bubbled over with foam and roaring, as though we were elephants bathing. On the riverbanks there were willows and shrubs and houses with waterwheels; and so unreal were they, in contrast to 16 Dry River the concreteness of this water and these stones, that with the grey of evening filtering through they took on
enforced immobility is a common condition, both in political–military and epic– narrative terms, at least as old as the Iliad, so that it seems only natural to refer it to one’s own experience of history. As an allegory of Italian politics, when one thinks that twenty–two years have gone by and the two galleons are still there facing each other, the image becomes even more distressing. Of course these twenty–two years have been anything but becalmed as far as Italian society is concerned, on the
They were good. Or rather, no better and no worse than anyone else. Well, you know what they’re like: heads of state, leaders, commanders . . . to get one of those jobs . . .’ ‘Still,’ one of them said, ‘I liked this lot.’ ‘Me too. And me,’ others agreed. ‘I never had anything against them.’ ‘So aren’t you sad they’re killing them?’ I said. What can you do? If someone agrees to be a leader he knows how he’ll end up. He could hardly expect to die in his bed!’ The others laughed. That’d be a fine
must move in the same space as he does, exist in the same time. Whereas we watched each other from different dimensions, without quite touching. The first time I received him, Cortés violated all the sacred rules and embraced me. The priest and dignitaries of my court covered their faces before this scandal. But to me it was as though our bodies hadn’t touched. Not because my position placed me beyond any alien contact, but because we belonged to two worlds that had never met, nor could meet.