Italo Calvino


1923 Italo Calvino born in Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba, to Mario Calvino, botanist and agronomist, and Evelina Mameli, professor of botany. In 1925 the family moves to San Remo, on the Italian Riviera, where Mario Calvino is curator of the botanical gardens. In 1927 his brother Floriano, a future geologist of international acclaim and prefect of the University of Genova, is born. Calvino spends his childhood on an estate abounding in exotic trees and plants, in the woods of the Maritime Alps, and on the rocks of the Italian Riviera. As a child, he prefers reading novels and poetry to the scientific studies his parents wish him to pursue. He remains in San Remo for twenty years.
1940 As a compulsory member of the Young Fascists, Calvino participates in the Italian occupation of the French Riviera.
1941 Starts studying agronomy at the University of Turin, where his father was professor of Tropical Agriculture.
1943 During the German occupation, Calvino joins the Italian Resistance and fights the Germans in the Ligurian mountains as a member of the Garibaldi Brigades. Calvino was later to write that it was during this time that he came to know the art of story-telling, when the partisans would recount their latest escapades over the campfire.
1944 Becomes a member of the Italian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Italiano, PCI).
1945 After the liberation, he settles in Turin where he studies Literature at the University.
1947 Graduates from the University with a thesis on Joseph Conrad. He collaborates on the weekly Il Politecnico (directed by Elio Vittorini) and on the newspaper L'Unita and joins the editorial staff of the publishing house Einaudi. Here he meets Cesare Pavese and Vittorini, two neo-realist writers who share literary ideas with Calvino and introduce him to Leftist politics. At Einaudi he develops friendships with Pavese, Vittorini, and Natalia Ginzburg, as well as with historians such as Franco Venturi and philosophers such as Norberto Bobbio and Felice Balbo

He writes Sentiero dei nidi di ragno (The Path to the Nest of Spiders) in twenty days during December of 1946. It is the story of a boy from the slums who joins the partisans. It is published in 1947 and sells 6,000 copies, an unusually high number at that time. That same year he wins the Premio Riccione. Later, Calvino describes Path as "the book of a very young man." The novel continues to fascinate, in part because the revised Italian editions of 1954 and 1964 were altered by Calvino. Also, either the translator or the publishers of the first English edition (1956) also altered or removed certain passages considered unsuitable for the sexual and political climate of the 1950s. To read the version revised by Calvino, as well as Calvino's revealing 1964 preface, see The Path to the Spiders' Nests, published in 1998 by Ecco Press. To better understand the author's voice at the time of the novel's writing, read the first English or American (1957) editions or, better yet, the 1947 Einaudi edition.

1948 He leaves Einaudi to work full-time on the staff at L'Unita. He begins to collaborate on the communist weekly Rinascita.
1949 Ultimo viene il corvo - stories subsequently published in Difficult Loves (1984).
1950 In January he rejoins Einaudi as an editor. Einaudi publishes a new collection entitled La Piccola Biblioteca Scientifica-Letteraria and Calvino is responsible for the literary volumes. On the 27th of August Cesare Pavese commits suicide. During the 1950s Calvino is collecting folk tales from all over Italy. From studying Propp's Morphology of the Folktale, he becomes particularly interested in the shape and functions of the story.
1951 Finishes a realistic tale, I giovanni del Po, which he will publish a few years later in the magazine Officina. In the summer he completes Il Visconte Dimezzato. He travels to the Soviet Union. His journal entries and correspondence from this trip is published in L'Unita between February and March of 1952 and earns him the Premio Saint-Vincent. On the 25th of October his father passes away.
1952 Il Visconte Dimezzato (The Clovent Viscount, 1962) is published to much acclaim. Calvino inaugurates a new literary style, between the fable and the fantastic. He writes the prologue to Pavese's La Letteratura Americana e Altri Saggi. In Botteghe Oscure (a Roman literary magazine edited by Giorgio Bassani) he publishes the story "La Formica Argentina" (The Argentine Ant). In the final months of this year he also publishes the first stories that will form Marcovaldo.
1954 L'entrate in Guerra, three stories about his memories of war. He begins to undertake the project that will lead to the Italian Folktales, a selection and transcription of some two-hundred folktales. He colleborates on the Maxist weekly, Il Contemporaneo.
1956 Fiabe Italiane, (Italian Folktales, 1962) is published and extremely well-received. He writes the book to La panchina, with music by Sergio Liberovici, which is performed in October at the Teatro Donizetti of Bergamo.
1957 Calvino leaves the Communist Party. He announces his departure in a letter which is published on the 7th of August in L'Unita ("my decision to resign as a member of the party is founded on the fact that my discrepancies with those of the party have become an obstacle to whatever form of political participation I could undertake."). Il Barone Rampante, (The Baron in the Trees, 1959), La Speculazione Edilizia, (1984). Wins Viareggio Prize.
1958 I racconti - stories subsequently published in Difficult Loves (1984). Collaborates on the magazine Passato e Presente and on the weekly Italia Domani.
1959 Il Cavaliere Inesistente, (The Nonexistent Knight, 1962). From 1959 to 1967, Calvino is coeditor of Il Menabo do letteratura in Milan with Vittorini. Wins Bagutta Prize. I Nostri Antenati - a triptych of his fantastic novels. In September his tale Allez-hop is presented at the Fenice de Venecia. In November he visits the United States, where he remains for six months, four of them in New York City. The city creates quite an impression on Calvino ("From the other side of the Atlantic, I feel a part of that majority of Italians who go to North America with such ease . . . and not of that minority who remain in Italy, perhaps because the first time I was in North America with my parents I was one-year-old. When for the first time I returned as an adult to the United States, I had a grant from the Ford Foundation which allowed me to wander throughout all of the United States without any obligation whatsoever. Naturally I visited the South and also California, but I always felt a New Yorker. My city is New York")
1962 In April he meets Esther Judith Singer, an Argentinian translator of Russian ancestry who works for international organizations such as UNESCO and the International Energy Agency. Calvino commutes between Rome, Turin, Paris, and San Remo.
1963 La Giornata di Uno Scrutatore (The Watcher, 1971) - a short novel which marks the end of his neo-realist period. Marcovaldo (1983). Wins Veillon Prize.
1964 On the 19th of February, in Havana, he marries "Chichita" Singer: "Throughout my life I have met women of great strength. I could never live without a woman at my side. " The trip to Cuba permits him to visit some of the places of his infancy. He dialogues with various personalities on the island, including Ernesto Che Guevara. He returns to Rome and sets up household. Every two weeks he travels to Turin for meetings at Einaudi. In the magazine Il Caffe four of the cosmicomics first appear.
1965 His daughter Giovanna is born in Rome. Cosmicomiche (Cosmicomics, 1968) is published.
1966 On the 12th of February Elio Vittorini passes away. The death of Vittorini will mark a milestone in Calvino's life ("the years immediately after his death coincided with a distancing on my part, with a change in rhythm . . . it's not that my interest in day-to-day living lessened, but I abandoned the impulse to be at the center first-hand. Primarily because, of course, I ceased to be young. Perhaps it's a metabolic process, something that comes with age, I'd been young for a long time, perhaps too long, suddenly I felt that I had to begin my old age, yes, old age, perhaps with the hope of prolonging it by beginning it early.").
1967 Calvino moves to Paris, where he stays, off and on, for the next fifteen years. During his time there he associates with literary theorists Claude Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes, and literary circles like Tel Quel and the Oulipo. Ti con Zero (T-Zero, 1969). In an article for the Tiems Literary Supplement, Calvino calls for "a literature which breathes philosophy and science but keeps its distance and dissolves, with a slight puff of air, not only theoretical abstractions but also the apparent concreteness of reality." He translates Raymond Queneau's Les fleurs bleus (The Blue Flowers). Queneau will have a strong influence on Calvino's new literary creations. In Nuova corrente he publishes the essay "Appunti sulla narrativa come processo combinatorio." In the same magazine he publishes pieces that later will comprise Ti con zero.
1968 He participates in two seminars at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes de la Sorbona conducted by Roland Barthes regarding Balzac's Sarrasine. Attends semiotic studies at the University of Urbino. In Paris he meets other members of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de litterature potentielle) such as Georges Perec, Francois Le Lionnais, Jacques Roubaud, and Paul Fournel.
1969 "Il castello dei destini incrociati" first appears in a volume entitled Tarocchi. Il mazzo visconteo de Bergamo e New York, edited by Franco Maria Ricci.
1970 Gli Amore Difficile (Difficult Loves, 1983). Calvino publishes a selection of passages from Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso that previously he had narrated on a radio show.
1972 La Citta Invisibili (Invisible Cities, 1974). In November he participates in a dejeuner with the Oulipo group.
1973 Awarded the prestigious Premio Feltrinelli for Invisible Cities. Il Castello dei Destini Incrociati (The Castle of Crossed Destinies, 1976). Becomes a membre etranger of the Oulipo. "Il nome, il naso" (The name, the nose) is published in the first issue of Playboy's Italian edition.
1974 Begins to collaborate on the Corriere della Sera. Publishes several articles, including "Autobiografia di uno spettatore" which will serve as prologue to Fellini's Quattro Film.
1975 Calvino made Honorary Member of the American Academy. Mr. Palomar makes his first appearance in "La corsa delle giraffe," published in Corriere della Sera.
1976 Wins Staatpreis, Austrian State Prize for European Literature. Through the year Calvino gives lectures in various North American cities. He visits Mexico and Japan and publishes various articles in Corriere that will later be collected for Collezione di sabbia, 1984.
1978 Calvino's mother dies at the age of 92.
1979 Si una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (If on a winter's night a traveler, 1983). He begins to write for the newspaper La Repubblica. Contributes stories, essays, book reviews, and art criticism.
1980 Resumes Italian residence in Rome. Una Pietra Sopra (included in The Uses of Literature, 1986).
1981 Receives the Legion of Honor.
1982 Wins Nice Festival Prize. Presides the jury for the XXIX Venice Film Festival. A two-act opera, La Vera Storia, which Calvino writes in collaboration with Luciano Berio, is presented at Milan's La Scala.
1983 Palomar (1985). Calvino edits two volumes of tales from the 19th century, Racconti Fantastici Dell'Ottocento: Volume Primo, Il Fantastico Visionario and Volume Secondo, Il Fantastico Quotidiano (Fantastic Tales, 1997). During one month he is director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes de la Sorbona. On the 25th of January he gives a lecture on Scienze et metaphore chez Galilee at a seminar chaired by Algirdas Julien Greimas At the University of New York he presents, in English, the paper The World Written and the World not Written for the James Lecture.
1985 In April he travels to Argentina and in September to Seville, Spain, where he participates, with Borges, in a congress on fantastical literature held at the International University Menendez Pelayo. He gives his presentation in Spanish. During the summer he prepares a series of lectures that he is to present in the United States at Harvard University (the Norton Lectures). On the 6th of September he is taken to the hospital Santa Maria della Scala de Siena, where he dies following a cerebral hemorrhage during the early hours of the 19th of September.
1988 Lezioni Americane (Six Memos for the Next Millennium, 1987).
1990 La Strada di San Giovanni (The Road to San Giovanni, 1993).
1993 Prima che tu dica "Pronto" (There are two works that use this title. Before You Say Hello, 1985, consists of four multicolor woodcuts by Antonio Frasconi. There were 75 press-numbered copies - the entire edition - signed by Calvino and Frasconi. It is Calvino's rarest book. The short story "Before you say 'Hello'" was also published in Numbers in the Dark, 1995).

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Go read a good book? Perhaps Mr. Palomar?