The Watcher and Other Stories (Harbrace Paperbound Library)

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The Watcher and Other Stories (Harbrace Paperbound Library)

The Watcher and Other Stories (Harbrace Paperbound Library)

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There are places of temporary respite, like the beach, but the problems will be waiting for you when you come back. Calvino's serio-comic galactic overview (Cosmicomics — 1968) descends, in these three long stories; to an erratic exploration of human institutions and the priorities of allegiances, which, with a tilt or two, produce some unusual results. Here, just as with the symbolism in Smog, the symbolism of the ants seems to be generic instead of specific: daily worries is what I think they're intended to represent. The title story, about a member of Italian Communist Party assigned to observe voting at a hospital for "incurables," is a breath-taking story! They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both.

I gave this high marks based on "The Watcher" alone since this is the only distant past read book and will review.The last, The Argentine Ant, is about a young couple with an infant who move into their first house. Started reading this last fall, in the days immediately preceding the last US election, but ended up dropping it for other things. Unfamiliar with the neighborhood, Amerigo deciphered the street names on the sooty signs—names perhaps of forgotten benefactors—tilting his umbrella to one side and raising his face into the rain dripping from the eaves.

The main problem that I had with this story is that it's not at all clear what the constant dirtiness is supposed to represent: is it politics, or loss of idealism, or class issues, or stress, or actual pollution, or what? The function of the Watcher in Calvino's work is clearly to witness (for the reader) images of the fabulous meaning and worth of the crooked, broken, sickly and contradictory things of this world. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. The Watcher is the weakest of the three stories in my opinion, featuring a rambling and disjointed narrative that never gains any momentum. Italo Calvino's specialty was magical realism -- treeborne nobility, tarot stories, and noblemen chopped in half.

One quick note: the title, "The Argentine Ant" is not describing a place, it is describing a species of ant, and your current reviewer mentions this with a good deal of embarrassment as for twenty odd years it was thought that Calvino's story took place in the country of Argentina in South America - Ha!

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
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