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Notes on Italo Calvino’s Time and the Hunter 1

Italo Calvino, Time and the Hunter I started reading Italo Calvino’s Time and the Hunter the other day, a book that Rob Annable recommended and that we agreed to do a joint reading of. Rob writes that Calvino often leaves you speechless. That might be true; so far, about 50 pages into the book, I’ve only marked two passages that I liked, and I haven’t anything in particular to say about the book yet.

But – it somehow fuels my current thinking about software architecture, and I scribbled some notes in the back of the book. These will find themselves in a post sometime soon.

Notes scribbled in the back of Italo Calvino's 'Time and the Hunter'

Here are the passages I liked; chapter “Crystals,” page 31:

Now you can understand me: if I love order, it’s not – as with so many others – the mark of a character subjected to an inner discipline, a repression of the instincts. In me the idea of an absolutely regular world, symmetrical and methodical, is associated with that first impulse and burgeoning of nature, that amorous tension – what you call eros – wile all the rest of your images, those that according to you associate passion with disorder, love with intemperate overflow – river fire whirlpool volcano – for me are memories of nothingness and listlessness and boredom.

Same chapter, page 37 (“porphyry” and “basalt” are two types of crystalline rock):

And again I am gripped by my stubbornness as I was when it began to be clear that the game was lost, that the Earth’s crust was becoming a congeries of disparate forms, and I didn’t want to resign myself, and at every irregularity in the porphyry that Vug happily pointed out to me, at every vitrescence that emerged from the basalt, I wanted to persuade myself that these were only apparent flaws, that they were all part of a much vaster regular structure, in which every asymmetry we thought we observed really corresponded to a network of symmetries so complicated we couldn’t comprehend it, and I tried to calculate how many billions of sides and dihedral corners this labyrinthine crystal must have, this hypercrystal that included within itself crystals and non-crystals.

What Rob writes about the first story (on the bag) makes me think of how every chapter so far, each a separate story, begins with an overthrowing of some sort, which lets him focus on certain elusive things.

Sometimes his writing reminds me of Alan Watts’s book The Joyous Cosmology, which is an account of his experiments with LSD (and other psychedelics) as a part of spiritual practice (see my notes). The second part of the book is an attempt to record his experiences, and the chapter “Blood, Sea” in Calvino’s book is perhaps the one that reminds me the most of Watts. I’m not saying that Calvino did LSD, though, but being able to break out of the box that way certainly makes you wonder…

The above was posted to my personal weblog on July 23, 2004. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.

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