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Book Title: The Castle of Crossed Destinies|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 766 KB
v The author of the book: Italo Calvino
Edition: Vintage Classics
Date of issue: October 2nd 1997
ISBN 13: 9780099268055
City - Country: No data
Read full description of the books The Castle of Crossed Destinies:‘I always feel the need to alternate one type of writing with another, completely different, to begin writing again as if I had never written anything before.’
And thus ends Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies. There are times when I forget just how much I love Calvino’s writing. This is a very short book, but one that requires intense concentration to read – in fact, it requires intense concentration right up until the point where you realise that you simply aren’t smart enough to get this book in its full and breathtaking complexity. That moment for me was page 38 in the Picador version that I own – at least, that is the moment I truly knew that there are depths to this book I have no hope of ever being able to plumb. Not unlike trying to read Kant’s various categories in the Critique (and also finding myself lost in a mind infinitely more logical than mine can ever hope to be) I read this book with mouth-gaping awe. As TS Eliot put it, ‘il miglior fabbro’ (the better craftsman).
Now that I’ve probably put you off reading this book, let me see if I can make you want to read it.
A man is lost in the forest after a long, dangerous and arduous journey. In the distance, as it is getting dark, he sees a castle. He makes his way there and is shown into a room where a great number of other people are already seated and eating and drinking. He joins them and is about to begin talking when he discovers that he has no power of speech at all. This surprises him, but in watching the others at the table he soon discovers that they too have lost the ability to speak.
When the food and wine are cleared away all that is left on the table is a pack of tarot cards. One of the ‘guests’ flips through the pack and then selects cards with careful deliberation and sets them down in two rows. These cards (and the manner in which they are placed on the table) tell his story. Another guest then begins his story, also by laying down cards on the table – this time crossing the two rows with two columns. In this way elements of the first story are reused in the second story. In the end there is an enormous spread of cards across the table in which twelve interlaced stories are told. The stories can be read up and down, or down and up, or right to left, or left to right.
Tarot cards have a symbolic meaning, obviously enough, but that meaning depends in these stories on the card’s position it appears within the story itself and on the story that is being told as much as on the image depicted on the face of the card. So that the two of clubs – a card with two wooden clubs crossed on its face, can mean two paths intersecting or it can mean the beginning of a battle.
This is a book that does what poetry does – it weaves meaning out of images while at the same time referring to the history of poetry (or literature) as a way to give those images additional context and content. I don’t know how familiar you might be with TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ – but basically, it does much the same thing, taking lots of lines from European poetry and literature and smashing them so as to play with the shattered pieces scattered across the floor. In that poem there is a fortune-teller ‘with a wicked pack of cards’ called Madame Sosostris. It would be hard to be too surprised that she might make an appearance in this book as well.
My Good Reads friend Paul did this review of this book - http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/.... And while I can understand his frustration, this book is much better than he might make you think. I do understand that someone might think it is all a huge wank (or a drunken bet gone horribly wrong) but I can only accept that until you get to ‘I Also Try to Tell My Tale’ – from that moment on this book becomes something completely different from what you might have imagined it was going to be. (I wouldn’t mind betting – if I was a betting man – that Paul stopped out of frustration before this part of the book on the basis that he had worked out where this one was going)
From then on until the very last breath of this book it becomes something else – something that justifies any incomprehension or difficulty that might have troubled you up until this point. Let’s be completely frank here – if you are not about to pull your hair out by the time you get to this point in the book you have completely missed the point of the book and need to cut back on the drugs you are taking (they are, quite obviously, not doing you any favours at all).
But from the moment the King of Clubs from the Ancien Tarot de Marseille is dropped onto the table you will find it virtually impossible to stop reading. The descriptions of St Jerome and St George (which has you saying – oh so that is what that stuff meant) and then the three tales of madness (where Hamlet, MacBeth and King Lear are smashed together) are so mind-blowingly well written and so damn clever and so insightful that it makes you come away thinking you have at least a vague idea of why people waste quite so much time reading this Literature rubbish in the first place.
You know, you really could see this book as some sort of post-modern wank of meta-fiction, the sort of book one might read at University for forty-five years followed by a PhD thesis explaining the connections between the Oedipus myth and the sorts of fairytales that Calvino himself documents in his Italian Folk Tales and, of course, the ever-present and potent images found in the humble tarot pack. BUT this is a book based on the real obsession of the author, a writer who decided one day to see if he could make patterns out of rows of tarot cards so as to literally use them to tell stories and to then see if he could link those stories together and also somehow write them up in a way that complemented the sting of images he had produced on the table before him. As he said, he finally published the book in the hope of exorcising this obsession which was becoming all-consuming. (Again, I’m not a betting man, but I would put real money on my belief that publishing the book really didn’t help)
And for those of us who have spent a lifetime obsessed with choices:
‘…every choice has its obverse, that is to say a renunciation, and so there is no difference between the act of choosing and the act of renouncing.’
I would also be prepared to bet that Calvino liked to read Hegel. You know, perhaps I’m more of a gambler than I like to pretend.
Read information about the authorItalo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).
His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic reminiscent of fairy tales (Our Ancestors, Cosmicomics), although sometimes his writing is more "realistic" and in the scenic mode of observation (Difficult Loves, for example). Some of his writing has been called postmodern, reflecting on literature and the act of reading, while some has been labeled magical realist, others fables, others simply "modern". He wrote: "My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language."
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