Italo Calvino quotes

  • 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.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Cities #People #Body

  • A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Literature #Classic

  • A human being becomes human not through the casual convergence of certain biological conditions, but through an act of will and love on the part of other people.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #People #And Love #Casual

  • Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Dream #Cities #Perspective

  • The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Two #Space #Giving

  • Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Travel #Distance #Order

  • Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Memories #Venice #Cities

  • A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Order #Events #Lasts

  • Every new book I read comes to be a part of that overall and unitary book that is the sum of my readings...if you need little to set the imagination going, I require even less: the promise of reading is enough.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Reading #Imagination

  • The city of cats and the city of men exist one inside the other, but they are not the same city.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Cat #Animal #Men

  • The universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Mirrors #Contemplating #Universe

  • It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Communication #Voice #Stories

  • Everything can change, but not the language that we carry inside us, like a world more exclusive and final than one's mother's womb.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Mother #Finals #World

  • Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Silence #Stories #Buried

  • What harbor can receive you more securely than a great library?
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Library #Harbors

  • You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Journey #Expectations

  • Novelists tell that piece of truth hidden at the bottom of every lie.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Lying #Novelists #Pieces

  • Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Sad #Taken #Melancholy

  • The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Travel #Natural #Exile

  • A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Reading #Discovery

  • Fantasy is like jam. . . . You have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing . . . out of which you can’t make anything.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Jam #Pieces #Bread

  • You take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Cities #Giving #Delight

  • You have with you the book you were reading in the cafe, which you are eager to continue, so that you can then hand it on to her, to communicate again with her through the channel dug by others' words, which, as they are uttered by an alien voice, by the voice of that silent nobody made of ink and typographical spacing, can become yours and hers, a language, a code between the two of you, a means to exchange signals and recognize each other.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Reading #Mean

  • The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Two #Stories #Faces

  • This is what I mean when I say I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts, and each of these new facts bring with it consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it. . . .
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Zero #Moving #Mean

  • Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Motivational #Travel #Lying

  • To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being... what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Hate #Writing #What Matters

  • Don't ask where the rest of this book is!" It is a shrill cry that comes from an undefined spot among the shelves. "All books continue in the beyond...
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Cry #Shelves

  • There is no language without deceit.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Deceit #Language

  • what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveller's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Lying #Past #Journey

  • Something must always remain that eludes us ... For power to have an object on which it can be exercised, a space in which to stretch out its arms ... As long as I know there exists in the world someone who does tricks only for the love of the trick, as long as I know there is a woman who loves reading for reading's sake, I can convince myself that the world continues ... And every evening I, too, abandon myself to reading, like that distant unknown woman ....
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Reading #Space #Long

  • Perhaps everything lies in knowing what words to speak, what actions to perform, and in what order and rhythm; or else someone's gaze, answer, gesture is enough; it is enough for someone to do something for the sheer pleasure of doing it, and for his pleasure to become the pleasure of others: at that moment, all spaces change, all heights, distances; the city is transfigured, becomes crystalline, transparent as a dragonfly.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Distance #Lying #Cities

  • It was the hour in which objects lose the consistency of shadow that accompanies them during the night and gradually reacquire colors, but seem to cross meanwhile an uncertain limbo, faintly touched, just breathed on by light; the hour in which one is least certain of the world's existence.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Morning #Night #Light

  • At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Mirrors #Deny #Increase

  • The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Past #Hands #Cities

  • You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Expression #People #Mind

  • A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Classic #Ancient

  • seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Space #Giving #Inferno

  • One reads alone, even in another's presence.
    -- Italo Calvino

  • Renouncing things is less difficult than people believe: it's all a matter of getting started. Once you've succeeded in dispensing with something you thought essential, you realize you can also do without something else, then without many other things.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Believe #People #Matter

  • Whether there is such a thing as Reality, of which the various levels are only partial aspects, or whether there are only levels, is something that literature cannot decide. Literature recognizes rather the *reality of the levels.*
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Reality #Literature #Levels

  • Revolutionaries are more formalistic than conservatives.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Revolution #Revolutionary

  • Today each of you is the object of the other’s reading, one reads in the other the unwritten story.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Reading #Stories #Today

  • There is still one of which you never speak.' Marco Polo bowed his head. 'Venice,' the Khan said. Marco smiled. 'What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?' The emperor did not turn a hair. 'And yet I have never heard you mention that name.' And Polo said: 'Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Believe #Cities #Names

  • I speak and speak,” Marco says, “but the listener retains only the words he is expecting. The description of the world to which you lend a benevolent ear is one thing; the description that will go the rounds of the groups of stevedores and gondoliers on the street outside my house the day of my return is another; and yet another, that which I might dictate late in life, if I were taken prisoner by Genoese pirates and put in irons in the same cell with a writer of adventure stories. It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Taken #Adventure #Voice

  • It is only through the confining act of writing that the immensity of the nonwritten becomes legible
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Writing #Immensity

  • The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable, of what has been expelled from the land of language, removed as a result of ancient prohibitions.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Ocean #Land #Language

  • It is only after you have come to know the surface of things ... that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Venture #Surface

  • It is within you that the ghosts acquire voices.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Voice #Ghost

  • You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Worst

  • Though I leave the house as little as possible, I have the impression that someone is disturbing my papers. More than once I have discovered that some pages were missing from my manuscripts. A few days afterward I would find the pages in their place again. But often I no longer recognize my manuscripts, as if I had forgotten what I had written, or as if overnight I were so changed that no longer recognized myself in the self of yesterday.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Self #Yesterday #House

  • Each new Clarice, compact as a living body with its smells and its breath, shows off, like a gem, what remains of the ancient Clarices, fragmentary and dead.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Smell #Cairo #Body

  • The more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more one understood the other cities he had crossed to arrive there.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Cities #Lost #Quarters

  • Novels as dull as dishwater, with the grease of random sentiments floating on top.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Grease #Floating #Dull

  • I do not have any political commitments anymore. I'm politically a total agnostic; I'm one of the few writers in Italy who refuses to be identified with a specific political party.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Party #Commitment #Political

  • Your first book already defines you, while you are really far from being defined. And this definition is something you may then carry with you for the rest of your life, trying to confirm it or extend or correct or deny it; but you can never eliminate it.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Trying #May

  • Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Country #Important #Allies

  • We could say, then, that man is an instrument the world employs to renew its own image constantly.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Men #World #Instruments

  • In abortion, the person who is massacred, physically and morally, is the woman.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Abortion #Persons

  • For the man who thought he was Man there is no salvation.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Men #He Man #Salvation

  • Very often the effort men put into activities that seem completely useless turns out to be extremely important in ways no one could foresee. Play has always been the mainspring of culture.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Men #Playing Games #Effort

  • Nobody looks at the moon in the afternoon, and this is the moment when it would most require our attention, since its existence is still in doubt.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Moon #Doubt #Looks

  • The contradiction [trying to use Russian model to reshape Italy] grew to such an extent that I felt totally cut off from the communist world and, in the end, from politics. That was fortunate. The idea of putting literature in second place, after politics, is an enormous mistake, because politics almost never achieves its ideals.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Mistake #Cutting #Ideas

  • Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement. Only if poets and writers set themselves tasks that no one else dares imagine will literature continue to have a function.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Goal #Achievement #Tasks

  • Everything has already begun before, the first line of the first page of every novel refers to something that has already happened outside the book.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Book #Lines #Statistics

  • Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search... for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Inspiration #Writing #Expression

  • Writing always means hiding something in such a way that it then is discovered.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Writing #Mean #Words Of Wisdom

  • The minute you start saying something, 'Ah, how beautiful! We must photograph it!' you are already close to view of the person who thinks that everything that is not photographed is lost, as if it had never existed, and that therefore, in order really to live, you must photograph as much as you can, and to photograph as much as you can you must either live in the most photographable way possible, or else consider photographable every moment of your life. The first course leads to stupidity; the second to madness.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Beautiful #Thinking #Views

  • The soul is often in the surface, and the importance of 'depth' is overestimated.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Design #Soul #Depth

  • A writer's work has to take account of many rhythms: Vulcan's and Mercury's, a message of urgency obtained by dint of patient and meticulous adjustments and an intuition so instantaneous that, when formulated, it acquires the finality of something that could never have been otherwise. But it is also the rhythm of time that passes with no other aim than to let feelings and thoughts settle down, mature, and shed all impatience or ephemeral contingency.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Feelings #Intuition #Ephemeral

  • Knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Mean #World

  • The best introduction to the psychological world of one of the most important and gifted writers of our time.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Important #World #Psychological

  • I am a prisoner of a gaudy and unlivable present, where all forms of human society have reached an extreme of their cycle and there is no imagining what new forms they may assume.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #May #Assuming #Form

  • Each sort of cheese reveals a pasture of a different green, under a different sky.
    -- Italo Calvino

    #Sky #Different #Green