Wednesday, August 18, 2004

If on a winter's night...

Italy's foremost novella writer, Italo Calvino, was found to have had a passionate correspondence with a married woman, would you feel surprised?

Yes.

Two questions. First, is nothing sacred anymore? And secondly, must memories of writers (James Joyce comes to mind) be always stained with erotic letters and sexual fantasies for everyone to see? I'm sure it's for nothing but titter value, and so far it's working.

Case in point:
In one letter, written before their affair was consummated, the retiring Calvino told De' Giorgi: "I desire you so much that the first time I take you in my arms I think I'll tear you to pieces, rip off your clothes, roll on top of you, do anything to give vent to this infinite desire to kiss you, hold you, possess you." (from the same article)
Calvino is known for his 'measured writing', not erotica. He weaved stories about little boy barons vowing to never step on land again (Baron in the Trees), about stories melding into one after the other (If On A Winter's Night A Traveler), nonexistent knights and cloven viscounts, among countless others.

What is the value of publishing his personal letters to his lover, if nothing? It'd be a shame if that is what Calvino will be ultimately remembered for, writing lusty and impassioned letters instead of the novellas that bear his name.