am 10. April 2011
Ever since our ancestors started looking into the night sky, the saw patterns and connections between the stars, moons and planets, and used stories and myths to imbue those patterns with meaning and structure. With the big hindsight of the scientific worldview, all those ancient stories may seem quaint and naïve. And indeed, the advent of modern astronomy and astrophysics has greatly enriched and deepened our understanding of the Cosmos. But these wonderful new insights should not be taken in opposition to our imagination when we stare in the sky. And this is the starting point of Italo Calvino's wonderful book "Cosmicomics." It is in a sense a variation on the theme of Cosmos. Each one of the chapters in the book takes a certain scientific fact about the Cosmos, its evolution and the present state, and turns it into an imaginative story with a deeply personal theme. The main protagonist, whimsically named Qfwfq, is present in many forms throughout history of the Cosmos and he narrates its main events through very personal eyes. Many of the stories are love stories of the most imaginative kind, which is not surprising since Calvino is known and excels at that genre. Overall this is a wonderful book that tries to reestablish a very human face of the Cosmos. I highly recommend it.
am 6. Mai 1997
"In the universe now there was no longer a container and a thing contained, but only a general
thickness of signs superimposed..., occupying the whole volume of space." (Calvino 36 ).
Qfwfq, a palindromic non-entity who is actually all entities at once; a point (43), a thought (63), a dinosaur (97), a fish's nephew (71), a god (31), a beam of light flying through space (115); transcends the role of character, becoming a signifier for sentience itself. By abstracting character interaction against the empty landscape of the universe before time and before humankind, Calvino heightens the readers awareness of themselves as gods, as creators of the worlds of meaning that surround them. Qfwfq becomes representative of all inner contemplation, and therefore of sentient awareness as a whole.
All of Calvino's characters reflect this ever-present sentience. Uncle N'ba N'ga, for instance, is specifically identified as of the family Coelacanthus (71) which is a rare type of lungfish that was thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago but was then discovered off the coast of Madagascar in 1918. The uncle, like Qfwfq, represents the ever presence of sentient life as an idea that transcends its earthly form, defeating even extinction. Sentience is something that exists perpetually, before, after and during the universe, collecting hydrogen atoms as easily as catching a train to Paris. It creates reality around it by introspection, marking points in itself, identifying meaning in itself, and projecting that meaning outward. The universe is therefore created by life's contemplation of itself and its environment.
Thus we are shown to be gods spinning away through time desperately trying to leave marks to prove we exist (31), to rejoin with the disparate souls from the original point (43), falling forever through time parallel to, but never touching, the object of our desire (115). By marking the universe with our thoughts of it we create it. Because we go on forever as humans and lizards and stars, we can only identify ourselves and our world by the marks we leave, which become so thick over time that we assume them to be reality
am 14. Juli 2000
I resisted this book at first. Calvino wrote a series of 12 related short stories that work as a novel (but each story stands on its own), each playing with visual images. In his book, The Uses Of Literature, Calvino writes about Cosmicomics, saying, "My aim was to show that writing using images typical of myth can grow from any soil, even from language farthest away from any visual image." He does this with incredible agility, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity.
The first tale, for me, was the most mind- boggling. "The Distance Of The Moon" is surreal, absurd, fantastical, and utterly engaging. It is worth the price of the book itself. Four characters cavort on the earth and the moon--this was back in primordial days when the two planetary bodies were fighting to be separate--where they collect moon milk and throw it back to the earth with spoons. It is at once a tale of unrequited love, of absurd fantasy, of visual imagery, and humor that is from one of the best writers of this century.
Read it as a study of narrative; Calvino crafts his tales using symbolism, multiple meanings, all with precise, gifted language, it is worth the price of admission.
I think that any and all Sci Fi Lit classes should include "The Distance Of The Moon," or the entire book itself. I've dog-eared and scratched my copy already, and you're going to have to pry it from me. Now, I swear by it.
am 9. Mai 1998
These are not stories in the typical sense. Plot, character development, motivation, etc. aren't the main points here. Calvino takes certain astronomical ideas or theories and makes a story out of them. For instance, the big bang becomes a story about "people" all crammed together into one tiny point, who then explode outward into the universe, sometimes running into one another and discussing the old times. Some stories, such as "A Sign in Space," are so intellectual and devoid of physical action, that they are disappointing. Others, like "The Distance to the Moon," take a concept that is ludicruous and develop a good story out of it. These are not your regular stories--more like science fiction fairy tales. They are, I would guess, unlike anything you've read before and worth checking out.
am 15. Oktober 1999
It's a wonderful, fantastic book, which discribes the evolution of the Universe as a spinning journey throught time, in which playing marbles with hydrogen atoms or arguing in The Dot is obidient for the characters. It shows the Universe in such a way, that I think this book is one of the reasons for which I chose my future profession. Those are not ordinary fairy tales, they are tales of us, of our playful nature, as the characters take life as it is. On of the most beautiful stories is the moon one. The moon slowly drifts away from Earth while they are rowing to it every night and collecting Moon-milk... True charm and fantazy.
am 5. August 1999
I'm thrilled that an English translation of this book is now widely available; for the longest time I've been recommending it to friends who did not read Italian. You have never read such stories before. Furthermore, there is no way that a quickie review can do them justice. BUY THIS BOOK.
am 1. April 1998
and it's getting so worn I might have to buy a new copy. "Cosmicomics" is a charming book that fascinates English majors and physics majors alike - not many books can do that. The elegance and strength of Calvino's writing never fails to astound me.
am 30. November 1998
Science for poets ... no ... I mean ... poetry for scientists !!
am 7. Januar 2000
Out of all the Calvino books lining my shelves, Cosmicomics is my favorite, hands down. It enchants, it engages, it bewilders (Well, I suppose that goes without saying...it is Calvino, after all), it passes from friend to friend with great reverance and smiles. He takes incredibly abstract thoughts and zeroes in on what is universal and personal to us all...wouldn't you freak out if you spotted a sign on the edge of the universe that pointed a wagging finger your way, with the admonishment "I saw what you did!"? I love this book. It ranks right up there in my top 5 ever.