Collection of Sand: Essays

By Martino, Andrew | World Literature Today, September/October 2015 | Go to article overview

Collection of Sand: Essays


Martino, Andrew, World Literature Today


Italo Calvino. Collection of Sand: Essays. Martin McLaughlin, tr. Boston. Mariner Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. isbn 9780544146464

North American readers are familiar with the work of Italo Calvino primarily because of his fiction. Whether it's his "fantasy" books, The Cloven Viscount and The Nonexistent Knight, or his more postmodern texts, Invisible Cities, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, or Mr. Palomar, Calvino's extraordinary fictional output has made him popular with the general public, critics, and countless authors who consider him an inspiration. However, much of Calvino's work, particularly his nonfiction, has not been translated into English. This is troubling but not surprising since we read only a small number of books in translation in the United States. Now, however, Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, plans on translating at least five of Calvino's previously untranslated texts into English. The first is a book of essays titled Collection of Sand.

Collezione di sabbia was first published in Italy in 1984, a year before Calvino's death. The collection of essays constitutes a major contribution to Calvino's nonfictional oeuvre. Martin McLaughlin's English translation is a major achievement and a cause for celebration. Here we have Calvino at his most omnivorous, his most curious, and his most intellectually piercing. In fact, reading through Collection of Sand, it is often difficult remembering that we are reading a novelist and not an art critic or travel writer. Calvino is able to balance his own observations and his voice so as not to dominate the scenes he is writing about. He is able to slip seamlessly into the background and allow the subject matter to emerge more fully. …

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