A visual representation of the e-lit example. Intro to Exactitude To Calvino, exactitude means three things above all: a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work; an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images; and and language as precise as possible. Calvino does a great service to his readers by clearly laying out these important concepts at the very beginning of the chapter. Perhaps Calvino is practicing his own use of exactitude by being as clear as possible with his readers.

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Calvino was offered the — term of the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard — an annual lectureship held by such luminaries as T. Calvino died weeks before he was scheduled to depart for Harvard to deliver his Norton lectures. But working on them, his wife recalls, was the obsession of his final months.

My confidence in the future of literature consists in the knowledge that there are things that only literature can give us, by means specific to it. He sets out to outline six such things, beginning with Lightness — perhaps the most poetic and delicate of all. Looking back on his own career spanning forty years of writing fiction, Calvino observes: 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… I have come to consider lightness a value rather than a defect.

For Kundera the weight of living consists chiefly in constriction, in the dense net of public and private constrictions that enfolds us more and more closely.

His novel shows us how everything we choose and value in life for its lightness soon reveals its true, unbearable weight.

Perhaps only the liveliness and mobility of the intelligence escape this sentence — the very qualities with which this novel is written, and which belong to a world quite different from the one we live in. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification. Today every branch of science seems intent on demonstrating that the world is supported by the most minute entities, such as the messages of DNA, the impulses of neurons, and quarks, and neutrinos wandering through space since the beginning of time… Writing in , before most of the seminal ideas that shaped the modern web even existed, Calvino adds: Then we have computer science.

It is true that software cannot exercise its powers of lightness except through the weight of hardware. But it is software that gives the orders, acting on the outside world and on machines that exist only as functions of software and evolve so that they can work out ever more complex programs.

The iron machines still exist, but they obey the orders of weightless bits. He is the poet of physical concreteness, viewed in its permanent and immutable substance, but the first thing he tells us is that emptiness is just as concrete as solid bodies. Even while laying down the rigorous mechanical laws that determine every event, he feels the need to allow atoms to make unpredictable deviations from the straight line, thereby ensuring freedom both to atoms and to human beings. The poetry of the invisible, of infinite unexpected possibilities — even the poetry of nothingness — issues from a poet who had no doubts whatever about the physical reality of the world.

And also for him there is an essential parity between everything that exists, as opposed to any sort of hierarchy of powers or values. But these are only the outward appearances of a single common substance that—if stirred by profound emotion—may be changed into what most differs from it. In fact, thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy. With this lens, Calvino gazes into the new millennium — our millennium — in which such thoughtful lightness appears all the more urgently needed, all the more singularly capable of quenching a deep longing for meaning.

Calvino writes: Were I to choose an auspicious image for the new millennium, I would choose that one: the sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher who raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity he has the secret of lightness, and that what many consider to be the vitality of the times — noisy, aggressive, revving and roaring — belongs to the realm of death, like a cemetery for rusty old cars.

A masterful application of lightness, Calvino adds, is marked by three key characteristics: it is to the highest degree light; it is in motion; it is a vector of information. With this, he offers an eloquent and enchanting formulation of how the artful application of lightness ennobles language, literature, and human life: The idea of the world as composed of weightless atoms is striking just because we know the weight of things so well.

So, too, we would be unable to appreciate the lightness of language if we could not appreciate language that has some weight to it. We might say that throughout the centuries two opposite tendencies have competed in literature: one tries to make language into a weightless element that hovers above things like a cloud or better, perhaps, the finest dust or, better still, a field of magnetic impulses.

The other tries to give language the weight, density, and concreteness of things, bodies, and sensations. Calvino concludes by considering the ultimate value of lightness, not only in literature but in making sense of the existential: Literature [is] an existential function, the search for lightness [is] a reaction to the weight of living.

In order to move onto existential ground, I have to think of literature as extended to anthropology and ethnology and mythology. Faced with the precarious existence of tribal life — drought, sickness, evil influences — the shaman responded by ridding his body of weight and flying to another world, another level of perception, where he could find the strength to change the face of reality.

In centuries and civilizations closer to us, in villages where the women bore most of the weight of a constricted life, witches flew by night on broomsticks or even on lighter vehicles such as ears of wheat or pieces of straw.

Before being codified by the Inquisition, these visions were part of the folk imagination, or we might even say of lived experience.

I find it a steady feature in anthropology, this link between the levitation desired and the privation actually suffered.

It is this anthropological device that literature perpetuates. Complement it with Calvino on writing , Hemingway , and the two types of writers. It takes me hundreds of hours a month to research and compose, and thousands of dollars to sustain.

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Six Memos for the Next Millennium review – Italo Calvino’s Harvard lectures

Out of the many translations of the Bhagavad-Gitas that are available, this literary translation is a direct translation of the Gita without any personal additions or commentaries. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad , who is the founder acharya of the international movement for Krishna Consciousness. This version of the Gita reminded is a perfect example to represent the quality of Exactitude, because although the fact that so many commentaries exist on from the original work, not one author can claim to extract its exact transliteration but but the author Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In his work, he does not offer a personal interpretation of the work, but simply offers its essence guided followed by a purport on its explanation as it appears and not for some mundane purpose. The portrayal of vagueness in this poem appears to be a desirable characteristic. It is the trill and excitement that comes from the vagueness that we anticipate. So it appears from what this poem is telling us, is similar to what Calvino acknowledge that Exactitude rests in a multitude of vagueness, a nature of indefiniteness.


Invisible Cities. Trans William Weaver. London: Picador, I sit alone at my desk. In front of me sits a half finished bottle of wine. Next to it lies a laptop. I stare at it.


However, Calvino died of a stroke before he finished writing them. That said, within its scope and self-proclaimed goal — to pass on a set of values that will be useful in helping literature survive and describe the next millennium our own, that is — it is extremely wide-ranging, and is one of the most unusual books of literary criticism ever written. It would be of little help to the student of literature at university, unless he or she were writing about Calvino himself. But for the general reader and lover of literature it is rich and deeply satisfying — paradoxically so, given that it is so brief, and often so vague. Calvino picks and chooses from the whole range of human thought, though he often returns to Leopardi and to Shakespeare, about whom he is deftly illuminating. This is very much a book that sets you off thinking, which I suspect is the point. Also, the virtue of having this as a physical book is that you can jot down your own reactions as they occur in the margins.

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