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Luca Cottini. I passaggi obbligati di Italo Calvino. Autobiografia, memoria, identita.

Luca Cottini. I passaggi obbligati di Italo Calvino. Autobiografia, memoria, identita. Ravenna: Longo, 2017.

Luca Cottini's I passaggi obbligati is a collection of works left largely incomplete at the time of Calvino's death; however, it is homogeneous, not so much for the style, but rather from the standpoint of the "esercizi di memoria" seen as a common thread. The works selected are linked to the relationship between memory and language, as well as to Calvino's life events, which represent the focal point of his personal identity interpretation. Cottini states that, by moving from narrow time-framed windows of events, such as "lo schermo, l'alba del risveglio, l'istante del rilascio della pattumiera" (21), Calvino constructs his own origin and identity.

It should also be noted that this work is mainly addressed to Calvino specialists. In fact, the text may be possibly read as a macrotesto, or reflections of existential limitations, all peering into the mysterious world of 'identity/ as Cottini states (15). The notes and abbreviations in the preface make it straightforward for a reader to trace the works mentioned in the text as references.

Calvino was always an introverted author who preferred to avoid writing texts in which he would discuss himself. First, he was not willing to deal with his subconscious. Second, he would not distract the readers from the words of the text.

A possible reason why Calvino preferred not to include his autobiographical notes in his texts could also be that he was open and explicit about his personal life during interviews and public conversations.

Among the included texts is La strada di San Giovanni, an evocation of Cal vino's father originally published in 1962, ten years after his passing. The narration of this passage is not so focused on Calvino's memories from an autobiographical point of view; instead, it underlines the description of the family's house, while focusing on a representation of two perspectives seen from the house: the city and the countryside. In this dichotomy, we can sense that those two different worlds reflect the contrast between the personalities of Mario, the father, and Italo. Calvino's father seems attached to countryside life, a causa dell'"insofferenza di trovarsi altrove che nella sua campagna" (SSG16) (31). As for Italo, on the other hand, it seems that every aspect of reality may become an occasion to let his mind wander freely by modifying and creatively transforming every little detail (31). For Italo, his father's Enlightenment-inspired precision to categorize nature is a limitation on the possibility that living and being are not simply reduced to categorization of sounds or observation of things in nature. At the same time, the sounds and the objects, as a background to the narration, are used with a precise intention to create a starting point to escape his absence of memory and also a reality that cannot be retrieved, as "attraverso l'elenco degli elementi che ne costituiscono la fisicita [...] apre all'altrove cosmico [...]" (35). Calvino's narration is a reportage of a few memory sediments intermittently opposed to the empty space of the present (36).

In the Autobiografia di uno spettatore, Calvino describes himself in relation to his personality as a young spectator, and the evolution of his personality into one of a reviewer and spectator combined. Once again there is a contrast between the cinematic fiction and the historical reality that the author has lived through. The author, through the narration of past and present, reveals a dual identity. Images are expanded from fragmented memories (53). Calvino shares some of his biographical traits with the film director Federico Fellini: they both grew up during fascism, came from a coastal town, and experienced cinema as catharsis.

Ricordo di una battaglia is one of his first contributions in writing to the "Corriere della Sera". In this short story, the autobiography of Calvino stems from a vortex in which his personal consciousness of lost memories is followed by his recollection of the battle episode. Here, Cottini emphasizes his view of metanarrative analysis of the collection, and the metaphors that Calvino uses have the function to distill his memories through the day of the battle of Baiardo, which are seen as "sensazioni confuse che ingombrano tutto il ricordo" [RB 56: Cottini's abbreviation for Ricordo di una battaglia (69)]. However, it is impossible for Calvino to recall his lost memory and own identity (84).

In La poubelle agreee, Calvino emerges as a meticulous thinker in his analysis of the simple and methodic gesture of emptying the garbage: a connection from container to container makes the author reflect on the history, events and actions running from the dawn of time to the present day. Nevertheless, Calvino has the opportunity to reflect on the necessity to separate oneself from the waste; yet, he realizes how essential such an act is: "il buttar via e la prima condizione essenziale per essere" (88). The post-modern writer realizes that he is testifying to the disconnect between himself and the surrounding objects, "un miscuglio di brandelli sconnessi [...]" (90).

L'opaco is the short passage describing the sanremese coastal views, in which Calvino uses hypothetical descriptions of reality in order to find an explanation through "avvertenze" (105). Calvino reduces the complicated world into geometrical lines and figures while searching for a comprehensive reality.

In his final considerations, Cottini appears perplexed about such production by Calvino: are these passages, perhaps, "un'autobiografia fatta da se di un se ormai divenuto assente?" (124).

Anna Iacovella

Yale University
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Author:Iacovella, Anna
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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