Painting with Words, Writing with Pictures

Painting with Words, Writing with Pictures: Word and Image Relations in the Work of Italo Calvino

FRANCO RICCI
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442678231
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  • Book Info
    Painting with Words, Writing with Pictures
    Book Description:

    Ricci's book ranges widely over Calvino's oeuvre to illustrate the accuracy of the idea articulated by Calvino himself that a visual image lies at the origin of all his narrative.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7823-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    In a letter to François Wahl dated 1 December 1960, Calvino thanks Wahl for the kind words expressed on his behalf. After praising his friend′s critical acumen – ′E′ la prima volta che ho la soddisfazione d′avere una definizione critica cosi′ intelligente e completa′ (′This is the first time that I have the satisfaction of receiving such an intelligent and complete critique′) – the author gives reasons for his satisfaction: ′perchè è la prima volta che si analizza il mio modo di immaginare e costruire una storia′ (′because it is the first time that my method for imagining and constructing...

  5. Chapter One From Word to Image
    (pp. 15-68)

    This chapter examines Calvino′s move from a narrative constructed with words to one built on images. The nature of this migration is subtle. Indeed, one can argue that the author′s visual project is indigenous, that curt, crisp, revelatory images are the hallmark of his entire writing experience. For François Wahl

    Lo choc del reale provoca 1′apparizione d′un′immagine: è ancora il reale ed è già un′altra cosa; 1′immagine traduce un′esperienza, ma significa di più e su un altro piano. Ed ecco che questo simbolo si mette a vivere; sviluppa una logica sua propria; porta con sè una rete d′avvenimenti, di personaggi;...

  6. Chapter Two From Image to Word
    (pp. 69-122)

    In this chapter I will use the terms image and imagery as relays that connect notions of language, theories of perception, instances of picturing with ideologies of social, cultural, and political value. I investigate how Calvino envisioned a new order of things, one that escaped thematic provincialism, linguistic colonization, ideologies of nihilism, and spectres of negativity in favour of an all-encompassing global perspective that wished to transfer narrative categories onto visual texts while at the same time appropriating painterly techniques for literature.

    Images are not simply a different kind of sign; they are fundamental elements of world making. Like language,...

  7. Chapter Three Variations on a Theme
    (pp. 123-156)

    If we have, till now, examined several key moments in the evolution of Calvino′s visual style, it is appropriate at this juncture to discuss the practical and methodological current that rides beneath the verbal flow of words. Calvino once commented:

    il mio temperamento mi ha portato sempre a sistemi di rifiuto articolati, mai assoluti. così anche le mie adesioni, tutte le volte che ho aderito a qualcosa, che ho creduto di identificarmi con qualcosa mi sono portato dietro le mie riserve, i miei distinguo e quel tanto di distacco che permette di guardare le cose da fuori.³

    my temperament has...

  8. Chapter Four Verbal Order to Visual Chaos
    (pp. 157-190)

    The articulation of a visually narrative style is a magnificent balancing act between observation and description, pattern and design, narratological cataloguing and abstract conceptualization. The archetype of this method is the map, the metaphor, in many ways, of an allinclusive temporal and spatial totality. Cartography is also a rationally patterned visual representation that simplifies complex and often unsettling visual experiences. These points are discussed by Calvino in the essay ′Il viandante nella mappa′:

    La necessità di comprendere in un′immagine la dimensione del tempo insieme a quella dello spazio è alle origini della cartografia. Tempo come storia del passato: penso alle...

  9. Chapter Five The World′s Seamless Web
    (pp. 191-219)

    If for Cesare Pavese telling stories is like dancing (′Raccontare è come ballare′),⁴ for Calvino telling stories is a bit like painting. To relate to the world, for our author, is to see it, to transpose it, to translate it, totally and with pristine verbal clarity, onto the allegorical canvas of the mind, onto the driven whiteness of the blank page. If it is possible to speak of an aesthetics of image production it would have to include what can be termed visual writing. An incorrigible fabricator of wondrous realms and repository of fiction, Calvino′s narrative, we have seen, has...

  10. Chapter Six Painted Stories and Novel Spaces
    (pp. 220-275)

    On the cover ofUna pietra sopra, Calvino′s official public adieu to the past and opening to the future, is a sketch by Saul Steinberg, one of Calvino′s favourite artists. An alligator is pursued by a knight, who is in turn pursued by a giant boulder. The sketch could be a parodic enactment of the Sisyphus myth; it has the same look of eternity. Yet this drama is overtaken by mundane irony. The infinity of blank space surrounding the figures renders their travail a matter of interdependent survival, making this a myth of both sacrifice and apotheosis. The sketch also...

  11. Conclusion: A New Point of Departure
    (pp. 276-290)

    In ′L′avventura di un miope′ (′The Adventure of a Nearsighted Man′) Calvino describes a character whose values, valuations, and validations hinge around what he sees:

    Amilcare Carruga era ancor giovane, non sprovvisto di risorse, senza esagerate ambizioni material o spirituali: nulla gli impediva, dunque, di godere la vita. Eppure s′accorse che da un po′ di tempo questa vita perlui andava, impercettibilmente, perdendo sapore ... s′annoiava. Alia fine capi.′ Era lui che era miope. (Gli amori difficili, 71, my emphasis)

    Amilcare Carruga was still young, not lacking resources, without exaggerated material or spiritual ambition: nothing, therefore, prevented him from enjoying...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 291-320)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-336)
  14. Name Index
    (pp. 337-340)
  15. Subject Index
    (pp. 341-342)
  16. Title Index
    (pp. 343-344)