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THE COMPLETE COSMIC COMICS

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Italo Calvino's extraordinary imagination and intelligence combine here in an enchanting series of stories about the evolution of the universe. He makes characters out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures. They disport themselves among galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen Italo Calvino's extraordinary imagination and intelligence combine here in an enchanting series of stories about the evolution of the universe. He makes characters out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures. They disport themselves among galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen atoms, and have a love life. During the course of these stories Calvino toys with continuous creation, the transformation of matter, and the expanding and contracting reaches of space and time. He succeeds in relating complex scientific concepts to the ordinary reactions of common humanity. William Weaver's excellent translation won a National Book Award (1969). “Naturally, we were all there," old Qfwfq said, "where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?”


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Italo Calvino's extraordinary imagination and intelligence combine here in an enchanting series of stories about the evolution of the universe. He makes characters out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures. They disport themselves among galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen Italo Calvino's extraordinary imagination and intelligence combine here in an enchanting series of stories about the evolution of the universe. He makes characters out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures. They disport themselves among galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen atoms, and have a love life. During the course of these stories Calvino toys with continuous creation, the transformation of matter, and the expanding and contracting reaches of space and time. He succeeds in relating complex scientific concepts to the ordinary reactions of common humanity. William Weaver's excellent translation won a National Book Award (1969). “Naturally, we were all there," old Qfwfq said, "where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?”

30 review for THE COMPLETE COSMIC COMICS

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cinzia DuBois

    Take this book, and Moby Dick, and lay them in my arms as I lie in my casket. Then cremate me. It is only in ashes that we shall finally be one, forever and for eternity, and return to the universe the way we entered; as atoms and particles and my how beautiful we shall be.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nilesh Kashyap

    “FUCKING MINDFUCK!” I became aware of two facts after reading this book -Sometime people can be way over-creative -And sometime this over-creativity can be real pain in the... umm... let’s go with ‘rear’. So, what is cosmicomics? I may say it is comics of the universe; it is book of twelve short stories, with setting in all across the universe and from time even before big-bang to present day, and telling us the story of evolution of the universe. But that is about something written on the pages of this book, but not what the book itself is. "This book is stupendous blast of creativity." Well, creative is a wois.This“FUCKING “FUCKING MINDFUCK!” I became aware of two facts after reading this book -Sometime people can be way over-creative -And sometime this over-creativity can be real pain in the... umm... let’s go with ‘rear’. So, what is cosmicomics? I may say it is comics of the universe; it is book of twelve short stories, with setting in all across the universe and from time even before big-bang to present day, and telling us the story of evolution of the universe. But that is about something written on the pages of this book, but not what the book itself is. "This book is stupendous blast of creativity." Well, creative is a word short of describing this book. Where shall I begin? Maybe with the fact that, this book cannot be tied down to a particular genre. Nope! I don’t think such trivial things such as, genre existed for Calvino. This book is everything ranging from magical-realism, science-fiction, and philosophy. Or maybe with the fact that, there are no humans in this book. Yes, you got it right ‘no humans’ (and please, no aliens either). Well, we have ‘old Qfwfq’ as our narrator of the stories. And what is ‘Qfwfq’? I don’t know and looks like Calvino also never decided what is ‘Qfwfq’. But collecting from the stories, he is some kind of anthropomorphized shape-shifter. He is dinosaur in one story and mollusc in another. And he has been there even before universe came into existence. ‘Qfwfq’! What kind of name is that? Let me tell you that ‘Qfwfq’ is the least strange name. How about: Captain Vhd Vhd, Granny Bb’b, Mr. Hnw, Uncle N’ba N’ga, little Xlthlx, Dean (k)yK! And there are many more names, that look like mathematical formula and I don’t even know how to type them. Have you started realising the strangeness of this book! But the real deal of ‘being strange’ begins with the stories. Each stories begins with a scientific fact followed by a story developed around that fact, narrated by our very own ‘old Qfwfq’. First story, 'The Distance of the Moon' starts like this: At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. Then the tides gradually pushed her far away: the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth's waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy. How well I know! -- old Qfwfq cried,-- the rest of you can't remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full -- nights as bright as day, but with a butter-colored light -- it looked as if she were going to crush us... And in the next page: There were nights when the Moon was full and very, very low, and the tide was so high that the Moon missed a ducking in the sea by a hair's-breadth; well, let's say a few yards anyway. Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up.Climbed up on the moon like this- Easy peasy, eh? Not so easy. What, you got a question? Let ‘Qfwfq’ complete that for you.. Now, you will ask me what in the world we went up on the Moon for; I'll explain it to you. We went to collect the...In simple words, Calvino leaves no stone unturned. But, a big but, these are the things that surround the story, at the center of this is a love triangle. Yes a love triangle and this story has very sad and heart-breaking end. Powerful ending, that will not make you cry but make you think, what loving and being loved is about! Calvino packs a good amount of humour in each story, and many underlying themes, one story is about a person who is too self-conscious and many stories have characters who are laggards, who refuse to accept the change that occurs in the universe. Now tell me, how much creativity, strangeness, humour, drama, philosophy can be packed in a 15-page story. You will be surprised, that is all I can say. Now with so much of ‘everything’ in every story starts the problem of being pain in the... umm... rear. With so much richness in the stories and every story being completely different, it becomes hard to absorb the stories. I read four stories on first day, and by the time I finished fourth, I did not have stamina to read a single word more. I was drained, I was puzzled. I sat wondering, what was that I just read! "What the fuck was that!!" (different situation but the same question) Second day, I thought I’m ready to read any amount of story. Well, thinking and reality are two different things, so it happened I was again wrong. I somehow finished the book that day, but ended up missing all the fun. Yeah, that is something like my reading experience of this book, that punch definitely signifies Calvino’s ‘over-creativity’. What I'm trying to say is that these stories took a little time to sink in, and can be enjoyed most if read slowly with wide gap between reading of two stories. It will make a lot more sense when I tell you that I rated this book with 3-stars on the day I finished it, 4-stars a week later and 5-stars after penning down this review. Pheww... That’s it! Now that I’m done, I guess that the first two words of my review will make a lot more sense to you.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Le cosmicomiche = Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino Cosmicomics is a collection of twelve short stories by Italo Calvino first published in Italian in 1965 and in English in 1968. The stories were originally published between 1964 and 1965 in the Italian periodicals Il Caffè and Il Giorno. Each story takes a scientific "fact" (though sometimes a falsehood by today's understanding), and builds an imaginative story around it. An always extant being called Qfwfq narrates all of the stories save two, Le cosmicomiche = Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino Cosmicomics is a collection of twelve short stories by Italo Calvino first published in Italian in 1965 and in English in 1968. The stories were originally published between 1964 and 1965 in the Italian periodicals Il Caffè and Il Giorno. Each story takes a scientific "fact" (though sometimes a falsehood by today's understanding), and builds an imaginative story around it. An always extant being called Qfwfq narrates all of the stories save two, each of which is a memory of an event in the history of the universe. Qfwfq also narrates some stories in Calvino's t zero. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفتم ماه ژوئن سال 2003 میلادی عنوان: کمدی های کیهانی؛ نویسنده: ایتالو کالوینو؛ برگردان: موگه رازانی؛ تهران، بازتاب نگار، 1380؛ در 198 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1382؛ چاپ سوم 1387؛ شابک:9647359152 ؛ موضوع: داستانهای کوتاه علمی و خیال انگیز از نویسندگان ایتالیایی - سده 20 م عنوان: کمدی های کیهانی؛ نویسنده: ایتالو کالوینو؛ برگردان: میلاد زکریا؛ تهران، پژوهه، 1383؛ در 155 ص؛ کمدی‌های کیهانی مجموعه ی داستانهای کوتاه نوشتهٔ ایتالو کالوینو است، که نخستین بار در سال 1965 میلادی چاپ شد. داستان‌ای این مجموعه، خیال‌پردازی‌های مبهوت کننده‌، از حقایق علمی شناخته شده هستند، که موجودی ازلی آنها را روایت میکند. داستان‌ها خاطرات او از رخدادهای تاریخ جهان هستی هستند. این کتاب در سال 1380 هجری خورشیدی، توسط آقای «موگه رازانی» به فارسی ترجمه شده، و آقای میلاد زکریا نیز در سال 1383 خورشیدی آنرا منتشر کرده است. داستان‌ها: فاصله ماه؛ در سپیده‌ دم؛ علامتی در فضا؛ همه در یک نقطه؛ بدون رنگ؛ بازی‌های بی‌ پایان؛ دایی آبزی؛ چقدر شرط می‌بندی؟؛ دایناسورها؛ شکل فضا؛ سالیان نوری؛ و مارپیچ؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up. This is what happens when you let a poet loose in a library full of science books: he will turn everything on its head and take you sailing across the galactic plane watching suns coalesce from the primordial dust, he will hold a conversation across light years with neighboring galaxies, he will dance around a multicolored, sparkling cry Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up. This is what happens when you let a poet loose in a library full of science books: he will turn everything on its head and take you sailing across the galactic plane watching suns coalesce from the primordial dust, he will hold a conversation across light years with neighboring galaxies, he will dance around a multicolored, sparkling crystal gardeen, play marbles with hydrogen atoms along the curvature of space and chase skirts down gravity wells, running on parallel lines that must somehow meet in the future of desire. Now, you will ask me what in the world we went up on the Moon for; I'll explain it to you. We went to collect the milk, with a big spoon and a bucket. Moon milk was very thick, like a kind of cream cheese. 'Joyful and energetic' is how I would describe best this collection of strange and improbable stories, just like the newly spawned monocellular entity in Mitosis, ready to reach out of itself and go exploring the universe. The narrator in most of the stories is Qfwfq - an intelligent, self-aware entity that witnessed everything at first hand: the Big Bang, the Moon growing out of the Earth's core like a mushroom, the first spiral shell of a mollusk and the disappearance of dinosaurs, the death of the Universe from enthropy and its rebirth in the explosion of a giant black hole. ( To explode or to implode - said Qfwfq - that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to expand one's energies in space without restraint, or to crush them into a dense inner concentration and, by ingesting, cherish them. ) In his own recollections, witnessing this universe journey in time is all a bit like growing up in one of those noisy extended Italian families, with weird uncles and cousins everywhere, with unruly offsprings vying for attention and embarrassing oneself at every step: There was also a cleaning woman - 'maintenance staff' she was called - only one, for the whole universe, since there was so little room. To tell the truth, she had nothing to do all day long, not even dusting - inside one point not even a grain of dust can enter - so she spent all her time gossiping and complaining. (from All At One Point ) Started at the peak of the race to the Moon between 1963 and 1968, it is not surprising that space and planetary science are the favorite subjects of the tales. Later stories get more into time relativity, semiotics and genetics. Considered from the point of view of science-fiction, the major difference and obstacle in such categorizing Calvino comes from his focus on the distant past and on abstract concepts instead of on the future of humanity. The major themes I've identified in this book assembling over two decades of Calvino returning to the adventures of Qfwfq : - The Moon (The Distance to the Moon, The Mushroom Moon, The Soft Moon) - The Stars (The Light Years, At Daybreak, Games without End) - The Earth (Without Colours, Crystals, The Meteorites, The Stone Sky) - Evolution (The Aquatic Uncle, Dinosaurs, The Spiral, The Origin of Birds) - Genetics (Mitosis, Meiosis, Death from the Priscilla sequence, Blood Sea) - Time, mathematics and logic (t zero, The Night Driver, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Chase) Science is not the only inspiration for the author. Every tale introduces a mythical element, a literary reference, a love triangle, an experimental approach to link the real with the fanciful, the esoteric, the subconscious. The author will often set up to muddle things up and subvert the expectations of the reader, provoking him to look at the past of our world from a slanted perspective: I've used expressions that have the disadvantage of creating confusion with what is different nowadays while they have the advantage of bringing to light what is common between the two times. . World Memory looks at what defines humanity and what is worth preserving for posterity. It also gives a key to decoding the style used in all these cosmic comedies: A mass of coldly objective and incontrovertible information would run the risk of presenting a far from truthful picture, of falsifying what is most specific in any situation. Suppose we received from another planet a message made up of pure facts, facts of such clarity as to be merely obvious: we wouldn't pay attention, we would hardly even notice; only a message containing something unexpected, something doubtful and partially indecipherable, would break through the threshold of our consciousness and demand to be received and interpreted. If I have a complaint about the collection, and I do as witnessed by my lower rating, it is that Calvino tends to get too enamored of this deliberate obfuscation of facts, sliding into navel gazing. His logical edifices look like fragile houses of cards ready to tumble at a closer inspection from a more rigorous reader. This is apparent especially in later stories, as the first set of twelve went down without a hitch, but the later ones needed a lot more effort and concentration on my part to follow through. Here's an example where the Chateau d'If becomes an Escher etching, an absurd labyrinth from which there is no escape, a Looney Tunes cartoon, a mad game of Portal: The walls and the vaults have been pierced in every direction by the Abbe's pick, but his itineraries continue to wind around themselves like a ball of yarn, and he constantly goes through my cell as he follows, each time, a different course. He has long since lost his sense of orientation: Faria no longer recognizes the cardinal points, indeed he cannot recognize even the zenith and the nadir. At times I hear scratching at the ceiling; a rain of plaster falls on me; a breach opens; Faria head appears, upside down. Upside down for me, not for him: he crawls out of his tunnel, he walks head down, while nothing about his person is ruffled, not his white hair, nor his beard green with mold, nor the tatters of sackcloth that cover his emaciated loins. He walks across the ceiling and the walls like a fly, he sinks his pick into a certain spot, a hole opens; he dissapears. All this flight of fancy used to illustrate what? I'm still musing about it, which is not a bad thing in itself, but might turn off a casual reader. I'm trying to close, but I realize I've forgotten to introduce the recurrent theme of love as an expression of desire for knowledge, for reaching out of the inner self, as the moving factor behind celestial mechanics and behind evolution of living cells ( The tension towards the outside, the elsewhere, the otherwise, which is what is then called a state of desire. . from Mitosis ). The move from asexual to sexual reproduction is seen as a process of alienation, of separating what was once whole and letting the halves of the sphere search for each other through eternity (Plato?) : Void, separation and waiting, that's what we are. from Meiosis . As a road opener, Calvino's influence can be detected in the writers that came after him, in the effort to renew and experiment with the literary form, in breaking the rules and searching for new forms of expression. To my joy, one of these parallels is to a Romanian poet from my own hometown: Nichita Stanescu, and I look forward to re-reading his poems from this new angle. In Ode to Man I see a direct link to Calvino's Stone Sky : Din punctul de vedere-al pietrelor, soarele-i o piatră căzătoare, oamenii-s o lină apăsare... Sunt mişcare-adaugată la mişcare şi lumina ce-o zăreşti, din soare! (sorry for lack of translation) vs A stone sky rotated above our heads, one more limpid than yours, but criss-crossed, like yours, by clouds at those points where gatherings of chrome and magnesium collected. Winged shadows rise up in flight: the internal skies have their own birds, accretions of light rock describing spirals, scudding upwards until they disappear from sight. There are sudden changes of weather when bursts of leaden rain shower down, or when we have a hail of zinc crystals, there is nowhere else to escape except to slip inside the porous holes of a spongy rock. At times the darkness is split by a fiery zigzag: not a lightning bolt, but incandescent metal slithering down a vein in the earth. I'll finish with a quote Solar Storm , where Qfwfq falls in love with a being of pure energy, an incarnated Aurora Borealis that echoes in part Frankenstein by Mary Shelley : Soon all the televisions in the area will start working again, the images of detergents and beautiful girls will occupy the screen again, these gangs of persecutors will disperse, everyone will go back to their ration of daily rationality. Me too, I'll go back to my 9-to-5 job and and say goodbye for now to Qfwfq and his playful universe.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Twelve dazzling stories from Calvino, where his ambition here was to create a ludic fiction that could reflect complex advances in science without losing his playful nature and sense of magic and lightness. The stories he wrote were direct attempts to assimilate new thinking in cosmology in recognisably human - and comic - dimensions. Calvino prefaces his stories with a fact or hypothesis about the universe, then he moves on to get inside these vast abstractions, with his trademark qu Twelve dazzling stories from Calvino, where his ambition here was to create a ludic fiction that could reflect complex advances in science without losing his playful nature and sense of magic and lightness. The stories he wrote were direct attempts to assimilate new thinking in cosmology in recognisably human - and comic - dimensions. Calvino prefaces his stories with a fact or hypothesis about the universe, then he moves on to get inside these vast abstractions, with his trademark qualities that give them a recognisable voice, which twists around the reader with a nimble and often humorous plot. Through his frequent fumbling narrator - the unpronounceable Qfwfq, Calvino makes the argument that there is no corner of the cosmos that cannot be enlightened by human imagination. And as imaginative writers go, Calvino was up there with the best of them. Trying to describe such a diverse and entertaining mix, in which he wrestles with chaos and order, the profound and the absurd, is enough to send ones head spinning full of stars. Who else could have come up with idea of scooping milk from the moon, and grumbling even before the Big Bang! Calvino simply had no boundaries, he could go off in all directions, crossing the literary frontier into uncharted places to show anything is possible, if one simply opens the flood gates of the mind. How does one simply lump Calvino into a single category? it's almost impossible. Although this wasn't the 'Complete Cosmicomics' (which features more stories plucked from other Calvino books), these original 12 tales were more than enough to enter Calvino's Universe and come out the other side with sheer delight. Even though this was my 8th Calvino, he's like a jack-in-the-box that never gets boring, no matter how many times you open the lid! Faves - A Sign in Space Without Colors The Aquatic Uncle The Light-Years

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    This one pretty much floored me. The scope and the way this was written kinda blew my mind. What do I mean? Well, it's one hell of an accomplished SF... encompassing all time and space from a single viewpoint in what may as well be god... but isn't. It's a love story with a very complicated relationship of an alien with another alien, it's a love story with time, physics, genetics, and all sorts of real math. I will admit that a very great deal of my enjoyment of this novel stems from This one pretty much floored me. The scope and the way this was written kinda blew my mind. What do I mean? Well, it's one hell of an accomplished SF... encompassing all time and space from a single viewpoint in what may as well be god... but isn't. It's a love story with a very complicated relationship of an alien with another alien, it's a love story with time, physics, genetics, and all sorts of real math. I will admit that a very great deal of my enjoyment of this novel stems from the fact that I'm conversant with real science in a big way and this book incorporates it all very heavily in the narrative. The book is kinda like this: think of five or six hella great popular science writers, turn them into short-story writers, let it have the feel of Marvel or DC cosmic-stage stories, and then have it feel right at home with Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I'm not joking. It's really that good and that odd. And while the science bits and how it's written is very heavy in a way, I don't think it overwhelms the actual stories at all. It's unusual and it's very smart, but I wouldn't let that deter you from reading it. Indeed, I think everyone should read this and have it be a solid staple of the mind. My only complaint might be a bit idiotic. I really think these stories would translate perfectly into a real comic. I know it's kinda implied in the title, but still... I think it would be improved, making it even more readable and brilliant... that is, assuming that the artist is up to snuff. :)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Garima

    Qfwfq : Been there, Seen that, done that. Been where? Where the distance of the moon from the ocean was just a ladder away. Seen what? The formation of galaxies, A colorless world, A time when there was no concept of time. Done what? Lived on the nebulae, Lived as a dinosaur, fallen in love with a tadpole. A literary cosmos made up of staggering imagination, Calvino’s Cosmicomics exceeded the expectations I always have before reading any of his books and it makes me even more prou Qfwfq : Been there, Seen that, done that. Been where? Where the distance of the moon from the ocean was just a ladder away. Seen what? The formation of galaxies, A colorless world, A time when there was no concept of time. Done what? Lived on the nebulae, Lived as a dinosaur, fallen in love with a tadpole. A literary cosmos made up of staggering imagination, Calvino’s Cosmicomics exceeded the expectations I always have before reading any of his books and it makes me even more proud of declaring him as my favorite writer. A collection of 12 short stories, written by taking cue from random scientific facts/theories and re-telling of the fragmented tales about evolution of universe through the eyes of our narrator, Qfwfq, who had been a ubiquitous witness as well as part of everything since the universe was created. Sounds quite ambitious, especially taking the short story format, but that's where Calvino’s talent shines the brightest. The relationship established between various scientific concepts, bizarre living beings and their lives thereof, presents a witty commentary on understanding of the environment and coming to terms with innumerable and inevitable changes that takes place in our lives in natural as well as unnatural or uncalled ways. Compared to the uncertainties of earth and air, lagoons and seas and oceans represented a future with security. Also there is a subtle social commentary about the nature of human beings who acknowledge world not as one but as a society governed by numerous borders and boundaries and a fine distinction is sited as to who is who according to the place they belongs to. But the others also had wronged the Z'zus, to begin with, by calling them "immigrants," on the pretext that, since the others had been there first, the Z'zus had come later. This was mere unfounded prejudice -- that seems obvious to me -- because neither before nor after existed, nor any place to immigrate from, but there were those who insisted that the concept of "immigrant" could be understood in the abstract, outside of space and time. But most importantly, Calvino has presented a poignant and humorous take on humanly nature, feelings and emotions without employing any humans in his narrative yet there are titles and conceptions which constitute a human world. There were three of them: an aunt and two uncles, all three very tall and practically identical; we never really understood which uncle was the husband and which the brother, or exactly how they were related to us: in those days there were many things that were left vague. All the stories accentuates a particular feature of this cosmos in a highly skillful way wherein Calvino has dilated a single idea into astounding proportions of ace story- telling and that’s why I can’t really pick a favorite story of mine. The names of the characters, especially Qfwfq are particularly interesting. According to wiki: The name "Qfwfq" is a palindrome. The name may be an allusion to the second law of thermodynamics; substituting = for f gives Q=W=Q, which describes a heat engine. Coming from a non-science background I can’t really grasp all these scientific concepts in their entirety but still marvel at the extent to which Calvino experimented and came up with such brilliant feat of literature. This review or rather my gushy ramblings might convey a little about this book and more about my love for Calvino, so I highly recommend a more definite and fantastic review by Stephen M along with reading this book. I must add that past and future were vague terms for me, and I couldn't make much distinction between them: my memory didn't extend beyond the interminable present of our parallel fall.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen M

    This is a wonderful set of short stories which comes as no surprise from the Cuban born, Italian Italo Calvino. I had previously read If on a Winter’s Night A Traveler and Invisible Cities, both I highly recommend, and enjoyed both of them immensely. I once heard about the vast differences between all of Calvino’s novels; that certainly seems true, each one of those books bare vague resemblances to one another; the similarities residing in minor things like, short story format, magical realist elements and gor This is a wonderful set of short stories which comes as no surprise from the Cuban born, Italian Italo Calvino. I had previously read If on a Winter’s Night A Traveler and Invisible Cities, both I highly recommend, and enjoyed both of them immensely. I once heard about the vast differences between all of Calvino’s novels; that certainly seems true, each one of those books bare vague resemblances to one another; the similarities residing in minor things like, short story format, magical realist elements and gorgeous prose. Ultimately, Calvino is one of my favorite authors because he can take nearly any premise and breath wonderful imaginative life into them. If nothing else, I come away with such vivid and delightful images that I can’t help but think he was something of a genius; at least with that aspect of writing which I find to be the hardest. Any one and their mom can write some poetically-tinged block of prose and send it on its way, but it takes a little something extra to create a literary world, living and breathing with the perfect amount of detail it needs, complete unto itself, full of imaginative wonder. Calvino, most especially has a knack for these set pieces. The best example of that comes in the first story of this collection. Is it a spoiler to describe the first story? Can you spoil a short story collection? Well, if so, you’ve been warned. The entire book follows poor Qwfwq, if read literally, he is some sort of shape shifter—across species as well as subatomic particles—as he experiences the universe at varying times from the moment of its creation, to the development of matter, to the formation of the earth. Each story is prefaced with an italicized section detailing a certain scientific theory or maxim. The first, called The Distance from the Moon, has a theory formulated by George H. Darwin, the famed Charles Darwin’s son. The prediction is in regards to the origin and formation of the moon. At the time of the writing of Cosmicomics, it was believed that the moon was once very close to the earth and that it slowly drifted away from the earth in its orbit. Calvino imagines a strange tribe of some sort of half human, half fish type creatures that harvest the moon for the milk that it has. They ride on a boat across the ocean, where the moon gets closest to the earth. They have to climb a ladder and jump, lingering for a moment between the gravitational pulls of both surfaces until the point where the gravity of the moon overtakes the gravity of the earth and the person is pulled towards the moon. Calvino’s description of the ocean from that point of view is stunning. Imagine “the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine.” The rest of the story plays with this conceit. This story may be the longest, and it is his most effective. It even follows a strict three-act structure with inciting incident, dark night of the soul and denouement. I was impressed that this section, which is packed full of mother/Lacanian ideas could also be formally compact. More than just that, however, is what permeates through all of these stories. In all of them, Calvino’s imagination shines. If you let it, it will take you up in its wonderful world. The entire collection is a conjunction of fantasy, science, magical realism and realist emotions. One story talks of a left-over dinosaur after the others went extinct. Calvino tells a story about social ostracism and conflicted identity. There is a story about the steady state theory of the universe, the theory all but rejected now. In which the character Qwfwq chases another character, Pwfwp throughout the universe. He finally notices that he can see the back of his own head in front of Pwfwp, Pwfwp is actually chasing Qwfwq! Until he notices that there is an infinite number of Q’s chasing P’s and vice versa. From Q’s perspective, he is chasing P, but from P’s perspective, P is chasing Q. This is a prime example of Calvino’s overall intention with the work. He wants to impress upon the reader the arbitrary nature of privileging perspective. In an interview within a book called The Uses of Literature: Essays, Calvino says that “Robbe-Grillet came out with a bitter attack on anthropomorphism, against the writer who still humanized the landscape. . . It is not that Robbe-Grillet’s argument didn’t convince me. It is just that in the course of writing I have come to take the oppostire route in stories that are a positive delirium of anthropomorphism, of the impossibility of thinking about the world except in terms of human figures. . . [I] multiplied his eyes and his nose in every direction until he no longer knows who he is.” The point of each story is to simultaneously laugh at how ridiculous it is to compare evolution to human social interaction, yet at the same time indulge, because how else do we know about the world around us? In Cosmicomics there is a particular sadness in each story, a loss and tragedy of understanding. Even the signs which we take to be words begins to break down, as the meanings of words proliferate and destabilize. "I realized that with what seemed a casual jumple of words I had hit on an infinite reserve of new combinations among the signs which compact, opaque, uniform reality would use to disguise its monotony, and I realized that perhaps the race toward the future, the race I had been the first to foresee and desire, tended only—through time and space—toward a crumbling into alternatives like this, until it would dissolve in a geometry of invisible triangles and ricochets like the course of a football among the white lines of a field as I tried to imagine them, drawn at the bottom of the luminous vortex of the planetary systems, deciphering the numbers marked on the chests and backs of the players at night, unrecognizable in the distance." He takes anthropocentrism to its logical extreme. By applying human characteristic to even the most absurd of things—subatomic particles and the original point of matter from which the big bang sprung—he exposes it this "humanizing" for the absurdity it is. While reading all these stories, I couldn’t stop thinking about the sheer incomprehensibility of the universe. From its most minute particles to its cosmic grandiosity, we are stuck amid an ocean of unknowability; the basis for our existence only to be reified in arbitrary metaphors—even string theorists will tell you that “strings” are just the best metaphor they came conjure—and we are stuck in this self-privileged perspective by which we interact with the universe. I think about the incredibly miniature, the infinite regress of sub-atomic matter and the indomitable vastness of a star, not even ours, ours isn’t even that large and my head begins to spin. In every story, Calvino harps on this inability for any of us to really understand the incredible nature of the universe. I have no way of even picturing how vast the universe is; the speed of light—186,000 miles per second—still takes some 100 million years to travel between stars. If an atom were extrapolated to the size of a solar system, a string would be the size of a tree on earth. I struggle to even conceive of this and all the while I envy the certainty of preachers, religious fundamentalists or any person with a disposition for staunch certainty. They have, within their understanding, this entire universe, which we lack the vocabulary and imagination to even properly represent, subsumed under a single, perfect explanation. It causes them not a single shred of doubt or uncertainty; it is completely beyond me. My only solace is indulging in what I love: reading, writing, learning, and most especially literature, like this beautiful book. I am overcome with gratitude and astonishment for having a brain and consciousness capable of appreciating this ever-confounding reality we call home and Calvino, for making it so damn wonderful and fun.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I'm trying to find just the right word to describe these stories. Science fables isn't quite right - there isn't a moral at the end of each one. I'm torn between science myths and science legends. I think I'm leaning towards myths, in the sense of "stories that tell how something came to be." Let's go with that. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meanti I'm trying to find just the right word to describe these stories. Science fables isn't quite right - there isn't a moral at the end of each one. I'm torn between science myths and science legends. I think I'm leaning towards myths, in the sense of "stories that tell how something came to be." Let's go with that. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    The Complete Cosmicomics: Cosmic Tales of the Universe’s Origins Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Along with his brilliant Invisible Cities(1972 in Italian, 1974 in English), one of Italo Calvino’s most enduring creations was his series of whimsical and erudite stories inspired by the origins of the universe and scientific principles, labeled Cosmicomics (1965 in Italian, 1968 in English). They are narrated by a mysterious being called Qfwfq, who tells of the Big Bang and the time before that when the universe was a single The Complete Cosmicomics: Cosmic Tales of the Universe’s Origins Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Along with his brilliant Invisible Cities(1972 in Italian, 1974 in English), one of Italo Calvino’s most enduring creations was his series of whimsical and erudite stories inspired by the origins of the universe and scientific principles, labeled Cosmicomics (1965 in Italian, 1968 in English). They are narrated by a mysterious being called Qfwfq, who tells of the Big Bang and the time before that when the universe was a single point without space or dimensions. Qfwfq has a refreshingly frank and humorous attitude towards such momentous moments as the birth of our universe, the origins of life, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the first animals to crawl onto land, the early days of the Moon, etc. If you seek out these stories, you will find that the most recent edition includes much more than the original 12 stories. Now, for the same price you can buy in print or e-book all 34 collected Cosmicomics stories, published as The Complete Cosmicomics (2009). This comprises the original Cosmicomics (1965), t-zero (1967, also published in English as Time and the Hunter), and World Memory and Other Cosmicomic Stories (a collection never published in a single English volume, with eight new stories, seven of which are translated into English for the first time for the 2009 collection). It’s an overused expression, but these stories truly defy easy description. Calvino believed that modern fiction was not addressing the most important new developments in cosmology and science in the context of the mid-1960s and amid the space race between the US and Soviet Union. So he took it upon himself to address these topics with a literary approach, and on top of that add a whimsical tone to otherwise obtuse concepts like the Big Bang and dimensionless space. He also added a romantic element to these stories, as his protagonist Qfwfq is often pining after an elusive female companion, pursuing her across lunar landscapes, deep in the primordial earth, or in the farthest corners of the universe. So the big distinction with science fiction is that Calvino is fascinated with our origins, and at the same time uses the lens of literature to inform his comic tales. I will split my review into three parts to do justice to each section. Cosmicomics (5 stars) These are probably Calvino’s most accessible and enjoyable stories, and the first US edition translated by William Weaver won the National Book Award for a Translation in 1969. The first story in particular, “The Distance to the Moon”, combines all the elements I’ve described in a delightful tale of the early days when the Moon was much closer to the Earth, and the poignant love story that enfolds around it. It’s tells the story of Qfwfq, Captain Vhd Vhd, his wife, and Qfwfq’s deaf cousin, who took little boats on the ocean to harvest the milk of the Moon using a ladder, big spoons, and buckets. The distance between the Earth and Moon is so short that a tall ladder is enough to get there, and gravity reverses midway so you are drawn to the Moon past a certain point, and appear to be hanging upside down from the Earth perspective. Calvino’s descriptions of this bizarre and fantastic situation are wonderful: In reality, from the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up. I would cling first with one hand, then with both, and immediately I would feel ladder and boat drifting away from below me, and the motion of the Moon would tear me from the Earth’s attraction. Yes, the Moon was so strong that she pulled you up; you realized this the moment you passed from one to the other: you had to swing up abruptly, with a kind of somersault, grabbing the scales, throwing your legs over your head, until your feet were on the Moon’s surface. Seen from the Earth, you looked as if you were hanging there with your head down, but for you, it was the normal position, and the only odd thing was that when you raised your eyes you saw the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine. There they harvest the milk of the Moon, which is a truly unique and somewhat stomach-churning concoction: Moon-milk was very thick, like a kind of cream cheese. It formed in the crevices between one scale and the next, through the fermentation of various bodies and substances of terrestrial origin which had flown up from the prairies and forests and lakes, as the Moon sailed over them. It was composed chiefly of vegetal juices, tadpoles, bitumen, lentils, honey, starch crystals, sturgeon eggs, molds, pollens, gelatinous matter, worms, resins, pepper, mineral salts, combustion residue. There develops a strange love triangle between Qfwfq, the Captain’s wife, and Qfwfq’s deaf cousin whose only passion is harvesting the Moon’s milk and exploring its scaly and alien terrain. I was surprisingly moved by the ending of this story, as I had initially expected Calvino’s story not to be centered on human relationships. This story is creative, literate, whimsical, and magical, and if you are interested in this collection I think it will win you over. The remaining 11 stories are of equally high quality and charm, and explore a wide range of concepts and themes. Taken as whole, they are an amazing achievement and unique in the annals of fantastic literature. Time and the Hunter (2 stars) This set of stories is a very different creature indeed. It consists of three parts, “More of Qfwfq”, “Priscilla”, and “t zero”. These stories are far more experimental, formalistic, complex, mathematical, and frequently impossible to follow. In many ways they bear little resemblance to the stories from Cosmicomics, so in reviewing them I gave them a 3 star rating. I will separately review each part. “More of Qfwfq” This part consists of four stories, “The Soft Moon”, “The Origin of the Birds”, “Crystals”, and “Blood, Sea”. These stories ostensibly are narrated by Qfwfq, but his presence is fairly limited, and the stories often occupy modern environments, but still exploring Calvino’s themes of the romantic pursuit of the Moon, the evolution of birds shown via cartoon strip, the elements that make up the Earth juxtaposed onto New York, and the story of how life in the oceans made its way into our bodies via blood cells. It’s a much more cerebral literary experimental, and much of the playfulness is gone, but it does represent Calvino’s tireless drive to reinvent literary conventions to tackle modern themes. “Priscilla” This is a set of three linked stories, “Mitosis”, “Meiosis”, and “Death”, and I found these stories almost impossible to read or understand, as this passage will show: So I am speaking then of the initial phase of a love story which afterwards is probably repeated in an interminable multiplication of initial phases just like the first and identified with the first, a multiplication or rather a squaring, an exponential growth of stories which is always tantamount to the first story, but it isn’t as if I were so very sure of all this, I assume it as you can also assume it. I’m referring to an initial phase that precedes the other initial phases, a first phase which must surely have existed, because it’s logical to expect it to exist, and also because I remember it very well, and when I say it’s the first I don’t in the least mean first in the absolute sense, that’s what you’d like me to mean but I don’t; I mean first in the sense that we can consider any of these identical initial phases the first, and the one I refer to is the one I remember, the one I remember as first in the sense that before it I don’t remember anything. And as for the first in the absolute sense, your guess is as good as mine, I’m not interested. My mind was reeling after pages of this type of exposition. It just went on and on, without any conceivable storyline. It’s very much a literary experiment, but for me these stories had no appeal. “t zero” This is the set of four stories that really go off the deep end of mathematical experimental literature, and I challenge anyone other than a theoretical mathematician with an advanced literature degree out there to make any sense of the stories at all. It was so completely impenetrable that I just skimmed through the pages until they became a blur. You’re welcome to give them a try, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Again, a sample may help to illustrate what I mean: I find myself in a random space-time intermediary point of a phase of the universe; after hundreds of millions of billions of seconds here the arrow and the lion and I and the bush have found ourselves as we now find ourselves, and this second will be promptly swallowed up and buried in the series of the hundreds of millions of billions of seconds that continues, independently of the outcome, a second from now, of the convergent or divergent flight of the lion and of the arrow; then at a certain point the course will reverse its direction, the universe will repeat its vicissitude backwards, from the effects the causes will punctually arise… it will be forgotten in the dispersal of billions of combinations of neurons within the lobes of brains, so that no one will know he’s living in reversed time just as I myself am not now sure in which direction the time I move in is moving, and if the then I’m waiting for has not in reality already happened just a second ago, bearing with it my salvation or my death. World Memory and Other Cosmicomic Stories (4 stars) These stories represent a welcome return to the tales of the world’s early days, narrated by Qfwfq in his inimitable style. After the incomprehensible mess of “t zero”, it was nice to read more of the fables of how the moon formed from the sea, waves of land thrusting themselves up from the primordial seas, carrying various odd characters on their crests (“The Mushroom Moon”), a very haunting story of the decrepit old Moon and it’s encounter with a modern-world junkyard and the efforts of an army of young women in an ultra-modern ultra-consumerist New York to save the Moon (“The Daughters of the Moon”). Here is a memorable image: We crossed one of the bridges that link Manhattan to the mainland. Now we were going along a multi-lane highway, with other cars alongside us, and I kept my eyes fixed on the road ahead, fearing the laughter and crude comments that the sight of the two of us was no doubt prompting in the cars on either side. But when a saloon car overtook us, I nearly went off the road in surprise: crouched on its roof was a girl with her hair spread out in the wind. For a second I thought my passenger was leaping from one fast-moving car to another, but all I had to do was turn my eyes round ever so slightly to see that Diana’s knees were still there at the same height as my nose. And it was not just her body that glowed before my eyes: I saw girls everywhere, stretched out in the strangest of poses, clinging to the radiators, doors, mudguards of the speeding cars—their golden or dark hair was the only thing that contrast with the pale or dark gleam of their skin. One of these mysterious female passengers was positioned on every car, all stretching forwards, urging the drivers to follow the Moon. He also includes “The Stone Sky”, an inversion of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which two being dwell within the Earth’s core, but the female named Rdix has this irresistible urge to explore the upper layers near the crust where ephemeral beings (like humans) dwell. Calvino’s imagery here is again unique and refreshing - he delights in inverting our conventional perspectives and examining non-human perspectives: Border areas, passages between one earthly layer and another, gave her a mild vertigo. We knew that the Earth is made up of superimposed roofs, like the skins of an enormous onion, and that every roof leads you to a roof higher up, and all of them together prefigure the final roof, the point where the Earth ceases to be Earth, where all the inside is left on this side, and beyond there is only the outside. For you this border of the Earth is identified with the Earth itself; you think the sphere is the surface that wraps it, and not its total volume; you have always lived in that flat, flat dimension and you don’t even imagine that one can live elsewhere and in a different way. For us at that time, this border was something we knew existed, but we didn’t think we could see it without leaving the Earth, a prospect which seemed to us not so much frightful as absurd. That was where everything was flung out in eruptions and bituminous spurts and smoke-holes, everything that the Earth expelled from its innards: gases, liquid mixtures, volatile elements, base matter, all types of waste. It was the world in negative, something that we could not picture even in our minds, the abstract idea of it was enough to give us a shiver of disgust, no, of anxiety; or rather a stunned sensation, a kind of—as I said—vertigo (yes, that’s it, our reactions were more complex than you might think, especially Rdix’s), into which their crept an element of fascination, a kind of attraction to the void, to anything double-faced or absolute.

  11. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Twelve totally enchanting tales about the evolution of the universe. This book is a good set of fanciful stories that a father can use to answer his son’s never-ending questions about the moon, the sun and everything up in the sky. This is my third book by Italo Calvino and he still to disappoint me. Like Milan Kundera, he also does not re-write himself. He was a league of his own - writing about a unfinished manuscript being read by you, the reader - in If on a winter’s night a traveler. He looked back Twelve totally enchanting tales about the evolution of the universe. This book is a good set of fanciful stories that a father can use to answer his son’s never-ending questions about the moon, the sun and everything up in the sky. This is my third book by Italo Calvino and he still to disappoint me. Like Milan Kundera, he also does not re-write himself. He was a league of his own - writing about a unfinished manuscript being read by you, the reader - in If on a winter’s night a traveler. He looked back and went medieval and talked about tarot cards in A Castle of Crossed Destinies. Now, he looked up in the sky, brought out his astronomy book and wrote a book belonging to a sci-fi sub-genre called intellectual fantasy: his 1965 collection of short stories, Cosmicomics. In the beginning, before the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe was concentrated in a single point. As his narrator Qfwfq says: ”Where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?” Then Calvino tells his story about the creation of the universe just like the story in Genesis not in the way Moses (Genesis being the first book of Moses) but in a playful manner with his non-human characters whose names are mathematical symbols or algorithms doing out-of-this-world activities like putting ladder to climb up to the moon or throwing atoms just like how we threw balls up in the sky when we were kids. Calvino’s style here reminds me a lot of Salman Rushdie’s brand of magical realism not using real people (like G. G. Marquez) but more of make-believe characters that adds to the magic and uniqueness of the story. In fact, this is what Salman says about the book: “I first read Cosmicomics in my early 20s, and it's a book I've gone back to again and again. It is possibly the most enjoyable story collection ever written, a book that will frequently make you laugh out loud at its mischievous mastery, capricious ingenuity and nerve.” My favorite among the 12 stories is the first one: The Distance of the Moon where the moon and earth are still closed to each other and men can put up a ladder to climb to the moon. The close proximity of the moon and earth reminded me of the local legend told to us by our teachers here in the Philippines: that there was a man who had to use a wooden mortar and pestle to remove husk from the palay and produce rice. That every time he did that the sky became high and high until it became as far and high as it appears now. The books reminds me that there is no boring topic only boring novelists. Who would have thought that there could still be interesting stories that can be told about the sky? Especially at night, when you look up and all you can see are darkness and some small blinking tired stars? There is nothing dated about the stories and because he based each story on actual astronomical facts, everything makes sense. Just use your imagination and ride with Calvino in his make-believe flight. Probably humming a bit of Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon might also add some spice while reading some of the stories.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    Calvino opened this beautiful little collection with "The Distance of the Moon," a tale from the days when the lunar landscape could be reached with nothing more than a ladder and some well-timed gymnastics, so it struck me as appropriate that I began reading “Cosmicomics” on the night of a full moon. I had its richly resonant first two stories running through my head while driving home from work that evening. The first half of my commute is a journey illuminated by the artificial lights of both Calvino opened this beautiful little collection with "The Distance of the Moon," a tale from the days when the lunar landscape could be reached with nothing more than a ladder and some well-timed gymnastics, so it struck me as appropriate that I began reading “Cosmicomics” on the night of a full moon. I had its richly resonant first two stories running through my head while driving home from work that evening. The first half of my commute is a journey illuminated by the artificial lights of both commerce and my fellow impatient motorists before giving way to a monotonous stretch of interstate road, offering precious few spots of gap-toothed skyline that allow the evening sky to break through; one of these infrequent openings offered a glimpse of the looming, swollen moon. The distortion of a full lunar sphere just beginning its ascent, an engorged orb hanging so low and heavy that she could pass for the grandest part of the man-made horizon, is one of my favorite displays offered by my favorite celestial phenomenon: I’ve had a particular affinity for the full moon ever since I discovered that unusually well-lit nighttime walks were the most reliable antidote for my teenage moodiness. The optical illusion that makes a low moon loom gigantically renders a familiar sight unusual, and stealing a few glances of it during my daily trek lent a tangibility to Calvino's story I wasn't expecting but didn't really surprise me. This would not be the first (and I sincerely doubt the last) time I couldn't help but apply Calvino's vision to a real-world occurrence. These stories make the kind of sense that dreams do, in a way. While clearly mismatched words don’t rhyme upon waking as they do in nocturnal narratives and the person who represents a singular entity in sleep becomes an obviously symbolic amalgamation of strangers and forgotten friends once the dreamer is jarred into consciousness, the creation myths Calvino weaves into dazzling truths actually do hold up upon further examination, even if they do require the occasional suspension of disbelief; still, who’s to say the cosmos and the population that arose with it adhere to the same stringent reality we’ve come to accept? While the formative years of the cosmic terrain -- the Earth and its lunar satellite included -- are decidedly alien in their lack of familiar concepts (just as our commonalities were novel then: "You understand? It was the first time. There had never been things to play with before. And how could we have played? With that pap of gaseous matter?"), the inhabitants' stumbling confusion about what's going on but solid certainty that whatever's happening is important didn't require a leap of imagination to understand. Calvino imbued his cast of nonhuman characters with decidedly human curiosity and incredibly human failings, which helps to ground an otherwise ethereal collection of interweaving tales in achingly relatable terms. What struck me most about this book is how actively shameful impulses have shaped and driven self-aware creatures since, quite literally, there have been self-aware beings in a position to affect their environment. Those jealousies, those prejudices, and most of all those proud insecurities were allowed to reach a boiling point and bubbled into the external world. The effects weren't always catastrophic but they did leave lasting marks on the nascent universe. To consider that the universe as we know it (what we know of it, anyway) was crafted neither by a happy, scientifically explained accident nor the whim of just but avuncular deities, but rather some ordinary guy's selfish motives and a need to leave a cosmic "I wuz here" smear of existential proof is a perspective shift worth mulling over. I still maintain that this is perfection in 153 pages. My second encounter with Calvino was just as fortuitous and spilled off the page into real life just as much as my first -- so much, in fact, that I bought another one of this books almost immediately upon finishing this one because I just want to glut myself on Calvino's unequaled prose. Simply, the man reminds me of what a magical experience a good book is and why reading has been one of my favorite pastimes for as long as it has. This is a quick read that demands the reader to pace him/herself to properly dwell on the densely packed splendor within.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    Disclaimer :: Everything that follows is a lie. The book was received by me direct from the publisher for no charge, via that goodreads first reads giveaway. What was greatest here was the opportunity to reread the original set of Calvino’s cosmicomics collected as Cosmicomics. These little things are simply gems, some of the best fabulist writing you’ll ever come across. Frankly, I prefer them to what Coover does with the fabulation. All told, this recent publication of The Complete Cosmicomics collects 34 pieces, in Disclaimer :: Everything that follows is a lie. The book was received by me direct from the publisher for no charge, via that goodreads first reads giveaway. What was greatest here was the opportunity to reread the original set of Calvino’s cosmicomics collected as Cosmicomics. These little things are simply gems, some of the best fabulist writing you’ll ever come across. Frankly, I prefer them to what Coover does with the fabulation. All told, this recent publication of The Complete Cosmicomics collects 34 pieces, including eight trans’d into English for the first time. The best of the additional stories are the Qfwfq stories, especially those toward the end, “Shells and Time”, “World Memory”, “Nothing and Not Much”, and “Implosion”. Although “World Memory” isn’t technically a Qfwfq story, but you get the feeling that the writers of that one Futurama episode had this story in mind. Something didn’t quite catch in the Priscilla triptych, “Mitosis”, “Meiosis”, and “Death”. Those from t zero are perhaps only for those fascinated by Zeno and/or the mathimatico-logico OULIPO kind of thing. And frankly I’m not quite clear how they qualify as cosmicomics. In other word, the cosmological stories suit me much better than the biologically or the mathematically oriented stories. There is this thing where these cosmicomics (this is its own genre, within ‘fabulism’) are what science fiction would be were science fiction a kind of fiction about science, rather than the junk it tends to be. I mean, really about science. And what is spectacular here, isn’t so much that these pieces are about this or that scientific (or faux scientific) thesis or hypothesis or discovery, but the way they place subjectivity in an impossible position, place consciousness precisely there where consciousness is impossible to sustain. And thereby demonstrates the alienated experience that is inevitable within a scientific world view which simply cannot deal with the trauma of subjectivity. Or, these stories are more true than the god=perspective practicing scientists are forced to assume. In other words, better to read these stories with Kant, Schelling, Heidegger, etc in mind than with the latest issue of whatever periodical of theoretical physics you prefer. Also, if you want to know what ‘postmodern’ fiction is, you’ll need at least the original set of cosmicomics. Lovely. ____________ oh and since everyone loves Hamlet, I want to provide for you Calvino’s riff from “Implosion” on that soliloquy :: “To explode or to implode, that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to expand one’s energies in space without restraint, or to crush them into a dense inner concentration and, by ingesting, cherish them. To steal away, to vanish; no more; to hold within oneself every gleam, every ray, deny oneself every vent, suffocating in the depths of the soul the conflicts that so idly trouble it, give them their quietus; to hide oneself, to obliterate oneself: perchance to reawaken elsewhere, changed.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I guess if there was nothing on tv and you were bored your mind might start wandering and you might possibly conceive that a civilisation of very tiny unicorns called Gzz and Tjsdfh might live up my arse but you wouldn't want to write a damn book about it, would you. However thin the book might be.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I read this on route to Vietnam, sad to leave my half-read but weighty Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid at home. It was strangely a related interlude, a different look at the laws underpinning our universe and our reality. However the motivation of both authors was very similar - how do we as humans try to understand the complexity and wonder of the constraints and possibilities inherent in the structure of our reality? How does physics translate to our human experience, and how does our I read this on route to Vietnam, sad to leave my half-read but weighty Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid at home. It was strangely a related interlude, a different look at the laws underpinning our universe and our reality. However the motivation of both authors was very similar - how do we as humans try to understand the complexity and wonder of the constraints and possibilities inherent in the structure of our reality? How does physics translate to our human experience, and how does our human experience affect our translation of physics? I was reminded of GEB's recursion - our experience affecting our reality which ths affects our experience - in this lies all possibilities within the boundaries of our physics. And Calvino sees the limitless lyrical and beautiful possibilities of the human condition - hope, joy, sadness, loss, yearning, lust, anger, confusion, jealousy, arrogance, love, desire - all contained within our universe, which of course containes the observer. Here he presents with deft touch whimsical, delightful observations in a style where A Brief History of Time meets Alice in Wonderland. This is not fantasy, this is not magical realism, it is sui generis - the best term I can think of is magical science. It is totally believable and so natural it seems real, not allegory. This little book is a precious gem, each facet sparkling with suprise and wonder.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    Storytelling at its best. I rarely read anything as creative as this, I mean the book's narrator is someone (or something?) called Qfwfq, and other characters in the book include (k)yK, Kgwgk and Mrs. Ph(i)NKѲ! It's a collection of stories about the formation of the universe using scientific terminology and ideas so I guess to fully understand Calvino's genius, some knowledge of science (especially Physics, astronomy and Earth Science) is a good idea.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Italo Calvino, in Cosmicomics, writes a philosophical, pseudo-scientific fantasy that attempts, somewhat whimsically, to answer the kind of questions a child might pose: How did the earth begin? Where do we come from? How did language begin? The book charts the path of a character named Qfwfq who roams through emerging galaxies, romps with hydrogen atoms, and, in general, makes observations about an evolving universe. Calvino’s book, a landmark of postmodern fiction, depicts a common postmodernist theme: i. Italo Calvino, in Cosmicomics, writes a philosophical, pseudo-scientific fantasy that attempts, somewhat whimsically, to answer the kind of questions a child might pose: How did the earth begin? Where do we come from? How did language begin? The book charts the path of a character named Qfwfq who roams through emerging galaxies, romps with hydrogen atoms, and, in general, makes observations about an evolving universe. Calvino’s book, a landmark of postmodern fiction, depicts a common postmodernist theme: i.e., the “literature of exhaustion,” the sense that we are surrounded by words, drowning in words, and—as a consequence—words are all used up and devoid of meaning. However, Calvino, writing back in the 1960s could hardly have known how prophetic his words would be when related to cyber-space. In a chapter entitled “A Sign in Space,” Qfwfq, who is in the midst of whisking through the Milky Way, stops and innocently draws a sign, the first sign, in fact, at a point in space, so that he can find his way when he comes around again in about two hundred million years. Qfwfq points out that just the process of making the first sign itself involved considerable leaps of thought. He states that we think of a sign as “something that can be distinguished from something else” when, at that point in existence “nothing could be distinguished from anything …” and there were no previous examples to suggest what a sign might even be. Qfwfq’s sign, though, creates difference. Where there had been empty space there was now a something, a sign, a symbol that had to be reckoned with. For a long time, his sign remains untarnished. Then, some 600 million years later, as Qfwfq makes his third circuit, he sees that his sign has been crossed out and another sign put next to it, a sign that was obviously a copy of Qfwfq’s original sign. With the sign, its erasure, and the counterfeit sign, the universe’s first dialogue begins. One-upmanship takes over and soon—at least in terms of galactic years—the signs and countersigns begin proliferating at a rapidly escalating pace. Finally, Qfwfq remarks nostalgically: “In the universe now there was no longer a container and a thing contained, but only a general thickness of signs superimposed and coagulated, occupying the whole volume of space; it was constantly being dotted, minutely, a network of lines and scratches and reliefs and engravings; the universe was scrawled over on all sides, along all its dimensions. There was no longer any way to establish a point of reference.” In 1965, Calvino could not have known that the mass of signs he describes clogging the universe was an uncanny prediction of the Internet itself where signs and sights/sites grow in increasing numbers in cyber-space. Calvino's tale parallels the type of world in which we now live. The Internet, without exaggeration, really is like a system of signs “superimposed and coagulated, occupying the whole volume of space.” While terms such as the "information highway" imply that the Internet is a gateway to knowledge, I wonder about the ability to concentrate, and achieve any type of knowledge - much less wisdom - in our tech-laden, data-riddled world. From a prior publication

  18. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Penguin Classics rounded up the entire output from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics series in 2009 and collected them into this impressive and expensive hardback book, The Complete Cosmicomics. The edition I read contains all the stories from the original Cosmicomics, Time & the Hunter, World Memory & Other Cosmicomic Stories, and Cosmicomics Old & New collections, plus one rewritten marvel, The Other Eurydice. I made the mistake of devouring these stories in one quick glut and probably didn’t read them in the manner the author inten Penguin Classics rounded up the entire output from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics series in 2009 and collected them into this impressive and expensive hardback book, The Complete Cosmicomics. The edition I read contains all the stories from the original Cosmicomics, Time & the Hunter, World Memory & Other Cosmicomic Stories, and Cosmicomics Old & New collections, plus one rewritten marvel, The Other Eurydice. I made the mistake of devouring these stories in one quick glut and probably didn’t read them in the manner the author intended – slowly over a period of months, letting each mysterious and complex tale seep into my subconscious. Frankly, I found these astrophysical fables rather repetitive and tedious, and I lost interest as it shifted into the more pessimistic fare. I’m not entirely well-versed in Calvino’s oeuvre, so for now I’m going to assume I’m wrong and that these stories are genius for reasons I am incapable of understanding. More open-minded readers will find the scientific detail fascinating and will appreciate the wit, charm and humour in some of these incredibly clever stories. For some reason, most of these had no effect on me. It was rather like going to visit the Louvre and falling asleep among the Picassos. Who can explain the science of art? Still – this is a gorgeously packaged edition and a must-have for Calvino supporters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    The concept is simple: take an abstract scientific concept and bring it to life through the art of the short story. Yet what Calvino achieves in Cosmicomics is unparalleled. The collection contains twelve short stories, each beginning with a short statement describing a scientific theory, a dry, explanatory piece of writing that feels like it could've been pulled out of an introductory astronomy (or biology) textbook. For example, the first story, "The Distance of the Moon," begins with the foll The concept is simple: take an abstract scientific concept and bring it to life through the art of the short story. Yet what Calvino achieves in Cosmicomics is unparalleled. The collection contains twelve short stories, each beginning with a short statement describing a scientific theory, a dry, explanatory piece of writing that feels like it could've been pulled out of an introductory astronomy (or biology) textbook. For example, the first story, "The Distance of the Moon," begins with the following passage: At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. The the tides gradually pushed her far away: the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth's waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy. Then comes the bulk of each of 10-15 page story, all but two of which are narrated by Qfwfq, a wizened old storyteller who has seen everything from the beginning of the universe and who tells it all in a down-home style that feels as if the audience has gathered around a campfire to hear tales of long-ago. For example, "The Distance of the Moon" continues thus: How well I know! - old Qfwfq cried, - the rest of you can't remember, but I can. We had her on top of us at that time, that enormous Moon: when she was full - nights as bright as day, but with a butter-colored light - it looked as if she were going to crush us; when she was new, she rolled about the sky like a black umbrella blown by the wind... Qfwfq then goes on to tell a story of a group of people that would take a ladder up to the moon to harvest its cheese, and of his mute cousin who felt at home only on the moon, and of the captain's wife who was in love with the cousin, and of the narrator's love for the captain's wife, and all the tragic results of the love triangle, with the moon at it center. Each story is given a striking humanity, achieving that goal of every fiction writer: illuminating what it means to be human; yet Calvino's methods often don't involve humans, as main characters are particles of dust, evolving animals, or even mathematical formulas. The stories, I believe, can best be described as "scientific myths," i.e. not the myths of great scientific figures, but mythology based upon modern science, reinvented the past's legends with today's understanding of the universe. Cosmicomics, like his best-known work If on a winter's night a traveler, proves that Calvino is one of the most creative, innovative writers of the 20th century, able to use complex theory effortlessly to bring forth a deceptively simple tale of the basic human emotions.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is a strange and creative work. The briefest of descriptions about Calvino say something like "he's one of the world's greatest fabulists". So, generally people know what they are getting into when they crack the cover. But I'm not sure that I know what I experienced, even now. So, the set up is easy--a bunch of stories about the evolution of the universe. But what the hell does that even mean? For one, each story begins with an italicized blurb that reads like something out of a science te This is a strange and creative work. The briefest of descriptions about Calvino say something like "he's one of the world's greatest fabulists". So, generally people know what they are getting into when they crack the cover. But I'm not sure that I know what I experienced, even now. So, the set up is easy--a bunch of stories about the evolution of the universe. But what the hell does that even mean? For one, each story begins with an italicized blurb that reads like something out of a science text book. But is that really what they are? None of these epigraphs are attributed to a source, so I have to assume that they are Calvino's own paraphrase, but should we take them as "scientific fact"? Or are they something else? Take the blurb that heads "Games without End" for example: "When the galaxies become more remote, the rarefaction of the universe is compensated for by the formation of further galaxies composed of newly created matter. To maintain a stable median density of the universe it is sufficient to create a hydrogen atom every 250 million years for 40 cubic centimeters of expanding space. (This steady state theory, as it is known, has been opposed to the other hypothesis, that the universe was born at a precise moment as the result of a gigantic explosion.)" (63) Wasn't stead-state theory largely debunked before Calvino set these tales down? Granted, he calls "big-bang" the "other hypothesis," and devotes the preceding story ("All at One Point") to just that idea, but all of this and the title itself makes me think that Calvino was laughing on the page. Perhaps his point was to loosen the tie of dogmatic scientism. Perhaps simply to point out that even hard science requires a narrative to have significant explanatory power. Perhaps something else? Sometime in your life you've heard the advice: "Write what you know." At one time in my life, I was convinced that this is all authors ever really do. But this seems to be the opposite of what Calvino is doing here, to dazzling effect. All eleven of these tales are good, but if I had to pick a top-three-in-no-particular-order, they would be: 1) All at One Point 2) How Much Shall We Bet? 3) The Light-Years A quick word about the translation: I read William Weaver's Italian-English translation. I don't read Italian, but from the English end, it seemed very well done. The prose read so fluidly, yet so playfully idiosyncratic, I almost forgot that it wasn't written in English.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nick Craske

    Reading this was one of the most rewarding reading experiences I've ever had. Enchanting, fantastical and enlightening. A beautiful book with beautiful wordplay and language. Each story takes a scientific "fact" (though sometimes a falsehood by today's understanding), and builds an imaginative story around it. An always extant being called Qfwfq narrates all of the stories save two, each of which is a memory of an event in the history of the universe.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Why, oh why can't I read in six different languages? I've been a fan of Calvino for many years and have just finished the Cosmicomics for the first time. I read them one per evening and let them sink in slowly. There is a lot here to absorb and meditate on, and I would definitely suggest reading each of the stories separately, as they were written. One of my favorites in the collection is 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. An excellent brain twister! I have one criticism/concern, Why, oh why can't I read in six different languages? I've been a fan of Calvino for many years and have just finished the Cosmicomics for the first time. I read them one per evening and let them sink in slowly. There is a lot here to absorb and meditate on, and I would definitely suggest reading each of the stories separately, as they were written. One of my favorites in the collection is 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. An excellent brain twister! I have one criticism/concern, and it is about the translation. The Cosmicomics are written in complex language/logic and I'm wondering if they work as well in English as they do in Italian. Is something lost in translation? Or maybe not lost, but somehow changed? I'm not criticizing the translator's work, so much as saying that maybe these particular stories need to be read in their original form. I guess I won't know until I learn to read Italian - maybe next lifetime...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pictures at an Exhibition

    I have never written any comments here on Goodreads before, and even though there are a lot of masterpieces I really need to pay the proper homage to, I felt the urge to declare in a couple of words my love for Calvino right after closing the Cosmicomiche. Italo has the ability to both let me live again the enthusiasm for the immaginative realities that animated my childhood as a voracious little reader and to impress my more mature, young-adult mind with his crucial innovations, investigations I have never written any comments here on Goodreads before, and even though there are a lot of masterpieces I really need to pay the proper homage to, I felt the urge to declare in a couple of words my love for Calvino right after closing the Cosmicomiche. Italo has the ability to both let me live again the enthusiasm for the immaginative realities that animated my childhood as a voracious little reader and to impress my more mature, young-adult mind with his crucial innovations, investigations and experiments. I feel so lucky to speak as a mother tongue the same language he played in a terribly serious way with and I will never be thankful enough for his existence.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Junta

    A collection of short stories I like for its creativity. I should probably take more time with my short story collections since you're bound to appreciate them more that way, letting the ideas from each story seep into your subconscious over a course of weeks, if not months. Calvino's 34 stories each focus on some entity or event through the history of the Universe, often from the very beginning . I especially liked the first collection in the compilation, Cosmicomics. I had some friends ask abou A collection of short stories I like for its creativity. I should probably take more time with my short story collections since you're bound to appreciate them more that way, letting the ideas from each story seep into your subconscious over a course of weeks, if not months. Calvino's 34 stories each focus on some entity or event through the history of the Universe, often from the very beginning . I especially liked the first collection in the compilation, Cosmicomics. I had some friends ask about the book I was reading in these couple of weeks, and I'd enthusiastically tell them of stories about when the Moon used to pass by so close to the Earth that one could climb up onto it on a ladder; when there was no colour in the world, so you were never sure if your lover was still with you, she was the same, uniform grey as all of the surroundings; a young reptile being ashamed of introducing his uncle, still living underwater and rejecting life on land, to his girlfriend; being the last dinosaur on Earth, but being recognised by everyone as just a big and ugly member of the new species; receiving a message ('I SAW YOU') from a hundred million light years away that they saw you doing something embarrassing, and thinking of which message to send back (which takes another hundred million years)... I think I would have gotten into it more if I was more interested in science and space, but I'd be happy to have my future children read these stories when they're young - maybe they'll become more interested in the physical universe than I am. I still remember so many of the stories well, Calvino is an admirable storyteller. As written in the introduction, the subject matter of the stories can be divided into 1. The Moon 2. The Sun, stars and galaxies 3. The Earth 4. Evolution and time. The main impressions I take away from the collection are what love, identity and life philosophies were like throughout history (not as humans but in the various preceding stages of evolution from a single cell), and the stories prompted me to look up many things about the universe which I didn't know about. One of my favourite lines was the explanation of the Big Bang - (view spoiler)[ ...she, Mrs. Ph(i)Nk₀, she who in the midst of our closed petty world had been capable of a generous impulse, 'Boys, the tagliatelle I would make for you!', a true outburst of general love, initiating at the same moment the concept of space and, properly speaking, space itself, and time, and universal gravitation, and the gravitating universe, making possible billions and billions of suns, and of planets, and fields of wheat, and Mrs. Ph(i)Nk₀s scattered through the continents of the planets, kneading with floury, oil-shiny, generous arms, and she lost at that very moment, and we, mourning her loss. (hide spoiler)] 3.5 stars. Suns. And Galaxies. August 11, 2015

  25. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    collecting all of calvino's cosmicomics writings, the complete cosmicomics features 34 stories spanning some twenty years (or rather, billions, really). included are the dozen tales that make up 1965's cosmicomics, the eleven in 1967's t zero (published in the uk as time and the hunter), four from the posthumous numbers in the dark, and seven stories not previously rendered into english. never released in the united states, the complete cosmicomics is four hundred pages of rich, imaginative fiction on the grandest scale. these interrelated tales of univers collecting all of calvino's cosmicomics writings, the complete cosmicomics features 34 stories spanning some twenty years (or rather, billions, really). included are the dozen tales that make up 1965's cosmicomics, the eleven in 1967's t zero (published in the uk as time and the hunter), four from the posthumous numbers in the dark, and seven stories not previously rendered into english. never released in the united states, the complete cosmicomics is four hundred pages of rich, imaginative fiction on the grandest scale. these interrelated tales of universal origin and galactic wonder are some of the italian master's most playful and creative works. qfwfq is one of calvino's finest characters, a narrator as enigmatic and expansive as the settings themselves. this edition is perhaps best suited for those already familiar with the cosmicomics tales; for readers seeking to round out their reading with the heretofore unpublished stories. calvino's fiction is potent yet deceptively simple, and part of the joy of his work resides in the ample charm and brilliance he so effortlessly manages to fit into his otherwise slim affairs. cosmicomics, t zero, and the others may thusly be more enjoyable if read in the standalone editions in which they were originally released. in this world where every object was instantly thrown away and substituted with another new and perfect replacement, at the slightest sign of breakage or ageing, at the first dent or stain, there was just one false note, one shadow: the moon. it wandered through the sky, naked, corroded and grey, more and more alien to the world down here, a hangover from a way of being that was now incongruous.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Girish

    5 stars despite the fact I totally didn't like a few chapters and I took roughly an year to complete it! You will never read anything like this that calling it a book seems a misnomer. Or to be more precise, nothing like this can ever be accomplished by a writer. This pseudo absurd leap of creativity explores science like never before. Calvino's collection of stories have as characters 'entities'(for the lack of better word) which morph into characters in a story to explore a science fact. The m 5 stars despite the fact I totally didn't like a few chapters and I took roughly an year to complete it! You will never read anything like this that calling it a book seems a misnomer. Or to be more precise, nothing like this can ever be accomplished by a writer. This pseudo absurd leap of creativity explores science like never before. Calvino's collection of stories have as characters 'entities'(for the lack of better word) which morph into characters in a story to explore a science fact. The majority of the stories start with a science journal excerpt on some phenomenon or theory - only to be used as a premise by qfwfq - to extrapolate an absurd tale to explore the limits of the fact/theory. Calvino, in his characteristic way, embeds philosophies, intelligent twists and tangential tales which can shake the core of the casual reader. If there is nothing that needs correcting in the world memory, the only thing left to do is to correct reality where it doesn't agree with that memory The other types of stories are cellular level love stories (Mitosis, Miosis and Cell death), Abstract concepts converted to thrillers (World History Archive), Retelling parts of classics through freudian logic (Counte of Monte Cristo, Eurydice - phew!) and 3-4 chapters of ultra slow motion exploration of possible scenarios at a freeze frame. The latter is actually the spot-the-ball of the storytelling. You need to be a patient reader and consuming too much at one go is not just impossible, but not recommended. The book also became a sentimental talisman for me and hence more special. It's the book that you get lost in or hate while you are reading. A snob value worthy genius! -for all practical purpose the review ends here- Alternate Review: The Grand Necklace We were on the beach - exclaimed qfwfq - when ItCal had this urge to make the most unique bead necklace possible, grander than the grandest necklace! I told him 'grand' is subjective and he might never be able to create something which is accepted as grand by all. ItCal was determined and he sought my help in collecting materials to make the necklace. So the two of us set out without boundaries. The easiest was the ones which we could see and effortlessly I collected the sea. ItCal challenged me 'What's so great about the sea? I said grand!'. And so I had to step out into space to scrape the continents and oceans and made it into one bead. I turned around to notice the moon was peeping over my shoulder. Trying to impress her, I showed her what I had captured. What I did not anticipate the gravitational pull of the moon who reached out greedily to pocket my bead. I was carried along with the bead and when I refused to let go, she started to tickle me with the whiteness. ItCal saw what was happening and before I realised he threw the cloud over the moon's eyes and made it a bead. Emboldened by our achievement, we realised, we really did not have to worry about physics and rather physics should be worried about us. We rode the light rays to capture the sun and her children into one bead. Then the Milky Way, the comets, the meteors, supernovae and the entire space could be made into one massive dense bead. "There was nothing left in the universe" I said. "Let's make nothing into a bead" remarked ItCal. I felt dizzy. "Shall we master Time?" He asked. I was a bit skeptical and reluctantly nodded my head. He rode the hands of the watch in the reverse direction and I followed with my net collecting 'History', 'Evolution', 'The first organism' (the first shell, the first birds, the first water organism etc) all the way upto "Big Bang" and made them distinct beads. I started worrying. "This is so wrong. Laws of Physics does not allow this!" I squealed with excitement. ItCal turned to me with that smile that had me worried. He quickly made a trap out of his brain and captured "Physics" into a bead! Now i was really worried as I saw him get into a "Cell", hold it by it's nucleus and made it into a bead. I tried to distance myself away but then he already has seen me step back. "Don't touch me ItCal. I am your storyteller. I can say really bad things you know?" I threatened. He patted me like I was a dog and said "And that is why you will be in every bead, my friend". But i didn't want to be a part of his grand necklace so while i tried to run away he stretched me out to enter most of the beads. I told him he didn't have a string and so he needed to let all the beads go. ItCal thought for a minute. He got a call while the beads of his Grand necklace were rolling around nothing resembling a necklace. It was his publisher on the line who reminded of his deadline. "That's it!". He took out the empty sheafs of fresh paper, wrote "Complete Cosmicomics" with his pen and strung it through the beads! "And that is how you make "The Grand Necklace" qfwfq, one whose grandness noone can question!" I grumbled "Every necklace needs a neck.." ItCal grinned to himself and turned towards you. Dedicated to the grand master :)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hanne

    The Cosmicomics are a set of short stories published in the sixties by Italo Calvino. All of them follow the same structure: it starts with a sentence from a scientific publication, usually about the creation of our universe and planets. And then our narrator Qfwfq tells us he remembers that period in time, and takes us back in time on his train of thought. These stories are dreamy, philosophical and funny at the same time. I think of them as bedtime stories for adults – they have the The Cosmicomics are a set of short stories published in the sixties by Italo Calvino. All of them follow the same structure: it starts with a sentence from a scientific publication, usually about the creation of our universe and planets. And then our narrator Qfwfq tells us he remembers that period in time, and takes us back in time on his train of thought. These stories are dreamy, philosophical and funny at the same time. I think of them as bedtime stories for adults – they have the enchanted feel of a bedtime fairy tales, but not really the story structure, nor necessarily the happy endings. But these stories will make you think, make you feel in awe of this world, put a smile on your face and before you know it, you are ready to put yet another day away. It’s impossible to pick just one favourite story in this collection; there are too many fabulous ones. In ‘The Distance of the Moon’ Qfwfq tells us of a time that the Moon was closer to the Earth, and how on a full moon they would go out on the sea with ladders and climb up on the Moon’s Surface. In ‘The Lightyears’ Qfwfq is studying the sky with his telescope and comes across a sign board that reads “I saw you”. Some quick mathematics that involves juggling light-years reveals to him that exact 200 million years ago he indeed something he wasn’t proud of, and someone witnessed it. A lot more signs are put up after that. In ‘All at One Point’ the whole universe hasn’t expanded yet, and they are all living on one point. The Z’zu family tends to hang their laundry to dry at this one point, which is quite inconvenient as it’s a rather large family. But the real cracking point is when Qfwfq starts telling about the times when the lovely lady Ph(i)Nko goes to bed with her lover. Given that there is only one bed, and that there is only one point in space, she actually goes to bed with all of them, so to speak. These stories are utterly imaginative and creative to the point it becomes unbelievable someone spun this stories starting from just a few scientific boring lines. I have a feeling I will be re-reading these stories for many years to come. They’re just too good to be left on the I-read-them-once-pile.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    REVIEW: Otherwise Whimsical Science Most of the stories in this comprehensive collection start with a scientific quote and extrapolate its scientific premise into the universe of abstract reality and fiction. The narrator - Qfwfq - is variously a dinosaur, a mollusc, a camel or a mammoth, sometimes possibly just a unicellular organism, a cell ("there was a cell, and the cell was me, and that was that...[even if it had a sense of spiritual fullness, the awareness that this cell was me, this sen/>Otherwise REVIEW: Otherwise Whimsical Science Most of the stories in this comprehensive collection start with a scientific quote and extrapolate its scientific premise into the universe of abstract reality and fiction. The narrator - Qfwfq - is variously a dinosaur, a mollusc, a camel or a mammoth, sometimes possibly just a unicellular organism, a cell ("there was a cell, and the cell was me, and that was that...[even if it had a sense of spiritual fullness, the awareness that this cell was me, this sense of fullness...of being]"), or a consciousness that was around to witness the Big Bang and is still living or existent. Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate the narrator from the author himself (or an American surrogate for the author) - he lives in Italy and takes a weekend trip across the Lodi plain in his Volkswagen with his Italian girlfriend, Zylphia, and two friends, or he lives in New Jersey, telephones his girlfriend, Vug, visits Staten Island with her, catches the train, and eats some oysters for dinner. Not that the difference matters, for they have “a vital element in common”. The science is cosmological, biological or palaeontological as anything. Only it’s been run through a comic (strip) processor from which it emerges like a cartoon (complete with cartoon or naive physics): “Now these stories can be told better with strip drawings than with a story composed of sentences one after the other...I like telling things in cartoon form, but I would have to alternate the action frames with idea frames...” Calvino’s achievement is to make science imaginative and whimsical, if sometimes naively entertaining. Conversely, he makes literature that is somehow scientific. No one input is prioritised over the other. Science becomes a springboard for the imagination. The two are “swimming and chasing each other in play.” It’s a “risky manoeuvre”, but it works. On the other hand, as Calvino says, “if you don't like this story, you can think up another one...” Passing Time with the Other Once the consciousness becomes aware of itself, it also becomes aware of the other (and otherness). Calvino describes this in terms of time (of which there is plenty): "Time passes, and I, more and more pleased with being in it and with being me, am also more and more pleased that there is time, and that I am in time, or rather that time passes and I pass time and time passes me, or rather I am pleased to be contained in time, to be the content of time, or the container, in short, to mark by being me the passing of time. "Now you must admit this begins to arouse a sense of expectation, a happy and hopeful waiting, a happy youthful impatience, and also an anxiety, a youthful excited anxiety also basically painful, a painful unbearable tension and impatience." Projections of Me The inside projects itself onto the outside: "...there was me, in that point and in that moment - right? - and then there was an outside which seemed to me a void I might occupy in another moment or point, in a series of other points or moments, in short a potential projection of me where, however, I wasn't present, and therefore a void which was actually the world and the future, but I didn't know that yet..." "I had this contentment because outside of me there was this void that wasn't me, which perhaps could become me because 'me' was the only word I knew, the only word I could have declined, a void that could become me, however, wasn't me at that moment and basically never would be: it was the discovery of something else that wasn't yet something but anyhow wasn't me, or rather wasn't me at that moment and in that point and therefore was something else, and this discovery aroused an exhilarating enthusiasm in me, no, a torment, a dizzying torture, the dizziness of a void which represented everything possible, the complement of that fullness that was for me all, and there I was brimming over with love for this elsewhere, this other time, this otherwise, silent and void." States of Other-Wise Desire The consciousness, the self progresses from awareness of itself to desire of something else, the other. It's now, in a sense, other-wise: "...the tension towards the outside, the elsewhere, the otherwise...is what is called a state of desire...I must tell you that my state of desire tended simply towards an elsewhere, another time, an otherwise that might contain something (or, let's say, the world) or contain only me, or me in relation to something (or to the world) or something (the world) without me any more." This Discontinuous and Perpetual Life "Cosmicomics" is, in the end, a metaphysics that emerges inexorably from the physics of the "discontinuous and perpetual life" of the cosmos. It maps a "circuit of vital information that runs from the nucleic acids to writing." Readers can trace Calvino's journey across the universe, whatever their motive might be: "I followed, partly to join in [your] game... I like to play the game right to the end..." VERSE: [Prompted by the Words of Italo Calvino] Lunar Milk We flew to the moon To collect some milk With a tin bucket And a silver spoon. Boating on the Moon On the moon, I love to go boating Where ev'ry shiny fish is floating. Ode to Mrs Vhd Vhd I'd like to tell you what I'd do If we could just fly to the moon I'd like to spend all month on you. Pin Cushion If you have a pin, You'll need somewhere to pin it. Maybe a cushion Or an outside with an inside in it. The Most Absolute Bottom [In the Words of Italo Calvino] I went down into the void, To the most absolute bottom Conceivable, And once there I saw that The extreme limit must have been Much, much further below, Very remote, And I went on falling, To reach it. Hammocks in Space [In the Words of Italo Calvino] There were certain Soft cavities Hollowed in space, As welcoming As hammocks, Where I could lie Joined with Ursula H'x, The two of us Swaying together, Biting each other in turn Along all our persons. Music of the Spheres I'd like to spend All year In the interior Of a sphere. Eyes Implicit in My Being Here [In the Words of Italo Calvino] Framed by far-sighted lenses I feel on me the far-sighted eyes Of a zoologist, trying to frame me In the eye of a Rolleiflex. Blood - Sea Back then our blood was in fact the sea, Our present inside was outside, And our outside in. The Future of the Two of Us What now leads the two of us To seek each other isn't An impulse towards the afterwards: It's the final action of the past That is fulfilled through us. Eurydice [In the Words of Italo Calvino] If you should recognise Eurydice's voice With its distant echo Of the silent music Of the elements, Tell me, Give me news of her. SOUNDTRACK: (view spoiler)[ Thelonious Monk - "Criss-Cross" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-K1p... The Beatles - "Across The Universe" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpGME... Mood Hut (E.A. Wilson) - "Lunar Milk" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLC6C... Robyn Hitchcock - "Vibrating" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN1KI... Nick Drake - "Pink Moon" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wCkm... Robyn Hitchcock - "I Saw Nick Drake" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH-lG... (hide spoiler)]

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    My second try at reading Calvino and I definitely liked this one more than Invisible Cities. Cosmicomics has an interesting structure where each story is prefaced with a scientific hypothesis. The story is then set within that hypothesis where our narrator, Qfwfq, relates the story from the time he experienced each particular event in time. I enjoyed the humor, and also just the wackiness of imagining Qfwfq and his friends and family living before the universe had expanded (it was quite crowded!), when My second try at reading Calvino and I definitely liked this one more than Invisible Cities. Cosmicomics has an interesting structure where each story is prefaced with a scientific hypothesis. The story is then set within that hypothesis where our narrator, Qfwfq, relates the story from the time he experienced each particular event in time. I enjoyed the humor, and also just the wackiness of imagining Qfwfq and his friends and family living before the universe had expanded (it was quite crowded!), when the sun had just begun emitting radiation (it's really hard to keep track of all your children when it's so dark), and when the first vertebrates left the sea to brave land (and the embarrassing great uncle who refuses to evolve). My favorite stories were The Distance of the Moon, All at One Point, The Aquatic Uncle, How Much Shall We Bet?, and The Spiral. I read the original 12 Cosmicomics stories, but I actually have the entire collection which is the edition my library had. However much I enjoyed these humorous and though-provoking stories, though, reading the original 12 was enough for my tastes in one sitting. However, this collection would be fun to have around and be able to sample a story from time to time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I fell massively in love with the Harvest edition of Cosmicomics when I was a scared 16 year old who hated school, my parents' house, my hometown, and the American political system in varying ratios depending from day to day, and found these weird, serene little fables that escaped time. And it was damn good to revisit those stories from my youth, as well as the cosmicomiche that I hadn't read yet. I often say that the poetry of science is hidden to artsy folks, because even when popu I fell massively in love with the Harvest edition of Cosmicomics when I was a scared 16 year old who hated school, my parents' house, my hometown, and the American political system in varying ratios depending from day to day, and found these weird, serene little fables that escaped time. And it was damn good to revisit those stories from my youth, as well as the cosmicomiche that I hadn't read yet. I often say that the poetry of science is hidden to artsy folks, because even when popularized, it's framed in a context designed for readers who prioritize discovery and positive knowledge rather than subjective experience and analogy. Calvino finds an excellent way around this.

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