Italo Calvino’s Into the War is a contemplative look at the summer of 1940 in Italy, and considers different generations caught up in the onset of WWII. As it would have been Calvino’s 92nd birthday on the 15th, it seems apt to finally include him in our Book of da Week, and this is a fine place to start, ladies and gentlemen!
Calvino’s most famous for his prescient, fantastical works which crossed scientific facts with science fiction. Thusly you have works such as Invisible Cities (which we’ve not read yet) and the Cosmicomics, but today we’re looking at a 90-page novella consisting of the following stories: Into the War, The Avanguardisti in Menton, and UNPA Nights.
We did think, for a moment, the last one was going to be Underpants Nights but our excitement was curtailed upon seeing the third letter. Ho hum.
Into The War
The eponymous opener displays what it was like for Italian youth to be conscripted into Mussolini’s army, and Avanguardisti in Menton considers the disappointments in life when a character and his friends visit dull old Menton.
With the autobiographical tone set, Calvino dips further into his past, revealing a strange time when fascism ruled with a smug grin.
Our favourite is the closer – UNPA Nights. This lightens the tone considerably as two friends, on guard in a town during a blackout, abandon their duties and roam around engaging in youthful hedonism.
It’s a nostalgic, amusing tale which is sure to remind the reader what it was like to be an idiotic youth with no responsibilities. You know, like not even having to take the bins out or anything. If you’re a communist, it’ll also remind you of what it’s like to be a communist. Which is useful.
As introductions to Calvino go, this is a great start. He was a forward-thinking writer, and as the ever brilliant Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has pointed out, the dude even imagined Instagram way before it happened. Now there’s some brains.
— Maria Popova (@brainpicker) October 16, 2015
But, on a final note, Calvino was also fond of writing fantastical works. So if you want a greater demonstration of what his imagination could do then you can check out The Complete Cosmicomics.