Italy

Numbers In The Dark by Italo Calvino

By Italo Calvino

A suite of formerly uncollected tales from the past due Italian fabulist.

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Sample text

43 Numbers in the Dark ‘Right,’ says Mariamirella, ‘I’ve already thought of everything possible, I’ve lived hundreds of lives with my thoughts. Of marrying, of having lots of children, of having abortions, of marrying someone rich, of marrying someone poor, of becoming a high society lady, of becoming a prostitute, a dancer, a nun, a roast–chestnut seller, a star, an MP, an ambulance driver, a sportswoman. Hundreds of lives with all their details. And they all ended happily. But in real life none of those things I think ever happens.

The cannons too, they decided, would have to be left in the courtyard where a cobbler promised he would keep an eye on them. The soldiers went up in single file and at every landing doors opened and children shouted: ‘Mummy! Come and look. The soldiers are going by! ’ On the fifth floor, to get from this staircase to another secondary one that led to the attic, they had to walk outside along the balcony. Every window gave on bare rooms with lots of pallet beds where whole families full of children lived.

Our generation must reconquer the things themselves, Mariamirella,’ I say. ‘Think and do things at the same time. Not do things without thinking them through. We have to put an end to this difference between the things we think and the things themselves. ’ she asks me. ‘Well, it’s not like this for everybody,’ I tell her. ‘When I was a boy I lived in a big villa, with balustrades high as if flying over the sea. And I spent my days behind those balustrades, I was a loner as a child, and for me everything was a strange symbol, the spacing of the dates hanging from the tufts on the stalks, the crooked arms of the cactuses, the strange patterns in the gravel of the paths.

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