Italo Calvino on Reading Like a Writer (Favourite Quotes)

“There’s a boundary line: on one side are those who make books, on the other those who read them. I want to remain one of those who read them, so I take care always to remain on my side of the line. Otherwise, the unsullied pleasure of reading ends, or at least is transformed into something else, which is not what I want. This boundary line is tentative, it tends to get erased: the world of those who deal with books professionally is more and more crowded and tends to become one with the world of readers. Of course, readers are also growing more numerous, but it would seem that those who use books to produce other books are increasing more than those who just like to read books and nothing else. I know that if I cross that boundary, even as an exception, by chance, I risk being mixed up in this advancing tide; that’s why I refuse to set foot inside a publishing house, even for a few minutes.”

(Italo Calvino: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, chapter 5, p. 93)

Somewhere the complete volume must exist; you look around, seeking it with your gaze, but promptly lose heart; in this office books are considered raw material, spare parts, gears to be dismantled and reassembled. Now you understand Ludmilla’s refusal to come with you; you are gripped by the fear of having also passed over to “the other side” and of having lost that privileged relationship with books which is peculiar to the reader: the ability to consider what is written as something finished and definitive, to which there is nothing to be added, from which there is nothing to be removed. But you are consoled by the faith Cavadegna continues to cherish in the possibility of innocent reading, even here.

(Italo Calvino: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, chapter 6, p. 115)

Comment: Strangely, for me the better understanding of the inner workings of fiction adds an additional frisson, rather than taking anything away.

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