An ancient adage counsels us to speak only well of the deceased, and the recent and untimely death of Italo Calvino, at the age of sixty-one, has provoked in almost all quarters a confirmation, if not an escalation, of the enthusiasm that greeted his work for over a generation. It is fitting that Calvino’s death should sadden us, because his writings were characterized by a broad humanity, a compelling ingenuity, and above all the constant promise, while he lived, that he might finally consolidate within a single work of art those scattered passages of excellence that are present in all his works.

Since only a very few writers in any generation are treated to the degree of adulation that Calvino enjoys at this moment, it must be the purpose of any critical essay to test whether indeed his virtues reside in those elements of his work that have been praised, whether such praise has been excessive, and, most disturbing of all,...

 
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