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Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings (Penguin Modern Classics)

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  367 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Italo Calvino once said that he preferred to give false details about his biography since he felt that even the genuine data of a writer's life shed no light on the creative work. But this volume of posthumously collected personal writings is the closest we will ever come to the autobiography of this most private of writers. The pieces collected here range from the early 1 ...more
Paperback, 255 pages
Published January 27th 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1990)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,412)
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This collection of pieces eschews the literary. It is also rather depressing, more on that later. Divided between a six month trip to the US in 1959-60 and a lengthy exposition on Calvino’s political development Hermit in Paris doesn't dodge punches nor does it whitewash.

Calvino's American endeavor is an odd affair. He appears most aware of alcohol and homosexuals. The size of automobiles frightens him, until he lusts to drive. He winds up at a "beatnik" party in San Francisco where he runs int
May 31, 2015 Mercurialgem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this read, especially the Questionnaire 1956, American Diary 1959-1960, Behind the Success and Interview with Maria Corti. The Political Autobiography of a Young Man lost me at times but it was still interesting. In the American Diary section it was divided into many subjects: The Actor’s Studio, How a Big Bookshop Works, A Beatnik Party, The Chinese New Year, TV Dinners, The Most Important Young Writers in America, Random House, Orion Publishers, Wall Street and so on. Some of his opi ...more
Jul 30, 2010 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-autobio, lefty
I hoped that by reading this I could better understand some of the ideas behind the incredible words he writes in “Invisible Cities.” Throughout “Hermit in Paris” there are passages about Calvino’s development as a writer and as a political activist. The most enlightening passages are ones in which he ponders both of these developments in relation to place:

“To stay in one place you stay away from it. In Paris, watching Italy. What sort of a trick is this? Among the Invisible Cities there is one
I'd mostly read Calvino's novels and short stories in the past, but these documents offer an (even more?) intriguing look into his life and experiences. Being mid-century and Italian there are some experiences that Calvino underwent, like helping the resistance to the Fascists, that make him stand out. I loved his observations about the United States from his trip there, in a diary that makes up most of this volume. Ordinarily this kind of thing would be for the die hard Calvino nerds, but there ...more
blue-collar mind
Nov 23, 2008 blue-collar mind rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: essay-mongerers, international minds interested in stopping world domination by any one culture
Shelves: grassroots-stuff
I was in Italy for the Terra Madre conference that Slow Food holds every two years (as books go, the Slow Food folks have a couple of good ones to read, especially Carlo Petrini's book about founding this wonderful international movement), and while walking MILES through Turin in the evening, I came across a bookstore that had a floor of English titles, and of course, a entire shelf of Calvino, who adopted Turin as his Italian homebase before moving to Paris.
So, when in Rome....

I have read a few
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
By revisiting various interviews and diary entries this collection of biographical flotsam and jetsam builds through repetition and the gradual accretion of detail a not wholly unexpected but appropriately postmodern portrait of the Italian author, Italo Cavino, as a writer who was simultaneously both playful and deeply sincere.
Tom Lichtenberg
Calvino is one of my favorite writers. I love the way he was always on to something new, never repeated himself but always explored and adventured and expanded his horizons. This collection of interviews and autobiographical notes is interesting in many ways, including his impressions of America circa 1960, his political involvements, and his views on his peers and the literature of his time. The juxtapositions of all these aspects make for a curious portrait, a more-angled one than you usually ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Simona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Appena ho letto Parigi nel titolo e ancora prima che i miei occhi diventassero a cuoricino, ho capito che avrei dovuto leggere questo libro.
E' un viaggio nell'universo di Calvino, nel mondo di Calvino, nella sua adolescenza a San Remo con il padre agronomo e la madre sua assistente, fino alla laurea in lettere a Torino, la sua città d'adozione all'amicizia con Cesare Pavese da cui ha attinto. Il Calvino americano con gli stralci del suo diario, i suoi viaggi a Boston, New York, Los Angeles, ecc
Tatjana Dzambazova
I love him even more after reading his biography. Great observations about USA, and oh man, totally on the same page about NYC.
Completely fascinating.
Pete Marchetto
Whether to four-star, whether to three? Three falls short of a recommendation and, in the end, Hermit in Paris doesn't quite cut it. It's too much a mess from which enlightening snippets need to be extracted; too incoherent; too much the 'lucky bag'.

Calvino is a writer who has fascinated me since my youth, and one I've not visited for way too long. Perhaps this is a work which would have read better without so much distance on my part... but then again, perhaps not. It's as if, in its compilatio
Tyler Jones
I enjoyed reading this book so much that it doesn't feel right to only give it a three star rating, but I have to admit it is rather a hodgepodge. It puts me in mind of those albums of b-sides and rarities that only a fanatic fan of a band would enjoy. Is "fanatic fan" a redundancy? I digress.

There are too many pieces in here that cover the same ground over and over again - general biographical sketches that talk of his parents, his youth in San Remo, his Partisan years, his political life....we
Feb 18, 2015 Veronica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for any Calvino fan. Hermit in Paris traces Italo Calvino's changing perspective, philosophy and values over the course of his life, chronicled by a collection of letters and personal essays written by the author in a period spanning 25 years.

There is something always a little strange and secretive about reading other peoples' letters and this book is no exception, one of my favorite parts by far was the series of letters Calvino wrote to his publishing house in 1959-60, describing h
Feb 15, 2015 Philip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, owned
Well... I recommend it if you are a Calvino fan. If not, it may be a little too didactic in the sense of: Why would you care about these attempts at "auto-biography", posthumously, since Calvino himself could never commit to the definitions of his life. However, the American Diary section is uncanny in his observations of the cities and towns outside of New York from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia he dives deep to find these immutable truths that still stand the test of time. They could have ...more
Un libro para amantes de Calvino, sin duda, pero interesante para otros por su ácida, deprimente y única visión de Estados Unidos. La primera sección narra su viaje por ese país magistralmente. Las numerosas exposiciones de por qué ama Nueva York son antológicas. Las secciones sobre su participación en el Partido Comunista Italiano no me interesaron mucho, tal vez por estar muy relacionadas con historias particulares de su país. Hacia el final, sus reflexiones sobre el oficio de escribir son sin ...more
A lot of it is filler---
But the letters from America are astoundingly interesting to see this place from that well structured thought process. If it were only those couple dozen pages, I'd be tempted to say it bordered on five stars. Also, I've always seen Calvino described as a very closed off man-- and believe it to be accurate --but he opens himself up in observation of other things/people/places that is overly delightful to witness after so many of his books read.
Josephine Ensign
I thought that this book would be a good introduction to the work of Calvino. Perhaps it is but it almost dissuaded me from reading any more of his books. I did find parts of his "American Diary 1959-1960" fascinating, especially his observations of urban low-income housing high-rises as being worse than the slums they tried to replace, but his constant references to "fat, ugly women" or "beautiful women" and other misogynistic tripe was more than off-putting.
Mar 05, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three things about this book that I really liked: (1) Calvino's diary about traveling in the Deep South of America in the late 1950s and his disgust with the racism he observed. (2) His memories of Italian history and politics of 1930s-1950s. First-person accounts really are the best way to learn history in my opinion. (3) His answers to interview questions about being a writer, struggling with ideas. I like that genre.

Makes me want to read more Calvino.
Nov 26, 2010 Ms. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a puzzle: Calvino is a committed communist who travels the US largely through letters of introduction to "polite" society. He seems to be a man of compassion and truth--of The People, for The People-- in many ways, yet he objectifies women without even a wink or a nod.

I loved his prose. The sections about the South were mesmerizing.
Oct 10, 2011 Virginia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leggere Calvino, leggere Calvino che parla di Torino, leggere Calvino che parla di Torino in inglese è una strana ma piacevole sensazione, come se le sue parole giungessero filtrate dalla mia nostalgia per casa...
Come anche gli altri libri di Calvino che ho riletto in inglese, ottimo lavoro del traduttore Martin McLaughlin
May 30, 2013 kasia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting for fans of Calvino, but not so great as a stand-alone collection. A lot of it is quite repetitive and seems like filler. There are definitely some gems (the diary from his trip to America is just fantastic), and it's certainly interesting to learn about his political views, but parts of the book really drag.
Jun 21, 2007 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of calvino (?)
I've never read any of Calvino's other writing, so for me this was not very fun. Some essays about writing books I've never read, and a few fun travel journals in which Calvino goes to the US. Otherwise, nothing I got much out of, but then, I know very little about Calvino outside of this book.
Sorin Hadârcă
Dec 03, 2014 Sorin Hadârcă rated it liked it
In these autobiographical pieces there is so little of Calvino as if he is not the same person as the author of Marcovaldo. No more than a word about his Argentine wife, a single mention of his daughter Abigail. He is bodiless. Also witty. I am a bit disappointed though.
Jun 11, 2014 M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As per title, it is a collection of Calvino's autobiographical writings. Some of them are filler, nevertheless reading Calvino is never waste of time. I especially liked his observations of the cities, whether it is Paris, Rome or one of the American metropolises he visited.
Appropriately subtitled.
These essays, notes, and interviews reveal an intriguing blend of humility and snobbery. Especially good are his comments on Stalinism, his reluctance to write, and his observations on travel writing and America in The American Diary 1959-60.
There were parts of this that were pretty enthralling, notably the first half. The second lagged and repeated information i thought. It was the same analysis over again. Which is distinctly more to do with the editing then the writing.
I'm amazed by his detailed description and unique observation on his life in the states. He must had an extraordinary way to remember everything. I enjoy reading those details, but some of them might be too much.
Aug 30, 2007 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: calvino fans
Shelves: memoir, translation
A large chunk of this book is a travelogue of Calvino's first trip to NYC in 1959-60. A product of Facsit Italy meeting the Beats in a Madison Avenue apt. is always good for a laugh...
ماهر Battuti
A collection of essays relating to the life of Calvino, with his opinions about cities, not only Paris, which trigger other artistic and political subjects. Very interesting.
Quân Khuê
Pieces of autobiographical writings, useful for those who are interested in life and writings of Italo Calvino, otherwise, not an essential read.
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Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).

His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic
More about Italo Calvino...

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“New York is perhaps the only place in America where you feel at the centre and not at the margins, in the provinces, so for that reason I prefer its horror to this privileged beauty, its enslavement to the freedoms which remain local and privileged and very particularized, and which do not represent a genuine antithesis.” 8 likes
“My mother delayed my enrollment in the Fascist scouts, the Balilla, as long as possible, firstly because she did not want me to learn how to handle weapons, but also because the meetings that were then held on Sunday mornings (before the Fascist Saturday was instituted) consisted mostly of a Mass in the scouts' chapel. When I had to be enrolled as part of my school duties, she asked that I be excused from the Mass; this was impossible for disciplinary reasons, but my mother saw to it that the chaplain and the commander were aware that I was not a Catholic and that I should not be asked to perform any external acts of devotion in church.

In short, I often found myself in situations different from others, looked on as if I were some strange animal. I do not think this harmed me: one gets used to persisting in one's habits, to finding oneself isolated for good reasons, to putting up with the discomfort that this causes, to finding the right way to hold on to positions which are not shared by the majority.

But above all I grew up tolerant of others' opinions, particularly in the field of religion, remembering how irksome it was to hear myself mocked because I did not follow the majority's beliefs. And at the same time I have remained totally devoid of that taste for anticlericalism which is so common in those who are educated surrounded by religion.

I have insisted on setting down these memories because I see that many non-believing friends let their children have a religious education 'so as not to give them complexes', 'so that they don't feel different from the others.' I believe that this behavior displays a lack of courage which is totally damaging pedagogically. Why should a young child not begin to understand that you can face a small amount of discomfort in order to stay faithful to an idea?

And in any case, who said that young people should not have complexes? Complexes arise through a natural attrition with the reality that surrounds us, and when you have complexes you try to overcome them. Life is in fact nothing but this triumphing over one's own complexes, without which the formation of a character and personality does not happen.”
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