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Why Read the Classics?

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,003 ratings  ·  68 reviews
From the internationally-acclaimed author of some of this century's most breathtakingly original novels comes this posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light.

Learn why Lara, not Zhivago, is the center of Pasternak's masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, and why Cyrano de Bergerac is the forerunn
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 16th 2001 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1986)
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Riku Sayuj

You start your reading of Calvino’s explorations. You do this mainly to get to know a wonderful list of classics to tackle, of the thoughts of a loved author, and to know of how to approach these sometimes daunting works. After the masterful first essay which defines ‘classics’, you realize that Calvino is up to something here. You look at the long list of books and realize that too many of them fall in the invented category of ‘personal classics’ (‘his own classics’ in other words), the choice
Italo Calvino brilliantly review some most known classics, such as:

Odissey by Homer

Anabase by Xenofante

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Robison Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Candide by Voltaire

Jacques le Fataliste by Denis Diderot

La Chartreuse de Parma by Stendhal

Our Mutual Friend by Dickens

Daisy Miller by Henry James

Doctor Jivago by Boris Pasternak

among many other celebrated authors.
کتاب مجموعه ای از مقالات جدا هستش از کالوینو که درباره ی هر کدوم از نویسنده های کلاسیک نوشته. مقالاتشم تو فاصله های زمانی مختلف و جاهای مختلف نوشته و چاپ شده و کتاب درواقع فقط جمع آوری و مرتبشون کرده.

کتابی نیست که آدم یک جا بخونه! من خودم فقط مقالات مربوط به نویسنده های خاصیش رو خوندم و چون از سبک و سیاق کار باقی نوسیده های داخل کتاب اطلاعی ندارم احتمال میدم به مرور زمان و در طول سالها کتابو کامل خواهم خوند.
Calvino is somewhat less charming as a literary critic than as a novelist. The introductory essay, "Why Read the Classics?," is an old favorite of mine, and I was glad to revisit it. But from there on out, I was mostly left cold. Granted, I hadn't read most of the books he was discussing-- Ovid, Xenophon, Pavese, Gadda, Montale, certain works by Flaubert-- so I was bound to be a bit less engaged than someone who had read the books in question. But even when I had read them (Stendhal, Homer) I wa ...more
Italo Calvino is my favorite author: I love the elegant lightness of his writing style, and the way he can be refreshing and original even when he deals with the most difficult topics. Some authors become like friends, and for me Calvino is a sort of 'uncle'. Imagine what happens when an author you consider a friend talks about those books that you read and reread -- those books that have been with you in an important phase of your life, and that even after years are like family members you want ...more
Sean Carman
In this wonderful collection of short essays, Calvino writes about his favorite literary works, from the forgotten fantastical Medieval epic poem Orlando Furioso, which Calvino describes as a Western pre-cursor to The Arabian Nights, to Stendahl's masterpieces The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma. There are also essays on Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, and Jorge Louis Borges.

The title is a little misleading: Apart from the brief introductory essay, Calvino does not lecture the reader
In fairness, let me start by saying I didn't read this cover to cover-- I skipped around and ultimately only read about 2/3 of the content.

This is a collection of essays on works that Calvino considered Classic. Many of them are firmly in the English Literature canon, but some of them are little more obscure and unfamiliar. If you know the work being discussed, the observations and theories are particularly interesting, but if you don't it feels a little like showing up for class without having
Colin Bruce Anthes
I did not read every page of this collection of essays, but only for the best of reasons. Calvino gives each classic in such enticing life, and I so often had to put aside his commentary because it too successfully made me want to read the book itself. My "ideal library" has expanded substantially through this reading, and that is a gift indeed.

Additionally, the opening essay, from which the collection takes its name, is one of the finest and most enjoyable bits of theory I've encountered. I'll
Little bit uneven! Loved his essay on Homer, but the Borges one was surprisingly ineffective for me.
Mateus Pereira
Calvino começa dando definições do que é um clássico e conclui: 1. “Clássicos são aqueles livros dos quais, em geral, se ouve dizer: ‘estou relendo...’ e nunca ‘Estou lendo...’.” 2. “Toda primeira leitura de uma clássico é na realidade uma releitura.” Essas são algumas das propostas de definição – no geral são 14.

Depois disso o leitor encontra uma série de pequenos ensaios sobre autores que Calvino considera essenciais para o alimento do espírito. Gente como Homero, Xenofonte, Ovídio, Diderot, F

Italo Calvino è un grande intellettuale. Ma è soprattutto un grandissimo bastardo.

No, dico: mi tuffo in Perché leggere i classici perché m'ispira, chissà di cosa troverò in questa raccolta di saggi...
... e tu, caro Italo, mi parli di Omero, di Plinio il Vecchio, di Senofonte, di Miguel de Cervantes, Ludovico Ariosto, Nezami, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lev Tolstoj, Joseph Conrad, nonché dei vari Stendhal, Dickens, Balzac, Pasternak, Twain etc. con tale passione!!! Come faccio io a non rimpinguare la
Irene Lazlo
Estaba esperando a leerme todos los textos de los que habla Calvino para poder terminar me todos los ensayos pero no tengo tiempo para ese proyecto. Me he leído unos 3/4 de los ensayos, todos los que hablan de autores u obras que he leído. La introducción es magistral, da una definición perfecta de lo que es un clásico. Los ensayos son interesantes y dan una visión que no es la típica. Me hubiera gustado que los clásicos de los que habla hubieran sido más famosos pero en general muy recomendable ...more
Dave Logghe
It feels kind of like cheating to say that I read this, because in reality, I read Calvino's essay about classics at the beginning of the book, then read the essays which I was knowledgeable enough to follow (which still amounted to a few essays). I love Calvino's thoughts on classics and their importance in our lives as readers. He talks about the difference in reading something in one's youth as opposed to reading it as an adult which I found really interesting. He said that as an adult, we sh ...more
Russell Bittner
It’s always a somewhat humbling experience to read a book like this one — at least for me.

But why ‘humbling?’ Because reading it reminds me of how little I really know about classical literature. As well read in the classics as I sometimes like to believe I am (having almost adamantly refused to read anything written after the nineteenth century until I’d finished my formal education at the age of 34), I realize I’m not — that there’s still a tremendous amount in the Western Canon of which I’m p
This work is a collection of essays, some unique to this book, in which Calvino writes what he loves most about his favorite classic works of fiction. It will definitely get you excited to go read many of them (m any are Italian works that I'm not familiar with). But reading the string of essays, absent reading the works themselves, gets a little old. I'd recommend the individual essays in conjunction with the work they cover more than the book itself.
Oct 13, 2012 Michelle marked it as no-thanks
just too heady for me!!
Dissing the Western canon has become our age's greatest literary spectator sport. But in "Why Read the Classics?" Italo Calvino comes to the defense of those (predominantly) Dead White Males. Singing the praises of Homer and Voltaire, Conrad and Borges, he answers his own question with typical, epigrammatic eloquence.
Un libro da leggere più e più volte, in diversi momenti della propria vita e della propria formazione, per poter apprezzare al meglio gli autori e le opere che Calvino analizza in questo libro, mettendoci tutto l'amore che ha per la letteratura. Bellissimo.
Mohammad Ali
کتاب به شدت خواندنی است. به معنای واقعی کلمه موجب انتقال لذت خواندن آثار کلاسیک به خواننده می شود. اما افسوس و صد افسوس که ترجمه ی بد اثر را در موارد بسیاری نابود کرده است. جمله بندی های نامشخص و جملات تاخوانا به کرات در هر صفحه تکرار می شوند. تعجب انگیز است که ویراستاران اجازه ی چاپ این کتاب با این کل را داده اند... حیرت انگیز اینکه چاپی که من می خوندم چاپ چهارم بود و این کمال بی خیالیه که کسی به فکر بهتر کردن کار هم نیست...

آن بخشی از کتاب که برای من بیش از همه جالب و افسون گر بود، شامل "آسمان،
1 star

Questo è il quarto libro che leggo di Calvino e prima di settembre dovrò leggerne un quinto, Il visconte dimezzato, come lettura scolastica per l'estate. In realtà, di quattro libri letti di Calvino, tutti li ho letti per motivi scolastici e nessuno mi è piaciuto. Ora, non voglio dire che Calvino non sappia scrivere perchè sarei una bugiarda, Calvino sa scrivere, eccome se sa scrivere. Il problema, per me, resta ciò che scrive; Calvino è sicuramente un genio, ma per me resta un genio incom
First of all, let's start with the irony of that title: in order to understand the essays in this volume, you need to have read the classics (or some of them at least). Only the first essay tries to find an answer to that question, the rest of the book is full of Calvino's thoughts on some of his favourite works of literature.

Now, I am not familiar with Calvino's work as a writer of fiction, but as an essayist, he didn't exactly blow my mind. He is clearly passionate about the "classics" he cove
Boris Limpopo
Calvino, Italo (1991). Perché leggere i classici. Milano: Mondadori. 2010. ISBN 9788852015915. Pagine 332. 2,99

Ho letto questa raccolta postuma di saggi di Italo Calvino (o meglio, l’ho “riletta”, perché i classici si rileggono sempre, non si leggono mai una prima volta) perché Maria Popova ne ha parlato lo scorso 6 luglio 2012 in un post intitolato Italo Calvino’s 14 Definitions of What Makes a Classic.

Il testo che dà il titolo alla raccolta (che fu pubblicata dopo la morte dell’autore dalla m
Felipe Guerrero
No era el libro que esperaba, no pudo decir que es un mal libro por que no lo es solo que a mi no me gustó realmente.

El autor hace una breve descripción de algunos autores como Homero y La Odisea y poco a poco habla del libro y un poco de como esta estructurada lo mismo con Tolstoi o Hemingway pero, si bien hace un buen análisis de la obra, no da una verdadera razón de por que leerlos, se limita a solo analizarlos y explicar como están estructurados. En ningún momento dice cosas como "esta obra
The first essay was a lovely reminder of the true value one can gain from reading the classics. Calvino's criteria for a good book makes a very straight-forward and relatable definition of the books we call 'classics'.

Sadly I did not find the rest of the book as engaging as the first essay. Calvino's commentary on the big classics were too short to be defined as an analysis, and yet too complex to be defined as simple essays. I might add, that I didn't read them all, as I found it very hard to
Douglas Summers-Stay
A collection of essays by Italo Calvino about classic works of literature. I really liked the discussions of Homer, Galileo, Ovid and Borges. One of the more interesting sounding books he discussed (about the quantification of beauty) has never been translated into English.
Some ideas that struck me: that the Roman gods themselves had household gods. That the alphabet, like colors of paint, can represent all things by its combinatorial arrangements, and it does this precisely because each letter
برای فهمیدن نقدهایش لازم است که با بیشتر کتابهای مورد بحث آشنا باشید (که من نبودم). با این حال باعث شد که واقعا دلم بخواهد چند تا از این کتابها را بخوانم:
داستان مضحک احوالات و امپراتوریهای ماه نوشته ساوینین دو سیرانو، «دوست مشترک ما» نوشته چارلز دیکنز، «آن ماجرای قاراشمیش خیابان مرولانا» نوشته ک.ا. گادا، «ماه و آتش» نوشته پاوزه
Apr 10, 2015 Belen added it
Por qué leer los clásicos.

No l o he leído entero porque este libro después de una introducción maravillosa y archi-requete-requete-recomendable, va hablando de varios libros clásicos.

Asíq ue solo he leído lo que cuenta Ítalo Calvido de los clásicos que yo he leído.

Por supuesto eso me ha gustado mucho pero no he leído tantos clásicos

aquellos libros que nunca terminan de decir lo que tienen que decir, textos que «cuanto más cree uno conocerlos de oídas, tanto más nuevos, inesperados, inéditos resu
"The world's reality presents itself to our eyes as multiple, prickly, and as densely superimposed layers. Like an artichoke. What counts for us in a work of literature is the possibility of being able to continue to unpeel it like a never-ending artichoke, discovering more and more new dimensions in reading."

Suffice to say, I have not read all the classics mentioned in Calvino's essays. Some of those that i've read are - Robinson Crusoe by Defoe, Dickens, Twain, and Hemingway. I'd imagine the e
May 12, 2013 Paula marked it as to-read
Currently writing an essay on the definition of classic literature and how that applies to Huck Finn... controversial stuff...

Wow I have not been reading lately. Books used to be a form of escape for me; I could learn and be entertained to the nth degree all in one sitting, but lately I just sleep and study and browse through reddit. blegh. My existence is bleak at the moment. I will revive my relationship with those cold lonely books strewn across the floor during the summer... is it bad if I
Larry Wentzel
Fantastic book. The book is a collection of literary critiques by Italo Calvino, an Italian writer of fantasy and folklore, of some "classics" of Western Literature -- Homer's Odyssey, Xenophon's Anabasis, Ovid's Metamorphoses, all the way through modern times. The critiques are short (8-12 pages) and give the author's view of what makes the work a classic for him.

The book leads with an introduction of what Calvino thinks makes a book a classic -- 12 cases that build on one another (in a typical
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect publishing dates (multiple books) 2 17 Nov 28, 2014 03:59PM  
  • On Literature
  • Classics for Pleasure
  • How to Read and Why
  • Lectures on Literature
  • A Reader on Reading
  • The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classic Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded
  • So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance
  • The Iguana
  • The Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors
  • Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books
  • Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love
  • The Book in the Renaissance
  • The Anatomy of Bibliomania
  • Days of Reading
  • A Literature Of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë To Lessing
  • Zibaldone di pensieri
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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...
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler Invisible Cities The Baron in the Trees Cosmicomics Il cavaliere inesistente

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“A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.” 9 likes
“There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics. I would say that such a library ought to be composed half of books we have read and that have really counted for us, and half of books we propose to read and presume will come to count—leaving a section of empty shelves for surprises and occasional discoveries” 6 likes
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