Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories” as Want to Read:
Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,352 ratings  ·  147 reviews
For the first time in paperback--a volume of thirty-seven diabolically inventive stories, fables, and "impossible interviews" from one of the great fantasists of the 20th century, displaying the full breadth of his vision and wit.  Written between 1943 and 1984 and masterfully translated by Tim Parks, the fictions in Numbers in the Dark display all of Calvino's dazzling gi ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by Vintage (first published 1957)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Nine Stories by J.D. SalingerDubliners by James JoyceThe Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeA Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'ConnorUna Historia de Ayer by Sergio Cobo
Collections of Short Stories
2,743 books — 2,282 voters
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiPale Fire by Vladimir NabokovCloud Atlas by David MitchellInvisible Cities by Italo Calvino
263 books — 271 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,352 ratings  ·  147 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking to read some Calvino for the first time, do not buy this book. May I instead highly recommend the magnificent The Complete Cosmicomics - it will not disappoint.

'Numbers in the Dark' an interesting and creative collection of short stories. Not all of them are good (this coming from a hardcore Calvino fan) but arguably the collection is the more interesting for it. His earlier stories are either delightfully simple yet engaging parables or more long-winded forays into philosophy
Nate D
Apr 26, 2017 rated it liked it
These gather 37 previously uncollected Calvinos, from early fables and realist social commentaries to later oulipan narrative games, stylistically masterful if frivolous riffs on a theme composed as commissions (one from a Japanese whisky company!?), late additions to the Cosmicomics series, a Henry Ford teleplay condensing the contradictions of his philosophy and the era he ushered in, etc. Favorites fell in the later phases: high-concept phenomenological explorations like The Mirror, The Taege ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly one of the best short-story collections I have ever read. It covers the entire span of Calvino's writing career, and his early charming and offbeat fables (the first written when he was 19) are just as entertaining as the mature and complex thought-experiments of his later work. There are very few Calvino stories remaining that I haven't yet read. Numbers in the Dark includes extracts from unfinished and unpublished novels that he transformed into short-stories as well as embryonic pro ...more
Hit or miss collection of shorts. An amusing sequence of interviews with various persons: Montezuma, a thoughtful troglodyte, Henry Ford, Casanova. Some repeats otherwise with other volumes.

Very effective in some items, such as "The Burning of the Abominable House" and "The Queen's Necklace," which stand out. Others are a bit too clever, but still cool: "The General in the Library," "The Workshop Hen," "Beheading the Heads," and "The Lost Regiment." And extremely moving in others--"Love Far from
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I agree with other reviewers that it shouldn't be the first Calvino book you read, but readers who are already Calvino fans will find plenty of gems in this collection. There are 37 widely varied stories, vignettes, fables, imagined interviews, and fantasies, arranged chronologically and representing work from 1943 to 1985. Of the earlier work, I most enjoyed the fables such as "The Black Sheep," in which a smoothly-running village of thieves is thrown into chaos when an honest man moves in. Sta ...more
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Short stories are interesting when considered as a medium of their own. What I mean by this is, some authors and fiction writers are better at certain types of fiction. Not necessarily better at certain types of fiction when compared to other writers, but better in comparison to their own works of different types. For instance, Nabokov is a master of the novel (perhaps the best in terms of structure and one of the best in terms of raw prose), but all of his short stories are terrible. There is o ...more
Spoiler: This review will not match up with the rating.

Self Disclosure: Italo Calvino is one of my favorite writers. I think of him as my uncle even though we're not related. Not even closely. He's just so great that I've adopted him into my family (in my head--I haven't told the rest of the family about this yet). I vastly prefer his novels to his short fiction...

---We, yes the royal one, interrupt this review to recommend: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, The Baron in the Trees, Invisible C
Jan 13, 2008 rated it liked it
"And Ida is one of those girls who run into you and immediately start telling you their life stories and what they think about things, even though they hardly know you: girls with no secrets, except for things that are secrets to them too; and even for those secrets they'll find words, everyday words that sprout effortlessly, as if their thoughts budded ready-clothed in a tissue of words."

"Only in a superficial sense can lies be said to exclude the truth; you will be aware that in many cases lie
J.M. Hushour
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This collection is mildly disappointing but I think that's largely because Calvino doesn't fare well in short mediums. Sure, sure, novels like "Invisible Cities" are basically little short stories but they're bound together by an overarching theme. And that's one of the great hallmarks of Calvino's novel-writing, the depth and almost mathematical precision of his fiction and this just doesn't translate over quite as ass-kickily (streetwise lit-crit) into shorter works.
And it's not to say there a
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Exquisite. This is a lovely book of short stories from Mr C. They cover his career from teenage years onwards. What I like about his work is the purity of the prose, together with a different slant on the world. Especially recommended - the earlier stories, these are magnificent. My favourite was about a man who disrupts a "perfect" society of thieves by being honest.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: joshbooks
While I really love Calvino's novels I think he is at his best when writing short stories. "Conscience" is a particular favorite.
DeAnna Knippling
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A collection of weird short stories from a wirter of passionate logic.

Some of these stories were grand; others, merely disciplined. Think Borges or the movie Pi. I liked the stories, but it was almost always a mistake to try to read more than one at a time.

Recommended for fans of the odd, and mathematicians.
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
One of the most interesting parts of this collection of short stories, for me, is the chronological organization, which allows us to observe the development of Calvino as a short story writer from the earliest included stories (which start when he was about 20) to the ones written during his 50s and 60s. His earlier stories are brief fables, each spun around a single idea. The first story, "The Man Who Shouted Teresa," for example, explores community through the simple act of a man standing in t ...more
Jan 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Each word written by Calvino is strategic. The impressive part is that this important fact seems not to be lost in translation. The real appeal of this book, for me, is that his characters are almost achingly real and non-glamorous, but the fact that these stories are set in a time and places so different from my own experience, they almost seem fantastic. Time and again, Calvino impresses with his ability to make the most simple circumstances come alive.
Marcus Shibaba
Oct 21, 2007 rated it liked it
I just started browsing through the brief stories in this book. They all seem to be grasping at large ideas, but nothing is actualized. I think that I'll have to get a full length novel to really get a feel for ol' Italo. I also just grabbed a documentary about Fellini that has Mr. Calvino interviews. I think I'll base my like/dislike of his writing based on his hair cut. I hope he has a good barber.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I admit to being less impressed with Calvino's juvenilia, I am still haunted by certain pieces: of the "interviews, ""Montezuma," and "Henry Ford;" of the other fictions, "Beheading the Heads." These are meal-worthy notions. They are sound enough to carry the collection. And it isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the early work as well. It simply doesn't have the same force. But this is an expected thing.
John Pappas
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Calvino's short allegories and invented interviews gain acuity and insight as one proceeds through the collection. Mostly dealing with the intellectual, cultural, and political ramifications of various forms of fascism, Calvino's stories are a warm and engaging rebellion against those forces that would staunch human inventiveness and individuality.
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Calvino grew on me gradually as I worked my way through this collection of short stories with a slight mathematical undertone. My favourite was "The Burning of the Abominable House"; the attempted enumeration of all plausible ordered tuples of matchings between the abominable acts with their perpetrators was the height of mathematical silliness.
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Many of his earlier stories I could have done without, but they did allow for a glimpse into the developing talent of Calvino. The stories written after 1950 tend to be the most beautiful and thought provoking in my opinion.
Calvino is a master of imagination. 4.5*
Yehia Nasser
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
well, italo never failed me
a gripping collection of short stories
to read to calvino is to prepare your mind for difficult intriguing meal

my favorites, (the man who shouted teresa_the flash- good for nothing_conscience-enemy eyes-beheading the heads
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Numbers in the Dark, a collection of stories by Italo Calvino, moves from Beckett-like tales focused on vaguely realistic desperate characters, often motivated by the cunning of poverty, to tales that remind one of J.G. Ballard's fantasies absent the superstructure of setting: meditations and loosely-grounded dialogues that strive, it would seem, more toward making a point than resolving a conflict or plot.

Some of these stories have wonderful bite; these would fall into the Beckett category. A m
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
The fiction pieces are quite nice, many of which are more akin to fables. However, the essays didn't strike a chord with me.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Although this collection of short stories had some really nice moments, I was ultimately unimpressed. I had heard great things about Italo Calvino, how he's an Italian version of Borges, and I can certainly see the similarities to the great Argentine author, but Calvino does not benefit from the comparison.

The collection is organized chronologically, as far as I can tell, and it begins with promise. There are a few pedestrian extended jokes and adolescent musings on love, but there are some fasc
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it
I have very mixed feelings about this collection. Some of the stories were absolutely amazing and reaffirmed my conviction that Calvino is one of the greatest writers of the 21st century. At the same time, though, some of them fell into the trap of abstraction and density that he sometimes falls into (similar to his fellow countryman, Umberto Eco). Stories like 'The Man Who Shouted Teresa,' 'Making Do,' 'Solidarity,' 'The Black Sheep,' 'The Lost Regiment,' 'A General in the Library,' 'The Tribe ...more
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I first read a story by Italo Calvino in some literary magazine in English class in high school. I thought the story was so cool. It was about this town where everyone was a thief and at night all of the citizens would go out and rob from each other's houses. The town was peaceful and everyone was on equal footing. Than some honest dude moved to town and screwed everything up. Over the years I have searched for it in libraries, book stores and on the internet, but could never find it. Finally, t ...more
Dec 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Many years ago, my cousin gave me an Italo Calvino book. I started to read it then, but I never finished. I can't recall the reason. When I picked up NUMBERS IN THE DARK, I was enchanted by the first story (my favorite of all the selections). It was so clever and absurd. But there were only a few throughout the entire book that were really good. Most were decently entertaining or clever and engaging, and some were downright tedious. I believe that with this last set, the cleverness is exhausted ...more
3.5, 3 for the first half and 4 for the second half.

Some of the fables at the start are interesting and cool, but overall the first bit is somewhat uneven, fairly hit and miss. I really enjoyed most of the stories in the second half, which are more standard Calvino (if such a thing as standard Calvino even exists). Though I guess given that they're arranged in chronological order, it makes sense that his work was improving towards the end. It's kind of hard to review the collection because they
Manda Keeton
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
Like other reviewers, I would agree that collection is not a good starter for readers unfamiliar with Calvino. The collection took me nearly half a year to get through - whether due to changing life circumstances or lack of interest. There are little gems to be found starting with 'The Man Who Shouted Teresa,' continuing with 'A General in the Library' and ending with the imaginative interviews - 'Henry Ford' being a strong favorite. The collection had some common themes: the core of human natur ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Italo Calvino's genius shines through in this short story collection of both published and unpublished works written between 1943 and 1984. Some are short, first person narratives of an introspective nature. Others, fables about the rocky political times he experienced in Italy. He even has a discourse told from the point of view of a star confused about whether or not it should implode or explode. There's something for everyone here. It makes one want to continue on to Calvino's novels next.
Tom Shen
Some of the fables are too heavy-handed, and some too obtuse, but there are good ones too. The more overtly political stories (of which there are many) tended to be uninteresting.

My favorites:
- "The Man Who Shouted Teresa"
- "Solidarity"
- "Wind in a City"
- "Numbers in the Dark"
- "A Beautiful March Day"
- "The Burning of the Abominable House"
- "Glaciation"
- "The Mirror, the Target"
- "The Last Channel"
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
  • A'mâk-ı Hayal
  • Late Fame
  • İnsanın Dört Zindanı
  • Üç Köpük
  • Uçuş Denemeleri
  • Anadolu Tasavvuf Tarihine Notlar - 1
  • Serden Geçti Cilt-I (Mabedsiz Şehir, Bu Millet Neden Ağlar)
  • Dündar Taşer'in Büyük Türkiyesi
  • The Two-Penny Bar (Maigret #11)
  • حي بن يقظان
  • Remainder
  • The Tartar Steppe
  • Los ingrávidos
  • Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying
  • A Burnt Child
  • The Lost Girls: Love and Literature in Wartime London
  • Exiles
See similar books…
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 easy to classify; much of his writing has an air reminiscent to th

Related Articles

Author, journalist, public intellectual, and (in recent years) comic book writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates is an Extremely Busy Person by any metric, and n...
99 likes · 31 comments
“Maybe you have to become a mother to get to the real sense of everything. Or a prostitute.” 9 likes
“There was a town where everything was forbidden.

Now, since the only thing that wasn’t forbidden was the game tip-cat, the town’s subjects used to assemble on meadows behind the town and spend the day there playing tip-cat.

And as the laws forbidding things had been introduced one at a time and always with good reason, no one found any cause for complaint or had any trouble getting used to them.

Years passed. One day the constables saw that there was no longer any reason why everything should be forbidden and they sent messengers to inform their subjects that they could do whatever they wanted.

The messengers went to those places where the subjects were wont to assemble.

‘Hear ye, hear ye,’ they announced, ‘nothing is forbidden any more.’

The people went on playing tip-cat.

‘Understand?’ the messengers insisted. ‘You are free to do what you want.’

‘Good,’ replied the subjects. ‘We’re playing tip-cat.’

The messengers busily reminded them of the many wonderful and useful occupations they had once engaged in and could now engage in once again. But the subjects wouldn’t listen and just went on playing, stroke after stroke, without even stopping for a breather.

Seeing that their efforts were in vain, the messengers went to tell the constables.

‘Easy,’ the constables said. ‘Let’s forbid the game of tip-cat.’

That was when the people rebelled and killed the lot of them.

Then without wasting time, they got back to playing tip-cat.”
More quotes…