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

The Watcher and Other Stories

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  440 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Alternate cover edition can be found here.

In "The Watcher," a member of the Communist Party is assigned to a polling place in Turin's Hospital for Incurables, where he observes the rejects of humanity and a grotesque parody of the democratic process. "Smog" anticipates a preoccupation with pollution so lunatic that it casts a pall even over the hero's affair with a beauti
Paperback, 181 pages
Published 1975 by Houghton Mifflin (first published 1963)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Watcher and Other Stories, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Watcher and Other Stories

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  440 ratings  ·  21 reviews

Sort order
Jim Fonseca
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italian-authors
Three (long) short stories or novellas from a master. In each of these, Calvino’s style shines through. The style is not so much fantasy or magical realism as it is one of detailed realism, almost scientifically examined until it becomes absurd.

In the title story, The Watcher, a communist party member volunteers to serve as a poll watcher. (From 1943 to 1993 Italy had compulsory voting, although there were no penalties enforced for not voting.) But such a system creates a whole new array of issu
Leila Soltani
Jul 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I just read the "argentine ant" (I was searching for this story and find it in this book which consist of two other short stories. After I finished the "argentine ant" I started to read the other stories, but I did not like them that much. That made the whole rating of three star. If I want to rate just the "argentine ant" story, I will give it four star! :)
David Macpherson
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Three long stories. The one about a neighborhood invaded by ants is amazing. The other two are kind of sleepy pieces that didn't do much for me. BUt in all three, Calvino created amazing last paragraphs. Stunning endings for all his work, even the lesser ones.
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Almost every Calvino work has at least one great story or segment. The titular story of Under the Jaguar Sun is excellent, the beginning chapters of Mr. Palomar are great, The Road to San Giovanni has a great essay on garbage, even the subpar collection Numbers in the Dark features a story I consider excellent ("Wind in a City"). This is to say nothing of Calvino's works that are brilliant throughout, foremost among them Invisible Cities and If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Sadly, The Watcher ...more
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hey listen, either you like Italo Calvino or you're a senseless philistine with no sense of beauty and what is important in our lives. No biggie.

But in all seriousness, Calvino is one of the Great Writers of history with a capital 'W'. And because of his reputation and the amount of praise heaped upon him, some people don't get it. These people are probably lacking in a fundamental way a part of them that truly makes them human, but hey, whatever!

Personally, as a non-sub-human offense to creatio
B. Tyler Burton
Apr 09, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm an on and off fan of Calvino. Sometimes it seems he spends too much time in the Philosophy Dept. of the Ivory Tower, which I might have enjoyed more in my early 20's -- Oh, the Salad Days!! -- Still, I must say the middle story, "Smog", about a determined nihilist being manipulated and also manipulating public opinion on smog in the big city is amazing. I sat down to read this 65 or so page story and did not get up until I was finished. Absolutely top-notch. As for the other stories, "The Wa ...more
Jul 11, 2008 is currently reading it
The title story, about a member of Italian Communist Party assigned to observe voting at a hospital for "incurables," is a breath-taking story! It's much darker in tone than typical Calvino story -- at least ones in Difficult Loves and Marcovaldo -- but retains the quintessential Calvino compassion and humanity. Scene with elderly peasant father sharing almonds with his brain-damaged son is a microcosm of the story's quietly moving tone.

(I'm jumping around in my reading some these days, so it mi
May 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I gave this high marks based on "The Watcher" alone since this is the only distant past read book and will review. "The Watcher" helped form my little tag line on outreach that once you are aware of somes situations, one is compelled to do what one can to help. What else can one do when faced with many of the tragedies of life?
Oct 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe in the 3.5 range.

So there's three stories in here with The Watcher being the longest. All three were interesting and somewhat bizarre. I think there's more going on in them than my often only-partially-awake reading could unearth.
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
I find that the Calvino stories are less convincing, at times, than the set pieces. Maybe I just need to read the folk tales, but the various "musings of men" type of pieces are less lyrical than the scenes and more plot-driven stories.
Gregory Baer
Oct 04, 2012 rated it liked it
This took me several times starting over the last few years to get into. Ultimately, my perseverance was rewarded, but I still would not recommend this to someone who doesn't already know and appreciate Calvino's better known works.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe you have to be Italian to appreciate these stories.

Or maybe something was lost in the translations.

I got it for "The Argentine Ant" story which has the reputation of being a notable work of fiction on ants.

Jul 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
The Watcher: too dull to finish = 0 stars
Smog: intriguing idea with not a great deal of substance and a lackluster finish = 1.5 stars
The Argentine Ant: probably the best story, but also not a great ending = 2 stars
Not up to par with other Calvino works I have read
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have read some of Italo Calvino's book and the thing I loved about him is his way to describe even how characters breathe. I hope this book won't be the exception.I am so glad I have the chance the "best story telling/ writer" of Italy.
Jun 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Calvino, yay!
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Calvino is simply brilliant.
Matt Champagne
Feb 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I remember nothing of this book I had to read for a book club.
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Two great stories but "The Watcher" is more than a little blah.
Jun 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Worth checking out. I especially liked the story called "Smog", which is about an anti-social guy working for an environmentalist magazine in Italy in the 50s. Interesting parallels to today.
Al Onkka
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it
I liked argentine ant the best, the other two I wasn't so crazy about.
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: shorties
I had a difficult time maintaining interest in the title story (all those paranthetical clauses were pretty tedious), but both "Smog" and "The Argentine Ant" were quite good.
rated it liked it
Oct 26, 2008
Philip Craggs
rated it liked it
Jan 27, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Jan 01, 2015
Phoenix Cai
rated it liked it
Aug 07, 2013
rated it liked it
Sep 10, 2014
Warren Senders
rated it really liked it
Jan 27, 2013
rated it it was ok
Oct 15, 2008
Nathan Spoonts
rated it liked it
Mar 23, 2013
rated it liked it
Oct 05, 2007
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: The Watcher and Other Stories by Italo Calvino 2 10 May 30, 2017 06:19PM  
  • Orlando Furioso: Part Two
  • Poetry, Tales and Selected Essays
  • The Return
  • The Stories of J.F. Powers
  • The Wine-Dark Sea
  • The Outcry
  • The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume
  • Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings
  • Damned if I Do
  • Learning to Kill
  • The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (Pelican)
  • The Singing Detective
  • The Inquisitory
  • On with the Story
  • Selected Stories
  • Best European Fiction 2012
  • Who Are You?
  • Indian Nocturne
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
“In politics, as in every other sphere of life, there are two important principles for a man of any sense: don't cherish too many illusions, and never stop believing that every little bit helps.” 20 likes
More quotes…