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The Watcher and Other Stories

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  25 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)
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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
The three stories play well off each other: stories of something oppressive and inescapable, whether it's an ant infestation, smog, or fascism. There's so much interesting thought and writing in "The Watcher," but it was really hard for me to read the way the narrator thought about the disabled folks around him as sub-human. Just some awful descriptions that make it a story I can't recommend. The other two were wonderfully depressing stories of man and futility. Calvino is a treasure. ...more
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! :) ...more
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read all the great Calvino, now I'm reading the rest. This is a collection of 3 long short stories, or short novellas.

The first, The Watcher, is about a member of a political party watching the election polls at an area densely populated with a different political party. Lots of philosophizing about politics. And, oh yeah, he finds out his gf is pregnant on the phone at lunch.

The second, Smog, is about a guy who lives in a polluted city and writes for a magazine entirely devoted to covering
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. ...more
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
Steph Mostav
Maratonando Calvino pra ver quais livros dele pego na bienal LOL

"Então, de todas as coisas o que conta seria apenas o momento em que começam, quando todas as energias estão retesadas, quando só existe o futuro? Não chegará, para todo organismo, o momento em que o hábito, a rotina diária ganham lugar?" Opa, mais esse pra lista de desejados hihi

Esse é o tipo de livro que me comprova o potencial dos clássicos: com 96 páginas, SÓ 96 páginas, o cara tratou do retorno à democracia numa Itália pós-fasc
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? ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
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.
Jeff Hobbs
Oct 26, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: quick-read
Read so far:

*The watcher --
Smog --
*The Argentine ant--
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Two great stories but "The Watcher" is more than a little blah. ...more
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. ...more
Al Onkka
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it
I liked argentine ant the best, the other two I wasn't so crazy about. ...more
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. ...more
rated it liked it
Oct 26, 2008
Philip Craggs
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Jan 27, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Jan 01, 2015
Phoenix Cai
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Aug 07, 2013
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Goodreads Librari...: The Watcher and Other Stories by Italo Calvino 2 11 May 31, 2017 02:19AM  

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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 easy to classify; much of his writing has an air reminiscent to th

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