By Beno Weiss
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Extra info for Understanding Italo Calvino
In the first tale, "Mushrooms in the City," the wind blows spores in from the countryside. At the same time, he is warning us that nature too has its dangerous side, and that we face today the potential of both natural and manmade disasters. And so we learn that like the city, even the irresistible country has its drawbacks. That we find ourselves laughing at Marcovaldo's miseries and mishaps does not in any way diminish their impact, for ours is the laughter of recognition and empathy, melancholy yet cathartic.
Rosengarten 224–25. It is somewhat puzzling that Calvino's dedication "A Kim, e a tutti gli altri" [to Kim, and to all the others] should have been left out of the English translation. But, as he wrote in the preface, "I held out: the book had been born like this, with this composite, illegitimate element" (x). Richard Kostelanetz (New York: Avon, 1964) 171. John GattRutter, Writers and Politics in Modern Italy (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1978) 47. In fact, due to national dissension and the unfulfilled promises of the political parties, the country was suffering from rampant unemployment, an economy in shambles, a high number of homeless and displaced people, political corruption, illiteracy, severe poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, labor unrest, selfdestructive tendencies of rival parties, and finally the incipient Cold War.
Only Cousin, who first introduced him to the partisans and then at the end becomes his guide and mentor, escapes somewhat unscathed from Pin's sadistic illwill. The only game he does play is with the stolen pistol and with the spiders. 12 Cousin is the only one who shows affection to the boy. Cousin and the spiders' nest represent hope and redemption both for Pin and for Italy, which will be rebuilt into a progressive nation based on humanitarian ideals, just as the spiders have always rebuilt when their nest is destroyed.