Ideamen

Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino

One revelation from reading Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida: Barthes and Italo Calvino admired each other’s work.  Maybe they were friends, too.  I don’t know, but it would be fun if it were so: Barthes standing on the shore of nonfiction, shaking hands with Calvino, himself wading in the waters of fiction.

Barthes mentions Calvino in a positive manner at least three times in the book, and Geoff Dwer, in the books’ introduction, quotes a nice thing Calvino said about Barthes shortly after Barthes’s death.

I suppose this realization is ordinarily reserved for people more social than I am.  I’ll ask Victoria when she gets up.  Ever know two interesting people and later discover that they’re friends?  A lot comes over you all at once, thinking about what their friendship might say about each of them.

In retrospect, it seems natural that Barthes and Calvino would enjoy each other. Barthes often teeters but remains just this side of fiction, and in his novels Calvino sometimes comes close to nonfiction.  Together they might embody Borges or Sebald, who often seemed to mix fact (or at least nonfiction) and fiction.  All four were ideamen, writers for whom, as Dyer points out in another fine introduction (this one to John Berger: Selected Essays),  “ideas are the most distinctive and important feature of [their] output.”

[This is the third of three posts on Camera Lucida.  The first is here, and the second is here.]

By Peter

After stints as a trial lawyer and a church worker, Peter Stephens has settled in as a Virginia high school English teacher. Peter has read several books and poems. He wrote none of the posts below filed under "Passages." Click the link at the end of each post to see it in the context of the author's original post.