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The Complete Cosmicomics (Penguin Modern Classics) [Hardcover]

Italo Calvino , Martin McLaughlin , Tim Parks , William Weaver
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 May 2009 Penguin Modern Classics
Before the universe began to expand, when all of everything existed in a single point in space, Qfwfq was there. And afterwards – through the millennia, across galaxies and in different, shifting forms – he persisted. He has some stories to tell. A collection of enchanting stories, in revised translation, about the evolution of the universe. The characters, fashioned from mathematical formulae and cellular structures, disport themselves amongst galaxies, experience the solidification of planets, move from aquatic to terrestrial existence, play games with hydrogen atoms, and have time for a love life too. 'Naturally, we were all there, - old Qfwfq said, - where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?'

Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846141656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141652
  • Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 14.4 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 697,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Italo Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923 and grew up in Italy. He was an essayist and journalist and a member of the editorial staff of Einaudi in Turin. One of the most respected writers of our time, his best-known works of fiction include Invisible Cities, If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, Marcovaldo and Mr Palomar. In 1973 he won the prestigious Premio Feltrinelli. He died in 1985. A collection of Calvino's posthumous personal writings, The Hermit in Paris, was published in 2003.

Product Description


It's a joy to have all the Cosmicomics within one cover - and a handsome cover it is, and a well-made book...and Martin McLaughlin's introduction couldn't be better as a guide to these dazzlingly idiosyncratic tales...Calvino was ahead of his time in so many ways that only now, 25 years after his death, is his work widely perceived not as marginal because it is fantasy, but as a landmark in fiction, the work of a master. -- Ursula K Le Guin, The Guardian, Saturday 13 June 2009

About the Author

Italo Calvino, one of Italy's finest postwar writers, has delighted readers around the world with his deceptively simple, fable-like stories. He was born in Cuba in 1923 and raised in San Remo, Italy; he fought for the Italian Resistance from 1943-45. His major works include Cosmicomics (1968), Invisible Cities (1972), and If on a winter's night a traveller (1979). He died in Siena in 1985. Martin L. McLaughlin is Professor of Italian and Fiat-Serena Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Oxford where he is a Fellow of Magdalen College. In addition to his published academic works he is the English translator of Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino among many others.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 16 July 2009
I can't let the only current review for this book go unanswered.

Granted, these stories will not be to all tastes. But for those of us who care for such things, these stories are a treat.

Each tale being based on a scientific principle, Calvino's imagination roams free to produce breathtakingly inventive stories. For want of a better phrase, they might be called science fiction fables.

There's really nothing quite like it, but if this is your cup of tea, then you might also try "Sum" by David Eagleman, which considers forty possible afterlifes, and "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman, in which our hero dreams of possible universes. It's a pretty small genre. But a good one.

I wish you happy reading.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful stories - nice complete edtion 17 July 2009
These stories are brilliant. I had read those that had been published in Cosmicomics and Time and the Hunter before but I was really pleased to get this complete volume as a gift. First, there are over 100 pages of new stories (at least new in English translation) which account for over one third of the book. Secondly the print quality is vastly superior to the Picador paperbacks I had, which are now yellowing with age but were also rather blurrily printed in the first place. Thirdly, it is an attractive book and it's nice to have a hardback of a book you love. And finally, reading these stories again after almost twenty years has been great fun.

They are narrated by a character called Qfwfq who has been present in some form or other throughout all time: "All at one point" is set before the big bang, in "Games Without End" he and a friend play marbles with newly formed hydrogen atoms, he is a dinosaur and one of the first aquatic animals to leave the sea, he was present on the earth as its atmosphere formed making it possible to perceive colours, and so on. I wouldn't call them science fiction, rather they are fiction that uses a scientific idea as a starting point. I would strong disagree with hurricanheidi's review - I think the first story, "The Distance of the Moon", is anything but silly - it reminds me a bit of Borges and Garcia Marquez - it is funny and touching. But, to be fair, don't read these stories if you like your fiction straight and rational.

As a narrator Qfwfq is endearing, funny, slightly self important, and a bit of a know-it-all. He is also regularly in love with some ever so slightly unattainable vision of female perfection. If you have read Calvino before these stories are full of the usual wit and whimsy you expect from him. If you liked The Castle of Crossed Destinies or the Marcovaldo stories, you should love these. If you haven't read him before then these stories, or either of the two books I mentioned, are a good place to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 9 Jan 2010
The Cosmicomics stories posit how various cosmic, metaphysical and evolutionary threshold moments would have come across to a human-like consciousness, had one somehow been around to view them. An entity much like ourselves, complete with love interests, rivals, eccentric family members, gripes, confusions and short term goals reacts to things like the Big Bang, the supplanting of dinosaurs by birds and mammals and so on. It's pretty crazy and totally great--a sort of alternative science fiction, in continuity with Mary Shelley and Poe but having nothing to do with the male power fantasies arbitrarily set in space we'vee all become used to.

It's also even better than that, because these stories, mostly written across the 1960s, show Calvino groping his way toward the heart of his own vision. Many of the later stories rival his acknowledged masterpiece, Invisible Cities, in their insight and power.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb writing 12 Dec 2009
Fantastic! Science fiction? Fiction science, no not exactly..... A wonderful delivery in many cases on the nuts and bolts of being human, the simple ego factors that often go unobserved. The dinosaur story a phenomenal account of alienation, wonderful stories. The Spiral, my all time favourite story which explains perception and existence to me from my own point of view. The absurdity of the moon being close to the Earth?? an excellent story, fairytale, stirring the mud of male emotions. Based on science, told as fiction offering dazziling insights to the human experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative. 11 Oct 2011
By Gaz
This is a collection of short stories spanning time, from the origin of the world to modern times. Lots of humour and creative imagery in the story telling. Blows your mind away.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Whimsical and wonderful 2 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this after reading 'Why E=MC2 and Why You Should Care' by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. In a chapter dealing with the conservation of angular momentum, they mention a short story called 'The Distance of the Moon', which is the opening story in this collection.

The whole book is touching, weird, funny and moving. It's more of an experience than a book - you just have to kind of let it wash over you and enjoy the sheer oddness of it all, rather than trying to understand every sentence.
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