Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Finally my copy of Six Memos for the Next Millennium has arrived. Today I read the chapter on exactitude. This text has nudged an elusive thought process into being. I am pleased that Calvino opened this chapter with reference to 'Maat' as I have a little knowledge about her. The ancient Egyptian goddess of justice, law, order and truth. She weighs the heart of the dead against a feather, to decide whether you would feast with the deities or be given to 'Ahemait' the underworld goddess (part hippo, part lion, part crocodile) to be devoured...nasty.

Anyway, the image fits very well with the concept of exactitude. I wholeheartedly agree with Calvino on his sentiment that image/words/meaning are confused in mainstream contemporary western culture, many things we are subjected to are devoid of nourishment for the mind or soul (this is why I do not own a television). It is the realm of literature that I find most stimulating for the imagination.

The quandary in the text seems to be about balancing precision of words with openness for interpretation. A few concepts came to mind; isn't the idea of control over language delving into structural linguistics? Saussure argued the relationship of signifier and signified is not necessarily connected. Later in the chapter Calvino paradoxically exposes the idea that mystery is more appealing and vagueness, can be more easily identified in the finite human consciousness than the precise infinite, does this not jar with exactitude?

As an aspiring poet I find this concept parallels with the Imagist Manifesto idea that a writer should 'Go in fear of abstractions' searching for the precise image to express oneself, rather that patronising the reader with hyperbole. It all comes back to subjectivity, freedom to interpret, and a ludic relationship with language.

Calvino's assessment of characters in novels as vehicles of ideological expression works very well, but I have not read the novels he is referencing so I am not confident in critically analysing this work.

As a person who collects specimens of natural crystal I completely understand Calvino's 'self organising system' philosophy, applying this to writing it is more natural for me to look at tensions and facets, inclusions and growth habits of a text, rather than the 'flame view - order out of noise'. I am going to try looking at and writing the consuming, transforming, chaotic aspects of literature, to develop a balance.

The final few pages of the chapter discuss the idea of writing as a process of inquiry, this film clip serves as a visual example of this idea. The winner of Ukraine's got talent - a stunning sand animation.


  1. wow - this sand animation is amazing, what story telling. It's quiet interesting thinking of Calvino's ideas in the context of an art such as this.

  2. I nicked this clip, hope you don't mind - love it, love it, love it - Andy