Love Far From Home by Italo Calvino, 1946
The magic trick:
Playing with time – in a tasteful way
I like stories that play with the nature of space and time. Tastefully, at least. I don’t like a story that just leans on it’s time-travel concept for everything; or trots out a weird mind-bending revelation as a gimmick. But “Love Far From Home” uses restraint in its time cheats. The story thematically is about the way time blurs and blends while our actions and thoughts don’t seem to connect into something greater than the sum of their parts. So it’s no mere gimmick; it’s the story’s central theme. And it’s just plain cool. The narrator, at one point, muses that the landlady “one day will die, strangled by thieves; it’s written down, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” It’s brutal in its humor; hilarious in its frankness. I’m fairly certain that fate doesn’t work like that, but it’s a welcome addition to this bizarre consideration of life. And that’s quite a trick on Calvino’s part.
“Right,” says Mariamirella. “I’ve already thought of everything possible; I’ve lived hundreds of lives with my thoughts. Of marrying, of having lots of children, of having abortions, of marrying someone rich, of marrying someone poor, of becoming a high-society lady, of becoming a prostitute, a dancer, a nun, a roast-chestnut seller, a star, an M.P., an ambulance woman, a sports-woman. Hundreds of lives, with all their details. And they all ended happily. But in real life none of those things I think of ever happen. So every time I find myself imagining things I get scared and try to stop the thoughts, because if I dream something it will never come true.”
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