“Classics” as defined by Italo Calvino

SOURCE: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1986/oct/09/why-read-the-classics/

2) We use the word “classics” for those books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to read them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them.

In fact, reading in youth can be rather unfruitful, owing to impatience, distraction, inexperience with the product’s “instructions for use,” and inexperience in life itself. Books read then can be (possibly at one and the same time) formative, in the sense that they give a form to future experiences, providing models, terms of comparison, schemes for classification, scales of value, exemplars of beauty—all things that continue to operate even if the book read in one’s youth is almost or totally forgotten. If we reread the book at a mature age we are likely to rediscover these constants, which by this time are part of our inner mechanisms, but whose origins we have long forgotten. A literary work can succeed in making us forget it as such, but it leaves its seed in us.

3 thoughts on ““Classics” as defined by Italo Calvino

  1. I don’t know how to start but this guy ‘Italo Calvino’ has spoken on my behalf!
    Remeber when I told you I have saved the Russian writers and ilks for my future, well that’s (2nd paragraph) what I was actually talking about.

    p.s. I don’t want to seem burger but 21 is still a very young age to read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky. *starts reading The Fault In Our Stars* 😛


    • You read the whole essay? He made some quite acute observations. Also, I have heard a lot about that Fault in Our Stars book. How is it really? Not that I am inclined to read it. :p


  2. Nah, I didn’t. I probably will now that you have said … About TFIOS, I had also heard a lot about it and then my sister (15) asks me to send her a copy as it was apparently not available in Quetta. So, I bought it, read first 10-15 pages and sent it over. To tell you the truth, I kinda didn’t like it or let me rephrase, it didn’t attract me. Sometimes you read a book and you keep reading, well, this was not of that kind … And yeah, guessing from your social network persona, it will be hell of a job to wake the reading-TheFaultInOurStars-type girl in you 🙂


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