Review – The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Cover of The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo CalvinoThe Castle of Crossed Destinies, Italo Calvino

I don’t know why I keep trying; it’s quite obvious that while there are aspects of Calvino’s writing that I love, even coming blurred through the translations, his structures, styles, plots, characters (or lack thereof) really get on my nerves. The idea is fine, but then telling a whole series of stories via someone guessing at what other people mean by laying out certain patterns of tarot cards… gets wearing.

It’s nice at first to keep your mind on the cards, the symbolism, the way the story happens… And then, for me, it loses its novelty. Maybe it’d have worked as a short story, but the more tortuous it got, the more irritated I got.

Rating 2/5

8 thoughts on “Review – The Castle of Crossed Destinies

  1. I agree entirely, having stalled on it twice. I have wondered, “Is it me ?”; but then think, “Is it perhaps a flaw in the storytelling?”

      • I shall persevere sometime with The Castle, much as I persevered with Invisible Cities, his novel on Marco Polo and Venice, which had a rather stolid middle after the joke wore thin before picking up again. I did rather enjoy his Italian Folk Tales which did for Italy what the Brothers Grimm did for Germany — produce a repository of traditional stories which he’d edited, collated and notated from printed collections of regional lore. For these reasons I shan’t entirely abandon his fiction.

  2. I felt the same with this. When I learned of it, I thought it sounded like a great concept (as did the third, unwritten part Calvino talks about in the introduction), but the text alone left me bored, sad to say. A giant, glossy, fully-illustrated coffee table book (ideally the size of a coffee table) so you could see the game/story evolving onto the page could be interesting… but then I’d be coming for the pictures, not the words – and that’s pretty damning for any writer, let alone a famed stylist.

    It could be that this is the title that enhanced ebooks as a format have been waiting for: a version of this text that popped out the cards as they were played (maybe including different tarot decks, so the reader can choose which they would like to see).

    Anyway, although I’ve not read a lot by Calvino, I did like “If on a winter’s night a traveller”. My recollection is that the cleverness of the idea didn’t overwhelm the actual content. Not what you can say about this.

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