Adam, One Afternoon

Adam, One Afternoon - Italo Calvino The Vintage edition that I read was in reality an early Calvino short story collection with the addition of the novella, 'The Argentine Ant'. Aspects of the oblique and playful nature of the mature Calvino's writing were already in place at the turn of the 1950s. So, the title story, for instance, is a charming modern folk tale. Less flexibly, some of the stories find the young author in the grip of Marxist dogma.

At times, I found the empathy with his poor and marginal characters engaging, such as the itinerants sleeping at the railway station in 'Sleeping like Dogs'. At other times, the ideology of the former communist partisan leads the writer to produce simplistic stereotypes of good and evil. 'A Judgement' springs to mind here. It's entirely understandable that a man who'd witnessed atrocities carried out under fascism/Nazism, often supported by 'old money', would feel this resentment but it sometimes lends the reading experience all the joy of a propagandist pamphlet. I was reminded of the clumsier writing of British fellow travellers of the 1930s - Auden, Upward and Warner. Fragments of partisan life presented in 'Fear on the Footpath' and 'Hunger at Bevera' worked much better, I felt.

'The Argentine Ant' is tremendous fun and left this reader groping after allegorical interpretations, and enjoying their eluding him too. So while this book isn't in the same league as 'Invisible Cities', say, or 'Mr Palomar', it's an enjoyable insight into the development of one of the twentieth century's finest writers.