Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino
Illustration by Daniele Castellano for The New Yorker

My favorite Italo Calvino story, relating to Lady Godiva of course, is Mr. Palomar (1983), including this moment in an encounter on a nudist beach.

"Returning from his stroll, Palomar again passes that bather, and this time he keeps his eyes fixed straight ahead, so that his gaze touches with impartial uniformity the foam of the retreating waves, the boats pulled up on shore, the great bath towel spread out on the sand, the swelling moon of lighter skin with the dark halo of the nipple, the outline of the coast in the haze, gray against the sky.

There--he reflects, pleased with himself, as he continues on his way--I have succeeded in having the bosom completely absorbed by the landscape, so that my gaze counted no more than the gaze of a seagull or a hake."

Merve Emre writes in the New Yorker that "Italo Calvino was, word for word, the most charming writer to put pen to paper in the twentieth century. He was born a hundred years ago in Cuba, the eldest son of a wandering Italian botanist and her agronomist husband. Shortly after his birth, the family returned to Italy, where they divided their time between his father’s floriculture station, in the seaside town of San Remo, and a country home sheltered by woods."

That's all very well and good but Calvino's writing is better.

“We can know nothing about what is outside us if we overlook ourselves, he thinks now. The universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves.” Indeed...

An artist called Binkum has his/her/their own tribute to the hilarious Mr. Palomar.