Calvino, Wallace, Holland, (and me)


Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, my translation:

The inferno of the living is not something that will be. If there is one, it is that which is already here, the inferno that we inhabit every day, that we create by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for most: accept the inferno and become such a complete part of it that you no longer know it is there. The second is risky and requires vigilance and continuous attention: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, and help them endure, give them space.

David Foster Wallace in L. McCaffrey, Conversations with David Foster Wallace, p. 26:

Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the  definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as  dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.

Eugene Holland, Nomad Citizenship, p. 172:

The task of nomadological utopianism is then to detect and reinforce such alternative instances [to capitalism and the State], distill and express the ideals informing them, then relay and propagate those ideals in additional institutions and practices throughout social life, in anticipation of pushing society to a tipping point beyond which they actually come to prevail.

Me, drawing heavily on the others, from The Down-Deep Delight of Democracy, p. 21-2:

Both Calvino and Wallace are saying that there is something already here, something good, breathing in the midst of human society. This good is not transcendent, or an ideal to come. It is immanent, incipient, coming. Calvino calls it that which is “not inferno.” For Wallace, it is those elements of “what’s human and magical” in the world,  elements that illuminate the “possibilities for being alive.” Even though we are surrounded by the actual world of the inferno, we can seek out the not-inferno and help it to grow. In a similar way,  Lefebvre’s transduction argues that a possible world is not “out there,” beyond our current situation, but rather it is already here, even if it remains inchoate. Our task as political thinkers and actors, Lefebvre argues, is to discover this good, this other world, to remove the barriers that prevent its growth, and to nurture it as best we can.


4 thoughts on “Calvino, Wallace, Holland, (and me)

  1. Wonderful words – I’m reading while listening to the soundtrack of Les Miserable (which is probably not surprising) – as this is my escapist take on goodness being inherent and living even in the midst of hardship and injustice.

  2. Pingback: These are a few of my favorite things #2 (The Man Who Shouted Teresa, a very short story by Italo Calvino) « Ritu’s Weblog

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