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Calvino (1923-2023) and the Americas


Calvino (1923-2023) and the Americas 
Celebrations for the 100 years from the birth of Italo Calvino

Panel discussion
In collaboration with:
Casa Italiana Zerilli – Marimò
New York University

November 17, 2023 | 10:30 AM

Italian Cultural Institute
686 Park Avenue, NY

Mentioning “Calvino”

Live streaming HERE


  • Laura Di Nicola: Parlare alle Americhe

During his travels to the Americas, Calvino held important conferences, always demonstrating a deep knowledge of the audience he was addressing. Those were occasions, which, to some extent, forced him to “wrap up”, to look at Italian culture from afar and at the same time to observe the Americas up close, but also to question himself as an Italian or, better, European writer. His first conference in English was held on December, 16 1959 at Columbia University in New York and he then translated it with the title Tre correnti del romanzo italiano d’oggi; on February, 25 1976 in Amherst (Massachusetts) he held the conference Right and wrong political uses of literature in English; on March 30, 1983 he reads at New York University: Written world and unwritten world. These are the texts that mark the stages of his three trips to the United States. Meanwhile in Cuba in 1964 he held the conference El hecho histórico y la imaginación en la novela (found only in Spanish); while Il libro, i libri is the title of the speech at the Buenos Aires Book Fair in 1984. They are the premises of a work that will lead to the Six memos for the next millennium, the conferences to pack in the suitcase for the future.

Laura Di Nicola is associate professor of contemporary Italian literature at Sapienza University in Rome.

  • Martin McLaughlin (ZOOM): Calvino’s Essays on Anglophone American writers

This centenary event is entitled Italo Calvino (1923-2023) and the Americas. This is of course a huge topic, given how significant both North and South America were for Calvino. So I will limit myself to one area of his output that is relatively understudied, namely: ‘Calvino’s Essays on Anglophone American writers’. When one thinks of Calvino and his American literary models one immediately thinks of Ernest Hemingway, and naturally there is much to say about the Italian novelist’s complex relationship to this American master, but it is worth bearing in mind that Calvino began his non-fiction career not only with essays on Conrad and Hemingway but also with three reviews of books by Richard Wright, Sherwood Anderson, and Stephen Crane, all reviews written between 1947 and 1948, all published in l’Unità with a strongly ideological slant. This paper charts the development of Calvino’s interests in American literature from these early pieces, through his fascination with Henry James and Mark Twain in the early 1970s, down to his essays on Washington Irving (for Irving’s bicentenary) and Gore Vidal in 1983.

Martin McLaughlin was Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian at Oxford from 2001 to 2017, and is now an Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. 

  • Giulio Ciancamerla (ZOOM): America, God’s country: Italo Calvino’s film reportage

Starting from 1959, Italo Calvino’s relationship with the United States was enriched with unexpected implications: the intense youthful passion for Hollywood films and the attention towards Americanism mixed with an “immediate emotional reaction” to American society and its big cities. New York in particular “had a grip” on him, to the point of having him questioning his intolerance for travel literature. In fact, Calvino, in addition to the well-known American conferences- and some other papers- wrote a series of hybrid texts which converged in the American Diary, in the Postcards from America and in the well-known book, withdrawn in the draft stage, An optimist in America. This speech aims to illustrate a lesser-known episode, one of the rare occasions in which the Sanremo author attempted to write a text for «that other world that was the world», namely the reworking of the memoir-reportage for the documentary America, God’s Country (Luigi Vanzi, 1967), a commentary that stands at the intersection of literature, cinema and journalism.

Giulio Ciancamerla has a PhD in historical, literary and gender studies at Sapienza University.

  • Valerio Cappozzo: Calvino visible but invisible: the relationship with the American press and publishing.

If a seventh category could be added to the six of the American Lessons, it would be that of invisibility which best defines Calvino’s attitude towards American publishing and the press. In North America he looked for new writers to translate for Einaudi but did not maintain particular epistolary exchanges with intellectuals, publishers or journalists as, for example, did Sciascia, Bassani, Pivano and Soldati. The traces left by Calvino are rare and concise, but no less effective. In the United States he acquires full-blown visibility thanks to the publications of his novels and the reviews he received, to the critical essays on his work, and also through the conferences he held in various universities, but the lack of archival materials underlines the shy attitude of a writer who observes the New World to understand its cultural reality, able to come into contact with it, while remaining invisible.

Valerio Cappozzo is Associate Professor of Modern Languages ​​at the University of Mississippi.


On this occasion, works by Italian artist Sara Forte  are on view:

Three sculptures based on images of happy and visionary cities, thread-like figures which, thanks to the Murrina technique performed in Murano, take on dreamlike forms that go beyond reality.

After all, as Calvin wrote, “cities are like dreams, built of desires and fears, though the thread of their speech is secret, their rules absurd, their perspectives deceptive, and each thing hides another.”

Click HERE for information on the evening event at



Fri, 11/17/2023 – 6:00pm

Featuring Jhumpa Lahiri, Giovanna Calvino, and a new documentary

Reservation no longer available

  • Organized by: IIC-NY
  • In collaboration with: Casa Italiana - NYU