Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino [Book Thoughts]

Under the Jaguar Sun is worth a read if only for the aesthetics and the prose. It’s short, unfinished even, and offers just a taste/whisper/whiff of something different.
-Imran

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Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino

(William Weaver Translation)

Italo Calvino is the Italian author of Cosmicomics and If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller. Since he wrote in Italian, his works are translated, many by William Weaver. We now consider him part of the postmodern movement, a writer of books that excelled in making people think about the nature of stories themselves.

Under the Jaguar Sun is the last work of Calvino, published posthumously and incomplete. In its present state, it comprises three shorts stories about taste, hearing and smell. Apparently Calvino intended to complete the collection with stories on touch and vision and framing chapters to form a complete novel. Alas he passed on before he could do that so we only have the three.

The first story Sotto il sole giaguaro (Under the Jaguar Son) is the story of a couple who travel to Mexico on holiday. Their strained relationship is told through the foods and flavours they experiment with. Beautiful prose throughout, fascinating narrative.

The second story Un re in ascolto (A King Listens) is a second person narrative. You are the king unable to leave his throne. You eat, sleep, defecate, fornicate and are washed on the throne. Your subjects could be plotting against you. Your only way of interacting with the world is to listen. Surreal and moving.

The third story Il nome, il naso (The Name, The Nose) is the shortest story at only twenty pages. We follow different protagonists as they chase a woman knowing only her scent. This one was perhaps too abstract, I’ll have to read it again.

The individual stories conceptually interesting and even translated the prose reads beautifully. I can’t say what it all means just yet (perhaps it’s hard to say as it isn’t finished) but I took something away from this short work; it moved me. Even the idea of it alone, interpreting one’s experience through different senses makes it worth reading. At under 90 pages one could probably read it in a day.

Under the Jaguar Sun is worth a read if only for the aesthetics and the prose. It’s short, unfinished even, and offers just a taste/whisper/whiff of something different.

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