Mr. Palomar

by Italo Calvino

Other authorsWilliam Weaver (Translator)
Hardcover, 1985




San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.


Mr. Palomar, whose name purposely evokes that of the famous telescope, is a seeker after knowledge, a visionary in a world sublime and ridiculous. Whether contemplating a cheese, a woman's breasts, or a gorilla's behavior, he brings us a vision of a world familiar by consensus, fragmented by the burden of individual perception. Relates the inner dialogs, reflections, and musings of Mr. Palomar.

User reviews

LibraryThing member polutropos
Mr. Palomar is not a conventional novel but rather a collection of sketches in which we see him on vacation, wandering through the city, visiting the zoo, shopping, meditating. Mr. Palomar is a reflective man, a man given to pondering, to tasks such as examining a wave and wondering if by truly
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capturing its essence, the world’s complexity can be reduced. He ponders time and illusion. He wishes to cancel his doubting ego in the certitude of a principle. Does he exist? Would the world exist without him? He is overcome by reverence for minute miracles. In a cheese shop he recognizes that it is not a matter of choosing the right cheese, but of being chosen. He tries to improve his relations with the universe and finds the universe “twisted, restless as he is.” He thinks. Finally he “decides that he will set himself to describing every instant of his life, and until he has described them all he will no longer think of being dead. At that moment he dies.”

The book is airy and heavy. It is humorous and depressing. It shows joy and the deepest despair. It gives answers which slip, like smoke, through the fingers.

It bears much reexamination and rereading. It is masterful.
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LibraryThing member Marse
Once you have finished "Mr. Palomar," you'll want to turn to the first page and start reading it all over again. This happened to me when I finished Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" and much like that book, it makes the reader want to open his eyes wide and become aware of all the links between
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worlds, people, thoughts. The main character, Mr. Palomar, is an observer, a close observer, an astute observer of... everything, walking along the shore and being aware of a naked breast, waiting in line for cheese and the possible outcome of that endeavor, space and the idea of one's own demise. If you've ever found yourself contemplating your own train of thought, a kind of meta-contemplation, you'll understand and appreciate the world of Mr. Palomar. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Michael_Mitchell
This book was a really enjoyable read! I like the methodological approach to the character of Mr. Palomar -- the neatness in the book's layout suited the personality of the protagonist perfectly. I couldn't help thinking that Palomar is a modern-day Descartes, trying to provide some sort of
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geometric model to the universe. Calvino's style is so crisp, and the details are so striking. An easy, enjoyable read!
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LibraryThing member yawn
This book captivated me when I first read it and still has a firm hold. It has a clarity of prose and vision and a clever structure. Whilst its considered, engineered and symmetrical form may put some people off, it completes it for me. Calvino's last book, and his best.
LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
For the benefit of those who have read Calvino's Invisible Cities, this book is in some ways very like it, and is some ways quite the opposite. Here various locations, things, and thoughts are described precisely with the utmost eloquence and detail, whereas in Invisible Cities, it is one place
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being described in many different ways, hazy, as if seen through lenses of different qualities, and warping mirrors. But the effect is much the same, both books give you something to think about, make you see things in different ways, and are a pleasure to read. Both books also contain no strong plot, and consist of many small and diverse sections, and in a way, could be dipped into. Where this book gets very much into the mind of the protagonist, and his fixed, elaborate, and definite interpretations of reality, Invisible Cities is similar in that the recollections are also told from the point of view of the narrator, but differ each time, none being tied to reality, all of them containing aspects of truth found through how you interpret them.
This book is quite short, which will be a dissappointment to Calvino fans, yet they may well expect it. This is an amusing and enjoyable read, though I expect that it would not appeal to everyone.
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LibraryThing member AndrewBlackman
Mr. Palomar sets out to examine every possible aspect of his life and the world around him, trying to name everything and categorise everything scientifically. Of course he fails, and it's in the episodes of life squirming away from his rigid attempts at classification that the absurd humour comes.
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The arrangement of the book corresponds to Palomar's classification attempts, being broken up into sections, sub-sections and sub-sub-sections, with each section having three sub-sections and each sub-section having three sub-sub-sections dealing with three different categories of experience. There is no real plot to speak of.

The result, for me, was that although some of the details were beautiful and the descriptions insightful, it felt like notes for a book rather than a book itself. Each sub-section is just two or three pages, and the book itself is little over 100 pages, so no idea seems to get fully developed. You end up with a collection of fragments, each one often quite clever and even entertaining, but not seeming to add up to any kind of meaningful whole.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
A dryly witty and well-crafted story of a man who tries to find order and reason in the chaos of the universe. Calvino makes such a deadening premise shine. Incredibly funny and philosophical in equal measure. Mathematical in structure, despite the uncertainty of Mr. Palomar's thought. A fine
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LibraryThing member xuebi
A different approach by one of Italy's greatest modern authors, Mr Palomar is Calvino's attempt to define one man's existence in a series of rigidly-contained chapters. Evidence of Calvino's days as a part of a group of writers using literary constraints, Mr Palomar is a exercise in precision: each
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word and sentence is carefully chosen to make an impact, and the final chapter is proof of this alone.

Perhaps Mr Palomar is a book to read having already read some of Calvino's other works but it is worth the read for it is a reflective book on life itself.
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LibraryThing member MSarki
I wanted to give this book one star as I "did not like it", but out of respect for many admiring readers of it here, give it two stars instead. I am now finished with my subjection of Italo Calvino. He just does not do it for me. Sorry.
LibraryThing member PZR
I'd started reading this book a long time ago but didn't get very far for reasons long since forgotten. Having just re-read the brilliant 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller', I picked it up again. Being by Calvino, one of my literary heroes, I knew it would never be less than interesting.

The book
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has no story as such at all, comprising a series of reflections. That rules it out for all of those readers who like their fiction to be plot-driven. And in the hands of another writer, this might be a recipe for tedium. Calvino, of course, wasn't just another writer. In William Weaver's translation, the prose is beautifully spare and exact. The melancholic, philosopher-fool Palomar is a wonderful invention. His meditations upon anything from waves to a gecko to a Parisian cheese shop are a joy, at once comic and profound. 'Mr Palomar' reminds me of Bodil Malmstem's 'The Price of Water in Finistère'. It is a Tardis of a book - outwardly slight and yet, between its covers, gaining in depth and weight.
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LibraryThing member madepercy
Harold Bloom mentions in How to Read and Why (pp.64-66) why Italo Calvino was one of the greatest short story writers and refers specifically to Calvino's "wisdom" (p. 64). Calvino's wisdom is not wanting in this collection of short stories centred on the life of Mr Palomar. Each section of the
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book focuses on a particular activity of Mr Palomar's in various locations, with each story within the theme based around a particular sub-theme. I have often read of literary "constellations" (p. 107), where literature in sum forms "an imaginary outline or meaningful pattern" not in the sky, but in the mind. At first, Mr Palomar appears to be suffering from some kind of introverted social awkwardness. Yet as the stories progress, Calvino's wisdom shines through as I began to identify with Palomar and to see his own wisdom beyond his apparent social ineptitude. What I discovered was that Mr Palomar was self-aware, to the point where he is conscious of his failings yet continues to deceive himself. Yet (p. 107):The universe can perhaps go tranquilly about its business; he surely cannot. The road left open to him is this: he will devote himself from now on to the knowing of himself, he will explore his own inner geography, he will draw the diagram of the moods of his spirit, he will derive from it formulas and theories, he will train his telescope on the orbits of the course of his life rather than those of the constellations.Here is where I made the connection with Bloom. Bloom often writes of characters "overhearing" themselves, but Calvino makes Mr Palomar "overlook" himself, finding:We can know nothing about what is outside us, if we overlook ourselves... the universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves.This link between the individual and environment echoes James Allen's "environment is but his looking glass" (Calvino writes "The universe as mirror") when writing of the interaction between inner and outer life (but with a sense of manifestation of inward conditions on the outside). Palomar laments that he is not like this (104): To the man who is friend of the universe, the universe is a friend. Recently, I have been learning more about induction versus deduction in terms of my academic work. Here, Calvino outlines how Mr Palomar is a deductivist (p. 98), rather than an inductivist, and how Palomar likes to construct models of principles and experience, and to force things into the model when experience fails to live up to his model. Yet for all Mr Palomar's attempts to remain aloof, his models never fit, and when he looks away from the rational geometric designs of his models, he sees human suffering, much like a person who tries to deny their emotions until the pot boils over and the emotions spill out. I came to see much of myself, and dare I say much of all of us, in Mr Palomar. The stories seem to grow like a human, from childhood to adolescence, to age and wisdom. My fondness for Mr Palomar grew as his journey progressed. There is much material for introspection in this work, and I found that my selfish desire to introspect through, rather than with, Mr Palomar, was forgiven by Calvino at the conclusion. A remarkable work with a tenor that does not, to the best of my knowledge, exist anywhere in Anglophone writing.
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LibraryThing member _janson_
Does Mr. Palomar not exhibit on the spectrum? Being an outside observer (hah!) this presents similarly to how I imagine Aspergers would feel...
LibraryThing member stravinsky
Well, the last third had a bit going on, I guess.
LibraryThing member mykl-s
I like Calvino a lot, but this book was hard for me to follow.
LibraryThing member delta351
Reread in April 2023, liked it much more than the first time. Read only 2 chapters a day, and took some time to digest the material. Basically is an autobiography for Calvino, with embellishment.

Take not of the special structure of the book. Each section contained three chapters, and each chapter
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carried a specific orientation to the material
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Original language



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