- Series: Helen and Kurt Wolff Books
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (September 22, 1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156627809
- ISBN-13: 978-0156627801
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mr. Palomar 1st Edition
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'Here, Calvino, probably Italy's leading novelist before he died, focuses a probing eye on one man's attempt to name the parts of his universe, almost as though Mr Palomar were trying to define and explain his own existence. Where the Palomar telescope points out into space, Mr Palomar points in: walking the beach, visiting the zoo, strolling in his garden. Each brief chapter reads like an exploded haiku, with Mr Palomar reading an universe into the proverbial grain of sand' (Time Out)
Text: English, Italian (translation) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
Mr. Palomar is a series of scenes or vignettes, grouped into three large categories, that are based on things that our main character, the middle-aged Mr. Palomar, sees and thinks about. From the waves on a beach to an albino gorilla in a zoo, from the stars and galaxies to the inner workings of his own mind, Mr. Palomar, like his telescope namesake, is always looking at something, and trying to divine from those individual moments the laws of the universe. Many of his musings are about perception and how we should look at things. Is a cheese shop really a museum of human civilization? What to turtles think about while mating? Is the most important part of speech actually silence? How much can we interpret the past, or physical objects, or other people, without distorting them? These sound like big weighty questions, but Mr. Palomar's thoughts are so rooted in observation and imagery that this book never becomes too abstract or loses its connection with the reader. Instead, it connects with that part of all of us that stays detached, thinking about ourselves and our place in the world.
For people who want a books with a plot, I would not recommend this book. Though Mr. Palomar is very relatable in some ways, he is also a very introverted and detached character, and though the entire book is composed of his perceptions, I wouldn't say this is really character-driven novel either. Mr. Palomar is, if nothing else, a novel of mood, images, and thoughts. It is a book that rewards rereading, with shades of meaning and beauty in everything from the overall organization all the way down to individual sentences and word choices. Bathed in the feeling of detachment and isolation so common in modern society, Mr. Palomar is about trying to make sense of the world in which we somehow find ourselves.
Rating: 5 stars
Recommendation: Read this if you like contemplative novels built on mood, images, and ideas.
From the opening passages with Mr. Palomar becoming lost in contemplation of the "barely wrinkled" sea, there was no question that this was going to be a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking experience. Mr. Palomar, of course, "is not lost, because he is quite aware of what he's doing," and so we The Reader are immediately challenged to retain the same mindset as we allow Calvino to lead us to ourselves. In a style that is almost more poetry than prose we are shown how to finally see the world around us as it is, as it was, as it will be, and our own place in it. When the crescendo peaks at just the right moment or my gaze is reflected back to me in just the right set of eyes I can see the world stretch out before me, under me, and behind me with a supernatural clarity. This clarity that seems to only exist in occasions of pure adulation or repose is something that Mr. Palomar fervently and actively seeks at all times by attempting to truly know all things that surround him. The wave on the sand, the feet of the gecko, "the pause and not the whistle" of the crow, the art of charcuterie, or the floor plan of the cheese shop all open new and expansive worlds to be, not just discovered, but known intimately.
Yet for all of his observations empirical research, "he distrusts what he knows," and, "what he does not know keeps his spirit in a suspended state." It is this yearning that drives him to not only look but to see. It is this desire that also drives him to frustration. "It is only after you have come to know the surface of things," he says both with joy and sorrow, "that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible." Initially, I felt like this was a collection of unconnected stories; a collection filled with brilliantly deep observations turning the mundane into magic as Mr. Palomar thoroughly scoured the surface of the world for every scrap of knowledge and understanding he could glean. His searching was not, he (and I) would soon realize, simply an exercise but a journey of education and self-realization. The ultimate Truth, for me, came with the understanding that, "a thing is happy to be looked at by other things only when it is convinced that it signifies itself and nothing else." A star is a star, a giraffe a giraffe, and cheese is cheese. These things know what they are, are happy to signify to others what they are, and can truly be observed. People though... we are different, and we must learn to attain this state. Signifying oneself... knowing what you want to signify to others (and yourself) can be terrifying. It may be true that, "good opportunities for keeping quiet are never in short supply," but is the horror of having nothing to say because we are scared to reveal who we are (or want to be) not reason enough to find yourself?
How can you truly observe something else when you don't even understand the place from which you are observing? How can you claim to love someone else when you can't love yourself if you are undefined? In the end, "we can know nothing about what is outside us if we overlook ourselves," and no amount of observing will gain us that knowledge. Beautiful though it may be, we cannot spend our lives observing and cataloging that which happens outside of us. If we ever truly see the world through the eyes of Mr. Palomar, we spend all of our time looking... seeing... but none of our time living and becoming. So we rush about and we miss much around us, but we live, we choose, and we live with what we choose... and all of this eventually becomes us. Or, perhaps, we eventually become all of that. But at least we become. We are... and then we were, and the universe will never be the same.
Most recent customer reviews
A wonderful narrative for any tdehoughtful reader. Highly recommended.