The Independent Foreign Fiction Award: The echo of an echo
Saturday 04 December 1993
Talking to each other was difficult. Both verbose by nature, possessed of an ocean of words, in each other's presence we became mute, would walk in silence side by side along the road to San Giovanni. To my father's mind, words must serve as confirmations of things, and as signs of possession; to mine they were foretastes of things barely glimpsed, not possessed, presumed. My father's vocabulary welled outward into the interminable catalogue of the genuses, species and varieties of the vegetable world - every name was a distinction plucked from the dense compactness of the forest in the belief that one had thus enlarged man's dominion - and into technical terminology, where the exactness of the word goes hand in hand with the studied exactness of the operation, the gesture. And this whole Babel-like nomenclature was mashed up in an equally Babel-like idiomatic base, where various languages vied with each other, combining together as need or memory dictated (dialect for anything local and blunt - he had an unusually rich dialect vocabulary, full of words no one used anymore - Spanish for things general and decorous - Mexico had been the backdrop to his most successful years - Italian for rhetoric - he was, in everything, a nineteenth-century man - English - he had been to Texas - for the practical side, French for jokes), the result being a conversational style all woven together with stock refrains promptly trotted out in response to familiar situations, exorcizing the movements of the mind and forming once again a catalogue, parallel to that of his farming vocabulary - and to yet another catalogue of his made up not of words this time but of whistles, twitters, trills, tu-whits and tu-whoos, this arising from his great ability to mimic birdcalls, whether simply by pursing his lips or cupping his hands round his mouth in some particular way, or by using little whistles or gadgets that you blew into or that went off with a spring, a considerable assortment of which he would carry around with him in his hunting jacket.
I could recognize not a single plant or bird. The world of things was mute for me. The words that flowed and flowed inside my head weren't anchored to objects, but to emotions fantasies, forebodings. And all it took was for a scrap of trampled newspaper to find its way beneath my feet and I would be engrossed in soaking up the writing on it . . .
The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award for October/November is The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino (Jonathan Cape, pounds 12.99), translated from the Italian by Tim Parks. It joins The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
(HarperCollins) and Fima by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange (Chatto) on the shortlist for the pounds 10,000 annual award, which will be announced in May 1994. The judges this month were Beverley Anderson, Anthony Lane and Natasha Walter.
The Road to San Giovanni is a posthumously published collection of five pieces, ranging from a lyrical, elegaic portrait of the author's relationship with his father to a perceptive essay on his obsession with the cinema.
The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award for October/November is The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino (Jonathan Cape, pounds 12.99), translated from the Italian by Tim Parks. It joins The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden (HarperCollins) and Fima by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange (Chatto) on the shortlist for the pounds 10,000 annual award, which will be announced in May 1994. The judges this month were Beverley Anderson, Anthony Lane and Natasha Walter.
The Road to San Giovanni is a posthumously published collection of five essays ranging from a lyrical portrait of the author's relationship with his father to a perceptive essay on his own youthful obsession with the cinema. Many of the author's celebrated preoccupations - with space, with time, with gentle human frailties - are everywhere in evidence.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark finale episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove