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Monday, May 30, 2011


courtesy bonacho-portuguessave.blogspot.com
  1. Many (all, actually, if I'm not mistaken) of Calvino's cities are girls' names.  Diomira is no exception.  My go-to site for name etymology is behindthename.com, which I've used here before.  Today, it failed me.  I found information instead here, and by extension here, which gives the meaning as the "important woman in the village."  The name is allegedly Spanish, but if we look at it from the Italian perspective (admittedly not all that different, particularly in this case), then we can break it into its constituent parts: Dio and mira.  Dio is, of course, God, and Mira (in nominal form) aim, sight, target, butt, end, goal, design (from my well-worn, i.e. beat-to-ribbons, Dizionario Inglese E Italiano by Loescher) and (verbal, "mirare") to take aim, to admire, to gaze, or in its reflexive, to look at oneself.  Thoughts?
  2. Notice the motion of the first sentence?  From where are we leaving?  Why begin thus if, without context, we cannot know the starting point, in which case the direction and distance are useless, geographically speaking?
  3. What is the poetical power (that is to say dripping rhetoric) of this line, "...is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time"?
  4. Compare that line above to the general theme of entropy from the introductory ......
  5. There's a dreamlike quality to Diomira--idyllic and distant.  Does it regard the name, Diomira, as discussed above?  How does it regard the type, Cities of Memory?
  6. Notice also the sense of fairytale to the description: the 60 of this, the golden and crystal that, the idealized season.  How does this correlate back to Marco Polo and begin build his character (this is a longterm as well as an immediate question)?


  1. 1. I think that you're right on. In Spanish, Diós is God, and mirar is to look, so the same thing. Another possibility given the earlier images: day=día
    2. Yeah, it's clear that this is a symbolic city. Maybe it's after sort of a mental lama-esque journey for enlightenment. Oh gosh, ok, I'll stop referring to "Kim". Also, notice the emphasis on morning? The city's in the East, so you're traveling toward the sun, and then immediately, there follows a line about the morning. Maybe a symbol of a new beginning.
    3. I think that it helps builds suspense. It means that there must be some reason that, if they truly understood the situation, they wouldn't have been happy.
    4. Thoughts?
    5. Yeah, it might. Maybe it symbolizes the lack of memory about our origins?
    6. Yeah, exaggeration. It's almost a New Jerusalem type of description.

  2. 1. I like the connection to day, though it doesn't work in Italian. "Dia" is the formal command for "to give."
    2. All the cities will have this sense of symbolism. What does this says about Polo's travels? And somehow I didn't catch the issue of East and morning. Excellent, because it builds it the more: in the first sentence it's the morning (or it's just a generic, everyday morning) before the traveler arrives, and by the end it's the evening of his arrival. Time--so I gathered from later cities--is as important as direction and language.
    3. For me (and I think it's important to "feel" your way through these cities -- pay attention to more than just the intellectual affect) there's an immense nostalgia here. To go with what you said is a word I skated over: he envies those "who now BELIEVE..." Yeah, like the memories they cleave to aren't real, which, of course, goes right along with the impossibility of full understanding....
    4. You can't hold on to anything. All memory and history is fleeting, the subject of interpretation which, itself, is a reinvention, a translation, rendering it not accurate and duly historical and OLD, but new, as if it just happened, and yet, of course, never happened, because any new interpretation must incorporate fiction.
    5. Or the impossibility of fully understanding our origins. This is what "Mysterious Flame" could have been, were it written as a poem. Eco, however, is no poet, no matter what he had young Yambo scribble in his secret notebook.
    6. Consider the obvious inaccuracy of Polo's description. The difference between him and the other explorers must be something akin to the difference between, say, the old Dutch realists or maybe Norman Rockwell and Van Gogh. Often the impressionist, while less "realistic" gives a better account of what EXPERIENCING the subject really is. Seeing a starry night in a photograph, no matter how exquisite, versus standing under the heavens in the vernal equinox somewhere in the Arizona desert....


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