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Monday, July 25, 2011


source here
"Zoe" is Greek for "life," and is a name sometimes used by Greeks to refer to our Eve, whose name, by the way, means "breath."

In my own writing, names are very important, and I really enjoy reading a work where names and etymology are similarly significant and certainly far better and more poetically employed.  I wonder--and encourage your thoughts and hypotheses--how Calvino built up this book.  Did he start with a list of feminine names and searched out their meanings and connected these to the metaphoric constructs of his cities?  The point from where an author's work germinates is a target at which I'm constantly pitching guesses.  This, perhaps more than anything else save the words and narration themselves, for me contributes to the life of a text.
  1. Interesting the unacknowledged assumption of the traveler here: that all cities have, unquestioningly, these certain features.  It's just the organization and situation of these in relation to these others that vary.
  2. How does the "city of differences" that abides within every man connect, in counterpoint, as it happens, to the name, Zoe?  Along this line, what do you think about the sentence, particularly the second half: "This--some say--confirms the hypothesis that each man bears in his mind a city made only of differences, a city without figures and without form, and the individual cities fill it up"?
  3. Perhaps the hardest question: What is then Zoe, the city?  This city is, for me, the hardest to grasp city so far, and I think it may indicate a turning point in the "story."  Thoughts?


  1. The fact that Zoe means life really intrigues me. I don't know if I can answer the questions individually, but perhaps Calvino is making some sort of statement about how it's impossible to compartmentalize different parts of our lives; they all run together, and one experience shades how we view another. This was also the hardest city for me to understand, I think.

  2. I like your idea here, and I think that perhaps the point of this city wasn't to be understood but direct the reader along a certain line of thoughts, a line with countless, personal branches all particular to the reader, not Zoe--the city, I mean, not life, for life must be an integral part of the thoughts, I think.


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