Italo Calvino on writing

Italo Calvino, The Written World and the Unwritten World: Collected Non-Fictiontrans. Ann Goldstein (Penguin) – two nice passages about writing, taken from the title essay.

I have to say that most of the books I’ve written and those I have it in mind to write originate in the idea that writing such a book seemed impossible to me. When I’m convinced that a certain type of book is completely beyond the capacities of my temperament and my technical skills, I sit down at my desk and start writing it (p. 129).

In a certain sense, I believe that we always write about something we don’t know: we write to make it possible for the unwritten world to express itself through us. At the moment my attention shifts from the regular order of the written lines and follows the mobile complexity that no sentence can contain or use up, I feel close to understanding that from the other side of the words, from the silent side, something is trying to emerge, to signify through language, like tapping on a prison wall (p. 130).

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