The Castle of Crossed Destinies - Italo Calvino, William Weaver I bumped into this book via wikipedia. I was (actually still am, as I write this) reading Orlando Furioso, and on the wikipedia page under Later Literature, read this:The Italian novelist Italo Calvino drew on Ariosto for several of his works of fiction including Il cavaliere inesistente ("The Nonexistent Knight", 1959) and Il castello dei destini incrociati ("The Castle of Crossed Destinies", 1973). In 1970 Calvino brought out his own selection of extracts from the poem.I can't tell you if Calvino is quoting directly from Orlando Furioso (I haven't finished it yet), but I think it's very likely he is, especially in the chapters "The Tale of Roland Crazed with Love" and "The Tale of Astolpho on the Moon," which both tell parts of the Orlando/Roland saga. (I'll return and add more when I finish Orlando - if I can figure out the lines quoted. Which might be tricky, with the translation I'm using.)I quickly found this book here at Open Library, and due to the low page count it seemed like it would be a quick read. More on that in a bit.It seems typical of the Calvino I've read and read about - you're not entirely sure what's going on, and/or how to interpret/explain things. That uncertainty seems to be what Calvino wants of us - so that we understand that there are mysteries here, and that there may be more than one way to read a story. I think.Short version of the plot: everyone staying in this inn/castle finds themselves mute. After dinner the only way to communicate is to tell stories using a pack of tarot cards.The particular version of the book that I read had multiple black and white drawings of the cards in each story - which was helpful to refer to as the narrative progressed. It helps a little to be familiar with what the cards of the tarot are - but since all the cards are described in detail in each story - it's not vital. [You can always skip to the "Note" essay at the book's end for a bit more background info and tarot history. It also tells you something of what Calvino was trying to do with the form.] The tavern portion is similar - a narrator enters a tavern, but can't speak and neither can any of the other patrons. Again, they use cards. This time however I think it's a slightly different deck because the images on the cards look different. (I think. I also think it's ok at this point to be confused about things, because confusion seems to be part of the story.)[Added later: which tarot is used in which section is cleared up in the Note essay! It's an Italian first in the castle portion, and then a French version in the second part at the tavern.]As I read the first few stories I spent a lot of time wondering "but what if the story that's being told isn't the story you're interpreting" - in other words, what if our narrator is incorrect? What if the narrator is really telling his own story and the real stories of the company are completely different? And are these stories actual biographies of the characters, or are they just made up stories for entertainment value?Then I told my brain to shut up and go with it, and just read on. That didn't really work, but I thought that after I finished the book things might be clearer. (Erm, spoiler - no, not really.)Problem, in the chapters mentioned earlier ("The Tale of Roland Crazed with Love" and "The Tale of Astolpho on the Moon") I couldn't tell if the other characters were telling our narrator a story of Roland - or if some of the other characters at the inn were actually characters in the Roland saga themselves. The narrator refers to one as Roland. Is he just calling the man that for lack of any other name? Because of course no one can introduce themselves, not being able to speak.Most of the stories are like dreams or allegories, and so the endings aren't exactly satisfying in the usual way. Usually there are still multiple questions left unanswered - just as a dream often doesn't have an ending that wraps up a plot in the usual way.Peppered through the stories are references to other authors and books and characters in history. Some references are up front and obvious (Three Tales of Madness and Destruction is a Shakespeare-fest for instance), and some - well, I found myself rereading a page or so before I'd catch one, and then two - and I'm sure there are more in there I'm not seeing. Remember when I said that I thought this would be a quick read? Um, no. This is the kind of book where you read a paragraph, pause, think, read it again, then read on...and then flip back a few pages and reread... Or maybe that's just my relationship with Calvino. I admire what he does with language and the structure/conceit (4 stars for that, definitely) - but at the same time I can only read so much of Calvino because I eventually get frustrated from asking "what does THAT mean" every so many paragraphs (and for that, 3 stars). And what caused me to finally bump this up to 4 stars from 3 - the essay in Notes. The idea of Calvino creating the stories using cards, and then turning that into a game he found he couldn't stop playing - that idea I loved.......................Contents:The Castle of Crossed DestiniesThe CastleThe Tale of the Ingrate and His PunishmentThe Tale of the Alchemist Who Sold His SoulThe Tale of the Doomed BrideA Grave-Robber's TaleThe Tale of Roland Crazed with LoveThe Tale of Astolpho on the MoonAll the Other TalesThe Tavern of Crossed DestiniesThe TavernThe Waverer's TaleThe Tale of the Forest's RevengeThe Surviving Warrior's TaleThe Tale of the Vampires' KingdomTwo Tales of Seeking and LosingI Also Try to Tell My TaleThree Tales of Madness and DestructionNote......................Quotes to Ponder (and give you an idea of the writing within):p. 4-5:"But at this table, contrary to the custom of inns, and also of courts, no one uttered a word. When a guest wished to ask his neighbor to pass the salt or the ginger, he did so with a gesture, and with gestures he also addressed the servants, motioning them to cut him a slice of pheasant pie or to pour him a half pint of the wine....I could only presume I had been struck dumb. My fellow diners confirmed this supposition, moving their lips silently in a gracefully resigned manner: it was clear that crossing the forest had cost each of us the power of speech."p 10, cards give the viewers multiple interpretations (The Tale of the Ingrate and His Punishment):"The card that was laid down next, the Knight of Swords, appearing in war array, announced an unforeseen event: either a mounted messenger had burst in on the feast, bearing disturbing news, or the groom himself had abandoned the wedding banquet to hasten, armed, into the woods at some mysterious summons, or perhaps both things at once: the groom had been informed of a sudden apparition and had immediately seized his arms and leapt into the saddle."p 21:"I have no idea how many of us managed to decipher the tale somehow, without getting lost among all those low cards, cups and coins, that popped up just when we were most eager for a clear exposition of the facts. The narrator's powers of communication were scant, perhaps because his genius was more inclined to the severity of abstractions than to the obviousness of images. In any case, some of us allowed our minds to wander, or we lingered over certain couplings of cards and were unable to go on."p 22, in The Tale of the Doomed Bride:"But here again a whole assortment of stupid cards began, and it was a problem to make head or tail of them: a Two of Clubs (sign of a crossroads, a choice?), an Eight of Coins (hidden treasure?), a Six of Cups (an amorous tryst?)."p 25, the beginning of A Grave Robber's Tale:"The cold sweat was still damp on my spine when I was already obliged to follow another neighbor, in whom the quadrangle of Death, Pope, Eight of Coins, Tow of Clubs seemed to waken other memories, to judge by the way his gaze shifted about, while he bent his head to one side, as if uncertain from which direction to enter the square."p 37, in The Tale of Astolpho on the Moon:"What was Astolpho to do? He had a good card up his sleeve: the Arcanum known as The Hermit, represented here as an old hunchback with an hourglass in his hand, a soothsayer who overturns irreversible time and sees the After before the Before. So it is to this sage or wizard Merlin that Astolpho turns to discover where Roland's reason is."Later, same page"...the thoughts that knock once at the threshold of awareness and vanish forever, the particles of the possible discarded in the game of combinations, the solutions that could be reached but are never reached..."p 38:"...Astolpho had his Hippogryph, so he climbed into the saddle. He rode off into the heavens. The waxing moon came toward him. It glided. (In the card, The Moon was depicted with greater sweetness than it possessed in the portrayal by rustic actors who in midsummer play the drama of Pyramus and Thisbe, but with equally simple allegorical means...) "I've pondered this, and I'm wimbling on how much this is really a spoiler quote, but hey, I'll hide it anyway. Just to be safe.p 41, in All Other Tales the narrator tells us that yes, the stories all run together (no wonder things seem a touch confused!):"...the task of deciphering the stories one by one has made me neglect until now the most salient peculiarity of our way of narrating, which is that each story runs into another story, and as one guest is advancing his strip, another, from the other end, advances in the opposite direction, because the stories told from left to right or from bottom to top can also be read from right to left or from top to bottom, and vice versa, bearing inmind that the same cards, presented in a different order, often change their meaning, and the same tarot is used at the same time by narrators who set forth from the four cardinal points."p 46, in All Other Tales:"Surely my own story is also contained in this pattern of cards, my past, present and future, but I can no longer distinguish it from the others. The forest, the castle, the tarots have brought me to this point, where I have lost my story, confused it in the dust of the tales, become freed of it. What is left me is only the manic determination to complete, to conclude, to make the sums work out..."p 52, in The Tavern:"...all of us around this table, men and women, dressed well or poorly, frightened, indeed frightful to see, all with white hair, young and old; I too look at my reflection in one of these mirrors, these cards, my hair too has turned white in sudden fear."p 62, The Waverer's Tale:"...(Is this then the very card that Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante but not very reliable as to nomenclature, in prophesying the private and general destiny of the distinguished Lloyds employee, described as a drowned Phoenician sailor?)"Madame Sosostris is found in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land - quote that she's in here. If I remembered more about Eliot's work then this question of Calvino's might make more sense. But nope, there's an end of what I can relate on this bit. And this will be something for me to ponder on later.p 80, in The Tale of the Vampires' Kingdom we have the usual setting of the fairytale-like olden days/realm outside of time, but then a more modern description slips in:"...The city he has constructed is many-faceted like a crystal, or like the Ace of Cups, pierced by the cheese grater of the skyscrapers' windows, the pulleys of the elevators, auto-coronated by the superhighways, with lots of parking space, burrowed by the luminous anthill of the underground lines, a city whose spires dominate the clouds and and whose miasmas' dark wings are buried in the bowels of the earth so as not to dull the view of the great panes of glass and the chromed metals."p 87-88, in The Tale of the Vampires' Kingdom, more mixing in of the modern (and there's more besides the examples I'm quoting):"The same cards in this tale are read and reread with different meanings; the narrator's hand shakes convulsively and points again to The Tower and The Hanged Man as if inviting us to recognize in an evening newspaper's blurred telephotos the shots of an atrocious news item: a woman who falls from a dizzying height into the void along the skyscrapers' facades."p 91, in Two Tales of Seeking and Losing:"There is no better place to keep a secret than in an unfinished novel."p 100, in I Also Try to Tell My Tale:"The Page of Cups depicts me as I bend to peer into the envelope of myself; and I do not look content: it is futile to shake and squeeze, the soul is a dry inkwell."p 104, in I Also Try to Tell My Tale, an allusion to another author (which then caused me to pause reading and go off on multiple google searches):"...If I can call up an author's shade to accompany my distrustful steps in the territories of individual destiny, of the ego, of (as they now say) "real life," it should be that of the Egotist of Grenoble, the provincial out to conquer the world, whom I once read as if I were expecting from him the story I was to write (or live: there was a confusion between the two verbs, in him, or in the me of that time)."References like this pop up here and there, and if you're not reading carefully you can miss them. Which is why the book begs for rereading.p. 106, in I Also Try to Tell My Tale:"...Among the hermit's bric-a-brac there is also a skull: the written word always takes into consideration the erasure of the person who has written or the one who will read."p 108, in I Also Try to Tell My Tale:"...But Saint George's position is shaky (as a legendary saint, too similar to the Perseus of the myth; as a mythical hero, too similar to the younger brother of the fairy tale), and painters always seem to have been aware of this, so they always looked on him with a somewhat "primitive" eye. But, at the same time, believing: in the way painters and writers have of believing in a story that has gone through many forms, and with painting and repainting, writing and rewriting, if it was not true, has become so."p 126, in Note:"I publish this book to be free of it: it has obsessed me for years. I began by trying to line up tarots at random, to see if I could read a story in them..."