Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Italo Calvino

After a long period in which Ovid seemed to have little to say to Western readers, his text is once again coming to be seen as a source. It is perhaps too early to say what it will be a source of, but in his Six Memos for the New Millennium, Italo Calvino describes what he calls “the manifold text, which replaces the oneness of the thinking ‘I’ with a multiplicity of subjects, voices and views of the world.” Calvino goes on to describe the possibilities it opens: “Think what it would be like to have a work conceived from outside the self, a work that would let us escape the limited perspective of the individual ego, not only to enter into selves like our own but to give speech to that which has no language, to the bird perching on the edge of the gutter, to the tree in spring and the tree in fall, to cement, to plastic.” One ancient source of the manifold text in Western literature is of course Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as Calvino clearly recognizes when he asks, “Was this not perhaps what Ovid was aiming at when he wrote about the continuity of forms?”

[Charles Martin, ‘A Note on this Translation.’ Ovid's Metamorphoses. New York: Norton, 2004. 11.]

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