Author Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino is arguably one of Italy’s finest writers of the 20th century. Whether you like his style, he is certainly the most translated Italian author from the second half of the 20th century, gaining much acclaim in England and the United States.

His style, however, is pretty difficult to characterize. Some say he writes folk tales. Others say he’s a fantasy writer. Still others claim he belongs in the science fiction aisles. Others say he’s a wry satirist. Call it what you will, but his is a unique voice.

Here is the short story we’re reading: Santa’s Children Text

Here are some additional resources to help you understand Calvino’s work:

Calvino @ The Modern World

Outside the Town of Malbork

Critical pages on Calvino

Gore Vidal on Calvino

Knowing that Calvino is making a rather pointed statement in “Santa’s Children,” it would also be a good idea to review a little bit of information about satire. Remember that our definition is:

A literary technique in which ideas, customs or institutions are ridiculed for the purpose of improving society. Satire exaggerates a wrong, forcing the reader to see the subject of the satire in a more critical light.♦ Here are the important questions to ask when analyzing satire:

• Focus: What/who is being satirized? What institution, practice, group, belief, etc.?

• Audience: Who is the intended audience? Is the audience clearly identified? Are they capable of understanding and responding to the satire?

• Tone: What is the tone of the satire? What type is it – Horatian or Juvenalian?

• Technique: What techniques are being used and why? See below.

• Purpose: What is the purpose of the satire? What is the satirist proposing be changed, reformed, eliminated, etc.?

• Effectiveness: How effective is the satire? Did the piece cause its intended change?

♦ Here are the four most common satirical techniques:

• Exaggeration: To enlarge, increase, or represent something beyond normal bounds so that it becomes ridiculous and its faults can be seen.

• Incongruity: To present things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to its surroundings.

• Reversal: To present the opposite of the normal order (e.g., the order of events, hierarchical order).

• Parody: To imitate the techniques and/or style of some person, place, or thing.