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Tuesday 15 June 2021

The pleasure of the senses Blacksmiths, Calvino and the Oulipo

Blacksmiths, Calvino and the Oulipo

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Despite never having been part of the two "factories", the French Oulipo and the Italian Oplepo, Paolo Fabbri (the semiologist who passed away on 2 June) on several occasions devoted attention to potential literature: those who write like to remember that of a meeting (1993) with some members of the two groups, in Paris, in "his" Italian Cultural Institute of rue de Varenne. It was on that occasion that he told of his strong interest in some of Italo Calvino's writings, showing, among other things, the merit of having inspired Calvino for what was the idea behind the Castle of crossed destinies: tell stories through tarot cards. The application of combinatorics to literature met in that case the brilliant use of cards that fully represent it. The Castle it is from 1973 and therefore almost contemporary with Calvino's entry into the Oulipo. Since then Fabbri has always followed Calvino's performances with care, capturing very interesting traits from his own point of view of semiotic analysis of language, especially with reference to other "oulipistic" operations of the writer: giving himself an internal narrative rule and then following it in all and for all. The proof is there constraint position, the original rule behind the Rampant Baron and for which the protagonist finds himself never having to go down the trees; Fabbri wrote in depth in what was his specific reading key, but also in a more accessible way, as he did in a Caprese conference on lexical homonymy.

On that occasion the semiologist had to remember the pirate chapter in which the hero (Cosimo) jumps on a ship and from there kills some of them and then, after having turned a bit for the sea, he returns to land and finds himself on a tree, a natural tree, while before he had jumped on the mast of the spacecraft. «The interesting thing about this jump - Fabbri said - is that it is the" jump "between one word and another, that is, Calvino's game is to invent and find an explanation, even if he knows that there are differences" . In fact, Calvin, since he was a good linguist, had not failed to say "... he wondered (Cosimo) if he had not derogated from his internal laws by jumping from a tree with roots to a ship's tree, without roots". And, since there was a conference on homonymy, Fabbri specified that between the two trees there was no homonymy, but only a semantic expansion, and he also pointed out that in the French translation of the book the question did not arise at all, since the mast of the ship was mastIf you look closely, however, in the vocabularies of the ancient French, it could have been discovered that even that tree was said arbre. The discussion then continued on highly semiotic aspects.

Another occasion of the interest shown by the semiologist for the things of the Oulipo was the analysis he wanted to conduct on a short text by Calvino written to celebrate Raymond Queneau, founder of the Oulipo and author of the Blue flowers. His considerations fascinated the audience, but unfortunately remained without a due transcription, also because of the author's incorrigible agraphy, opposed to what was his always fluid and participatory oratory. In the absence of the "destructuring" analysis by Paolo Fabbri, all we can do is report the text of his Flower beds for Queneau. There are eight lines in which the lipogram, the deliberate absence of one or more letters (in this case it is a question of vowels) is the protagonist in various guises. "Successive vowel lipograms" could be the name of this structure; verse by verse, one by one, the vowels disappear and reappear in order. This is for the first part, because in the last lines Calvino changes his game: first he lingers by repeating each vowel twice, then concludes with three monovocalic lines all in e (perhaps, a small tribute to Georges Perec who knew about lipograms ...

Flower beds for Queneau

Yellow forgotten flowerbeds of grass, you know
a dark buzz move you, allusion
to other summers, blue-violet cetonia,
enunciating dark noumens: everything was,
it will be and is in circulation: therefore it is always
present in the eternal senescences
and effervescence of ages, in the snake
of ether, seed, ash, dried herbs.

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