The Father of Stories: Another Excerpt from Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler

by Nick

Another excerpt from Calvino’s novel cobbled together by other fictional novels (which reminds me of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s works). In the following excerpt the Reader reads a letter given to him by a staff member at a publishing company in the hopes of discovering something about all these pesky unfinished novels he’s constantly suckered into starting.

Another letter, again from Cerro Negro, is written, on the contrary, in a tone of inspired evocation: reporting-it seems-a local legend, it tells of an old Indian known as the Father of Stories, a man of immemorial age, blind and illiterate, who uninterruptedly tells stories that take place in countries and in times completely unknown to him. The phenomenon has brought expeditions of anthropologists and parapsychologists; it has been determined that many novels published by famous authors had been recited word for word by the wheezing voice of the Father of Stories several years before their appearance. The old Indian, according to some, is the universal source of narrative material, the primordial magma from which the individual manifestations of each writer develop; according to others, a seer who, thanks to his consumption of hallucinatory mushrooms, manages to establish communication with the inner world of the strongest visionary temperaments and pickup their psychic waves; according to still others he is the reincarnation of Homer, of the storyteller of the Arabian Nights, of the author of the Popol Vuh, as well as of Alexandre Dumas and James Joyce; but there are those that reply that Homer has no need of metempsychosis, since he never died and has continued through the millennia living and composing, the author, besides the couple of poems usually attributed to him, also of many of the most famous narratives known to man. Ermes Marana, putting a taperecorder to the mouth of the cave where the old man hides…