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Book Review: Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino

A man on a quest to quantify complex phenomena
in a search for fundamental truths

Mr. Palomar, published in 1983, is written in the form of a stream of consciousness where the title character makes philosophical observations about his surroundings.

The stream of consciousness technique is applied to represent the continuous flow of thoughts and conscious reactions to daily events.

Observations rendering the world afresh

Mr. Palomar is a group of 27 mostly benign meditations on—or, more accurately, observations of—the natural world.

A caricature of the writer Italo Calvino by Kyriakos Mauridis.

The writer Italo Calvino believed in the multiplicity of a novel where an author needs to create a complex web of details and digressions so much so that it becomes impossible to put an end to this proliferating multiplicity.

The protagonist in Mr. Palomar talks about an encounter with a great albino ape at a zoo in Barcelona where he sees it pressing a rubber tyre against his chest.

It leads to a reflection on language as Mr. Palomar thinks that for this gorilla the tyre serves as a wordless speech and for him, the ape represents this image.

The ape tries to find the meaning through this tyre and Mr. Palomar tries to do the same by observing this ape.

He thinks that all human beings have an empty tyre which they turn in their hands and through it try to reach some meaning which words cannot perceive.

Mr. Palomar

In another instance, Mr. Palomar compares the diverse languages of human beings to the monotonous language of the birds.

He believes that the silence between the whistles of birds is another language of its own. The silences become a form of communication for him.

The novel is about the indeterminacy of meaning and the fragmented world disguised as the ruminations on a variety of phenomena like birds, city life, night sky, and many others.

It is an interesting read for the people who find chaos in everything.

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