Archive | 4:24 pm

Calvino’s Exactitude

26 Feb

The third quality that Calvino presents is Exactitude. According to Calvino, Exactitude means three things above all:

1) a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question

2) an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images

3) a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination

The polarity of Exactitude is defined by its contrast with vagueness, or lack of detail. Calvino expresses through other literary examples the quality of Exactitude. For example, he draws upon Leopardi who maintained that the more vague and imprecise language is, the more poetic it becomes. I interpret this to mean not that language with exact meaning cannot be poetic, but that it simply comes across as being more factual and straight forward than that of language that paints a picture with flowery and extraneous details.

The emblem chosen by Calvino for Exactitude is a crystal. He chooses this because of its geometric composition which is based on the contrast of order and disorder. He says that a work of literature is a portion of the universe in which the existent work crystallizes into a form and acquires meaning, that it is then alive as an organism.

An example I feel demonstrates Calvino’s quality of Exactitude are the Harry Potter books. Not only have they come alive as a living organism due to widespread popularity, but they perfectly demonstrate each of the three attributes that Calvino expresses as defining Exactitude. There is most definitely a well-defined and calculated plan as there are seven books in the series, each of which is part of the whole saga, yet is conclusive and directive in and of itself; there are undoubtedly vivid, clear and memorable images painted for the reader through exceptional description, yet J.K. Rowling still leaves room for the imagination to fill in the gaps; and finally the language is so precise in choice of words and expression that the reader has no question as to the happenings of the current thought or overall point to the story. This achievement is especially commendable because of the way that Rowling constructs each story so that it is in a way a mystery or puzzle until events unfold so that the story comes full circle for the reader.