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Calvino’s Multiplicity

1 Mar

The final quality of writing on which Calvino lectures is Multiplicity.

He first introduces the concept of Multiplicity not with a definition, but rather with an example.

An excerpt from the novel That Awful Mess of the Via Merulana by Carlo Gadda:

“He sustained, among other things, that the unforeseen catastrophes are never the consequence or the effect, if you prefer, of a single motive, of a cause singular; but they are rather like a whirlpool, a cyclonic point of depression in the consciousness of the world, towards which a whole multitude of converging causes have contributed.” (pg. 103)

Calvino later goes on to explain that he is lecturing on “…the contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world.” (pg.105) In other words, Multiplicity.

I feel as though the term “network” is the important one in this definition because Gadda in his writings composes in such a way that he tries to incorporate as many subjects as possible that begin with the central point and wind up elsewhere. Gadda’s personal enthusiasm for engineering and other subjects such as philosophy help to explain why he tried to describe the world as a “knot.” An eccentric character, Gadda expressed all of his anxieties through his writing, and did so by babbling on until his thoughts were tangled and it was nearly impossible to find the a way back to the initial idea.

Calvino does not expressly say that his emblem for Multiplicity is an encyclopedia, but I feel as though it is safe to say that this is what he emphasizes as a representation of his quality. Like an encyclopedia, Multiplicity is truly characterized by a plethora of information all in one place, almost in an overwhelming sense. Calvino does explicitly  say, however, that he would like to pass to the next millennium a literature that has absorbed the taste for mental orderliness and exactitude, the intelligence of poetry, but at the same time the science of philosophy. This would not be possible without some sense of Multiplicity, even if the education and collection of these concepts and thoughts was over a period of time through a varying number of works of literature and media.

The aspect of Multiplicity to which I most closely relate, or from which I obtain the greatest aesthetic, is that of its attribute of being overwhelming. In terms of literature that I have personally experienced, Jane Eyre is what comes to mind when I think of Multiplicity. Although there is an underlying and relatively easily detectable storyline, the text itself is rich with details and seemingly unnecessary thoughts or descriptions to the point where the reader has to return and read each line over again. Even though I may prefer more concise stories and appreciate when the sequence of events is of a timely fashion, I personally have a tendency toward Multiplicity- the overstock of information and details in a singular point.