The premature death of Italo Calvino made front-page news in Italy. In the Corriere della Sera John Updike, the writer responsible for introducing him to the Americans, wrote that Calvino’s death had ‘deprived world literature of its most refined and civil voice’. Umberto Eco’s obituary nearly took precedence over news about the Mexican earthquake. Messages of condolence came from the Vatican and Signor Cossiga, President of the Republic.
In France, where Calvino had found his most appreciative audience, Monsieur Jack Lang, Minister of Culture, delivered a long eulogy in which he expressed his deepest grief at the writer’s passing.
Calvino was perhaps the most international of Italian writers. When I spoke to him a year ago he was keen to stress what he called his laico or laic upbringing. His father had given an unusually liberal education as only a scientist quite cut off from the concerns of the Catholic Church could.