95. Italo Calvino - The Baron in the Trees


For this episode Andy and John are joined by Caspar Henderson, a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, New Scientist, the New York Review of Books, and other publications. From 2002 to 2005 he was a senior editor at OpenDemocracy. He received the Roger Deakin Award from the Society of Authors in 2009 and the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award in 2010. His first book The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, a bestiary for the 21st Century, was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books and earned him the epithet the zoological Borges’; his second The New Map of Wonders received  a set of tremendous reviews moving one critic to write that it created ‘a new vision of science illuminated by a rich range of literature, philosophy, art, and music.’
The book under discussion is The Baron in the Treesthe early novel by Italo Calvino, first published as Il Barone Rampante by Einaudi in 1957. Most English readers will have discovered it as the middle part of a trilogy of tales called Our Ancestors, along with the The Cloven Viscount and The Non-Existent Knight. This episode also features John’s excitement at Kate Clanchy’s powerful book about teaching, Some Kids I Taught & What They Taught Me (published by Picador) and Andy shares his enthusiasm for reading Auden’s 1965 collection About the House (published in the UK by Faber in 1966) in his ongoing reading of individual collections of poems. He reads from ‘The Cave of Making’ - a poem written in memory of Auden’s friend and fellow poet Louis MacNeice.

Book mentioned:

Italo Calvino - The Baron in the Trees; Our Ancestors; If On a WInter’s Night a Traveller; Invisible Cities; Cosmicomics; Six Memos for the Next Millennium; Mr Palomar; Why Read the Classics?
Caspar Henderson - The Book of Barely Imagined Beings; A New Map of Wonders
Kate Clanchy - Some Kids I Taught & What They Taught Me
Alexander Masters - Stuart: A Life Lived Backwards
W.H. Auden - About the House; Collected Poems
Anonymous - La Vida de la Lazarillo de Tormes
Laurence Sterne - Tristram Shandy
Voltaire - Candide
Jaroslav Hašek - The Good Soldier Švejk

Other links:

A picture of Kazuo Ishiguro as a student
Italo Calvino interviewed on French TV in 1960
Salman Rushdie review of Calvino in translation (LRB, September 1981)
Ian Thomson on the 30th anniversary of Calvino’s death - Daily Telegraph, September 2015
Italo Calvino interviewed on Bookmark in 1985