I’ve lived in Italy for several years, and always loved Calvino. Some of his work can be a little dry and systematic, but Marcovaldo, the central character of this tale, and the protagonist of a collection of Calvino’s stories, is his most human creation. I remember reading the stories on a plane and being delighted by them. Marcovaldo is the Italian neo-realist equivalent of Homer Simpson. Hapless, comic, but also affecting and poignant. The story reminds me of Cesare Pavese’s marvellous poem ‘Idleness’ in its mixture of foreground poverty and fantasy background. The ending is comic and sublime.
First published in Italian, 1963. Collected in English in Marcovaldo, Secker and Warburg, 1983, and in Vintage Classics, 2001