‘La Luna e Gnac’ (‘Moon and Gnac’) by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver

Marcovaldo is a popular character who shaped our childhood and imagination. Created by the genius of Italo Calvino during the Italian economic boom, Marcovaldo’s stories tell about the character’s life and family, whose mediocre everyday existence is punctuated by sudden discoveries and epiphanies. Despite living in a cold grey city, Marcovaldo is always able to spot a touch of poetry, the hidden beauty of daily life; yet in the background we can see the dawn of consumerist society with all its ambiguities. In these stories, Calvino’s style combines melancholy and fun, farce and fantasy.
 
In ‘Moon and Gnac’, the view of the night sky from Marcovaldo’s family home is thwarted by the commercial sign of Spaak Cognac, a neon sign that turns itself on and off every twenty seconds. After his son Michelino destroys the sign with his sling, one of the competitors of Spaak, Cognac Tomawak, offers to hire Marcovaldo’s family in order to make Spaak go bankrupt. But once they succeed, the original neon sign is replaced by a similar, even more annoying one from Tomawak. Calvino captures a moment of transformation in 1960s Italian life, when Italian society is irremediably losing its innocence.

First published in Marcovaldo, Einaudi, 1963. Published in English in Marcovaldo: or The Seasons in the City, Vintage, 2001

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