‘The Distance Of The Moon’ by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver

This is a gloriously sensual story, narrated by a man who wants another’s wife – but the true star of the show is the moon. Calvino imagines it so close it risks dipping its scales in the sea. Fishermen gather lunar milk as the protagonist writhes in unrequited love. I still remember discovering magic realism and fantasy – adult literature that gave me permission to work seriously with playfulness, allegory and the “precious muck” of detail. This is a great example of the form – full of texture and motion and mischief and longing. I suggest you read it while eating a very good crème brûlée.

First published in Cosmicomics, Giulio Einaudi (Italy) and Harcourt Brace (US), 1965. Currently available from Penguin Modern Classics, 2010, and as a £1 Penguin Modern, 2018. Read the story online here

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