A Sign in Space

I have been a bad blogger.  I do have a new job though, and it is taking up a lot of my time… anyway, I wanted to share some excerpts of one of the greatest short stories I’ve read all year.

This comes from Italo Calvino’s “A Sign in Space”, which is a short story in The World Treasury of Science Fiction.  We’ve read about a third of the book throughout the year, and I have to say this is by far the best story I’ve come across.

Situated in the external zone of the Milky Way, the Sun takes about two hundred million years to make a complete revolution of the Galaxy.  Right, that’s how long it takes, not a day less, -Qfwfq said,– once, as I went past, I drew a sign at a point in space, just so I could find it again two hundred million years later.

What sort of sign?  It’s hard to explain, because if I say sign to you, you immediately think of something that can be distinguished from something else, but nothing could be distinguished from anything there; you immediately think of a sign made with some implement or with your hands, then when you take the implement or your hands away, the sign remains, but in those days there were no implements or even hands, or teeth, or noses, all things that came along after wards, a long time after wards.

I couldn’t help thinking about when I would come back and encounter it again, and how I would know it, and how happy it would make me…

I thought about it day and night; in fact, I couldn;t think about anything else.

I had left it to mark that spot, and at the same time it marked me, I carried it with me, it inhabited me, possessed me entirely, came between me and everything with which I might have attempted to establish a relationship.

…Though I recalled its general outline, its over-all appearance, still something about it eluded me.

Calvino, 485-488.

That’s the introduction, or the first half of the story.  It is short, only seven or eight pages I think, and I had to reread it several times, because I wanted to choose it for the subject of my paper, but couldn’t grasp it’s real intent.  An allegory of individuality?  I don’t know… either way, I think he was a beautiful writer.


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