The Anonymous Voice of the Age

A still from Roberto Rossellini’s 1945 “Rome: Open City”

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the preface Italo Calvino wrote in 1964 to his first novel, The Path to the Spider’s Nest, first published in 1947. The book is quite unlike most of what Calvino is known for; it’s far more realist, with a straight-forward narrative, and reads closer to For Whom the Bell Tolls than it does Invisible Cities. In his preface, there’s almost a sense of distancing, even close to disowning, this early…