Jonathan Blow on Italo Calvino and Video Games
Tuesday April 11, 2017
In 1984, Italo Calvino was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. Before his death he was able to complete five of the six planned lectures on the imaginative possibilities of language and literature. The lectures, collected as Six Memos for the Next Millennium, are now available in a celebrated new translation by Geoffrey Brock.
After the success of the inaugural event with Jonathan Lethem in our series celebrating Six Memos, we were excited to host Jonathan Blow, who discussed the influence of Calvino's work on his video games. For almost ten years, Blow has been challenging the video game market with his postmodern creations: first with 2008's Braid, which almost a million people played to completion, then the highly-anticipated The Witness in 2016. Of his most recent release, The Guardian has said "It may be helpful, in fact, to think of Jonathan Blow as a kind of Thomas Pynchon of gaming, and of The Witness as his Gravity’s Rainbow."
Presented in Partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York and Giovanna Calvino.
Jonathan Blow is a designer-programmer whose goal is to make games that are mind-expanding in ways special to this medium. He is best known for the well-received game Braid. He is also a partner in the Indie Fund, an initiative to help creative new developers grow stronger while remaining independent. He speaks frequently at conferences and universities on the advancement of game design as an art form.
About Six Memos for the Next Millennium
At the time of his death, Italo Calvino was at work on six lectures setting forth the qualities in writing he most valued, and which he believed would define literature in the century to come. Here, in Six Memos for the Next Millennium, are the five lectures he completed, forming not only a stirring defense of literature, but also an indispensable guide to the writings of Calvino himself. He devotes one “memo” each to the concepts of lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity, drawing examples from his vast knowledge of myth, folklore, and works both ancient and modern. Readers will be astonished by the prescience of these lectures, which have only gained in relevance as Calvino’s “next millennium” has dawned.
Italo Calvino (1923–1985) attained worldwide renown as one of the twentieth century's greatest storytellers. Born in Cuba, he was raised in San Remo, Italy, and later lived in Turin, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. Among his many works are Invisible Cities, If on a winter's night a traveler, The Baron in the Trees, and other novels, as well as numerous collections of fiction, folktales, criticism, and essays. His works have been translated into dozens of languages.