Calvino’s lectures, prepared but not delivered late in his career, are just as thought-provoking as his fiction.
He discusses some key, broad aspects of literature, and his personal discoveries of certain propulsive forces in writing. His discussion of Multiplicity I found most interesting, and the way he categorized encyclopedic and plural texts. It will certainly aid your understanding if you are already familiar with Flaubert, Gadda, Balzac, Ovid, Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Mann, Goethe, Poe, Borges, Calvino, Leopardi, Eliot, Joyce, Perec, da Vinci and more, but familiarity is by no means required for enjoyment. Skillfully, Calvino ropes in the work of all of these authors, outlines their methods in some measure and suggests how precisionism or autodidacticism or lightness and suggestion led into the completion or success of the work. By handling a wide range of styles and general approaches, Calvino offers a splendid viewpoint of artistic achievements of the mind.
There are many quotes, especially from the Zibaldone, which could have used some condensation. But it is easy to see how Calvino’s own work, such as If On a Winter’s Night, Cloven Viscount, Baron in the Trees, Nonexistent Knight, Invisible Cities, Palomar, Cosmicomics and other books, were inspired by literary predecessors, and he even reveals the sparks of intuitive imagination that led to their shape and form.