Thursday, November 5, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt four)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

The baron became impatient, the abbé lost the thread, I was already bored. As for our mother, however, maternal anxiety, a fluid sentiment that dominated everything, had been consolidated, as every feeling of hers tended to do after a while, into practical decisions and a search for the right tools, just as the concerns of a general ought to be resolved. She had dug out a long field telescope, on a tripod; she applied her eye to it, and so she spent the hours on the terrace of the villa, constantly adjusting the lens to focus on the boy in the midst of the foliage, even when we would have sworn he was out of range.

“Do you still see him?” our father asked from the garden, as he paced back and forth under the trees; he could never distinguish Cosimo, except when he was right over his head. The generalessa nodded, and at the same time signaled us to be quiet, not to disturb her, as if she were following the movements of troops on a rise. It was clear that at times she didn’t see him at all, but she had got the idea, who knows why, that he would reemerge in that particular place and not somewhere else, and she kept the telescope trained on it. Every so often she had to admit to herself that she was wrong, and then she removed her eye from the lens and began to examine a survey map that she kept open on her knees, one hand firmly on her mouth in a thoughtful attitude and the other following the hieorglyphics of the map, until she determined the point that her son must have reached and, having calculated the angle, aimed the telescope at some treetop in that sea of leaves, slowly focused the lens, and from the anxious smile that appeared on her lips we understood that she had seen him, that he really was there!

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