Notes on Italo Calvino’s Time and the Hunter 4

Italo Calvino, Time and the Hunter The chapter “The Chase” describes a car chase. The protagonist, who is the one being chased, and the chaser finds themselves in a traffic jam. The protagonist starts thinking. From pages 124-125:

[...] the relative space that surrounds me has undergone various changes: at a certain point even my pursuer moved to the right and, exploiting an advance of that line, passed a couple of cars in the central line; then I moved to the right, too; he went back into the central line and I too went back to the center, but I had to drop one car behind whereas he moved forward three. These are all things that before would have made me very uneasy, whereas now they interest me chiefly as special elements in the general system of pursuits whose properties I am trying to establish.

I wonder if Calvino was into general systems theory (another topic I’ve been meaning to read about). The following perhaps more resembles game theory (which I haven’t gotten around to read about yet either):

A perfect system of pursuits should be based on a simple concatenation of functions: each pursuer has the job of preventing the pursuer ahead of him from shooting his victim, and he has one single means of doing this, namely, by shooting him. The whole problem then lies in knowing at which link the chain will break, because starting from the point where one pursuer succeeds in killing another, then the following pursuer, no longer having to prevent that homicide since it has already been committed, will give up the idea of shooting, and the pursuer who comes after him will have no further reason for shooting since the murder he was to prevent will no longer take place, and thus going back along the chain there will be no more pursued or pursuers.

(The “perfect system.” In the chapter “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Dantès envisioned the “perfect fortress”; see the last quote in my previous post.)

The next chapter, “The Night Driver,” is also about cars. Here, the protagonist is a man driving to his lover at night “after a quarrel over the telephone with Y,” who lives in another city. It is quite similar to the former, as this driver also creates a system or a game from the potential results of the quarrel: Y in regret gets into her car to drive to the protagonist; Z, the admirer of Y, also on his way to Y, after she threatened to invite him, and so on. And I just love the end of this story, but I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of reading it by quoting the final paragraphs.

Afterword: I think this will be the last of my notes from reading this book, although I wouldn’t be surprised if ideas pop up from it in the future. And perhaps Rob posts something that compels me to write more about it. See also my three previous posts.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on July 30, 2004. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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