How to Make Oneself A Dark Precursor: Mr. Palomar’s Practiced Death and Literary Epiphanies

Through the personae of Mr. Palomar, Italo Calvino explores the resonances between things in themselves and abstract patterns. Two series—things whose particularity demands description and patterns that claims to recognise universality in things—resonate with each other in Mr. Palomar. The resonance is caused because Mr. Palomar serves as the dark precursor. Overwhelmed by experiences of things, he tries to think with a body. He manages to react by being forced to describe their particularity and to tell stories that point toward universality. As a dark precursor, Mr. Palomar makes things and patterns participate in one another and create moments of epiphanies that are beyond description and stories. He thinks by artistically reacting to what overwhelms him bodily. How is this creation possible? How can the dark precursor constantly trigger epiphanies? What does Mr. Palomar do to make himself a dark precursor? This paper analyses the practice of Mr. Palomar that makes possible creation through a dark precursor. By doing so, this paper attempts to propose an example of artistic research in literature by exploring Mr. Palomar’s moments of literary epiphany. Another of Calvino’s novels, Invisible Cities, is also discussed to present the author’s consistent project in the context of the analysis of Mr. Palomar.

The first part of the paper discusses Mr. Palomar’s deliberate death and the empty state of the dark precursor. While the two interlocutors in Invisible Cities suspend their dialogue to communicate profoundly in silence, Mr. Palomar practises death, imagining that he does not exist so as to let the heterogeneous series of which he is composed participate in one another. This practised absence can be put in dialogue with Deleuze’s description of a dark precursor as “missing” from or always “displacing” its own place. The indeterminacy of the dark precursor makes creation happen in its own discordant accord between series. In the case of Mr. Palomar, he has to suspend his formed subjectivity in order to be the empty dark precursor full of creativity.

The second part of the paper explores how the two series of things and patterns resonate with each other. Since Invisible Cities, things in themselves and their patterns have been two major aspects of Calvino’s concern. While the stories in Invisible Cities happen between the two characters representing each of the concerns, Mr. Palomar explores the resonance between two series through three literary practices: descriptions, stories, and meditation. While descriptions and stories are two aspects of his concern—particularity of things and the universality of their patterns, it is in meditative moments that the two series resonate and give rise to literary epiphanies presented by meditative words functioning between descriptions and stories. In such moments, the interactions between the two literarily express thoughts of the unthinkable and thus recreate both descriptions and stories.