SxS: Up in Smoke

by ALLAN REEDER


In Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler (translated by William Weaver), “they” are collecting signatures on a petition to City Hall:

"What about you, Armida? Have you signed yet?" they ask a woman I can see only from behind, a belt hanging from a long overcoat trimmed with fur, the collar turned up, a thread of smoke rising from the fingers gripping the stem of a glass."

Lovely how the line of that trailing belt, which we’re asked to see first, continues upward into that “thread of smoke rising from the fingers.” With such brushstrokes, Calvino accentuates the beautiful, momentary mystery of the woman.

There’s something about those trailing lines …