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Merve Emre

Podcast: Critic Merve Emre on Italo Calvino

This month on the Deerfield Public Library Podcast, I am very pleased to share a conversation with acclaimed critic Merve Emre on the beloved Italian writer Italo Calvino, known for his genre-defying stories and novels like Invisible Cities and If on a winter’s night a traveler. Merve Emre is a contributing writer at The New Yorker, associate professor of English at Oxford University, and currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University.

In a recent essay in The New Yorker, Merve Emre calls Calvino, “word for word, the most charming writer to put pen to paper in the twentieth century.” It is an enthusiasm we both share. Indeed, we learn that for both of us, reading Calvino novels set us on a path of making a career out of talking to people about books.

Emre’s essay on Calvino was occasioned by the new publication in English of a book of his essays, The Written World and the Unwritten World, translated by Ann Goldstein. 2023 also marks the centenary year of Calvino’s birth and here at the Library our Classics Book Discussion celebrated with a recent series on his work.

Whether you are already a Calvino-obsessive or new to his work, you will hear a passionate consideration of how an author creates communications and desires so wonderful (and so thwarted!) that you can not help turning page after page. Appropriately for a discussion of this metafictional novelist, this episode also becomes a conversation about literary conversation itself. Another recent New Yorker piece by Emre considers the fate of literary studies today. I could not help asking her if Calvino’s utopian vision of a world of self-appointed readers might help us revive the literary world itself.

You can check out books by Merve Emre and titles by Italo Calvino here at the library. You can also check out issues of The New Yorker through the library—recent physical copies are available in the building or find digital magazines through our ebook service Libby.

Emre is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (University of Chicago Press, 2017), The Ferrante Letters (Columbia University Press, 2019), and The Personality Brokers (New York, 2018). She is the editor of Once and Future Feminist (MIT, 2018), The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway (Liveright, 2021), and The Norton Modern Library Mrs. Dalloway (Norton, 2021). Her essays and criticism have appeared in publications ranging from The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and the London Review of Books to American Literature, American Literary History, PMLA, and Modernism/modernity. Merve is on Twitter @mervatim.

We hope you enjoy our 58th interview episode! Each month (or so) we release an episode featuring a conversation with an author, artist, or other notable guests from Chicagoland or around the world. Learn more about the podcast on our podcast page. You can listen to all of our episodes in the player below or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts. We welcome your comments and feedback—please send to

You can listen to all of our episodes in the player below.

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