Books: Before Mrs. Vhd Vhd

THE WATCHER AND OTHER STORIES by Italo Calvino. Translated by William Weaver, Archibald Colquhoun. 181 pages. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. $5.95.

The Italo Calvino introduced to American readers in 1968 wore the mask of a metaphysical clown. Cosmicomics was rare science fiction—half Borges, half Groucho Marx—impishly mythologizing how the universe began. Inventing a cartoon-like character named Qfwfq and a supporting cast headed by a galaxy-Eve. Mrs. Vhd Vhd Calvino winged it with superb airiness —a Peter Pan for the space age.

In the three novellas comprising The Watcher, all of which predate Cosmicomics,...

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