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Independent journal exploring the intersections between material and digital cultures, and broader themes to do with our bodies, labour, and time.
Aims to promote discussion about how technology will reshape ideas around community action, communication, and the arts.


Submit     Contact     Shop     Instagram

Independent journal exploring the intersections between material and digital cultures, and broader themes to do with our bodies, labour, and time.
Aims to promote discussion about how technology will reshape ideas around community action, communication, and the arts.


A ‘bang!’ in big letters: On the use of sound in modernist literature to construct fictional worlds

Alex Goodall
Time of Publication: 13:23 - 6/5/22

Authorial command most often lies within the realm of the visual - we read what we are supposed to see and imagine how it looks. In an attempt to recognise that the use of sound in literature can be just as affective a sensorial device for the construction of fictional worlds as the visual, in this dissertation I will look to the modernist writers who are, in my view, most acquainted with sound to analyse how it is used in their writing.

I will chronologically work through the writers’ texts, beginning in Chapter 1 with an excerpt from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939). In Chapter 2, I will move on to an extract from José Saramago’s Skylight (1953) before in Chapter 3 looking to Italo Calvino’s short story The Origin of the Birds (~1967).

In this dissertation, for the sake of clarity and consistency, I will use a broad definition of literary modernism, spanning from Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1897 work Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard to Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 work The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, epochal texts which lucidly indicate definitive and broadly influential positions about the nature of the text and its relationship to media, technology and philosophy.

Outside the scope of this dissertation is the ‘re-creative’ (Shahane, 1983, p. 8) process of translation. While I believe that it would be pertinent to assess the ways in which translation and/or transliteration affect what I deem to be the most effective uses of sound in literature, especially given that two of the three authors on whom I am focussing wrote in Portuguese and Italian respectively, and that there is even an argument for the importance of C. K. Ogden’s translation of Finnegans Wake into Basic English (Sailer, 1999), the nuances of this are simply outside of my expertise and would likely significantly alter the trajectory of this enquiry.

Howmulty Plurators?

It is night. It is dark. You can hardly see. You sense rather.
(Joyce, n.d., quoted in Mercanton and Parks, 1963, p. 96).

i. Writing aquiet

In their 1992 text The Rhythmanalytical Project, Henri Lefebvre and Catherine Régulier invite us to consider rhythms in nature:

Now look around you at this meadow, this garden, these trees and these houses. They give themselves, they offer themselves to your eyes as in a simultaneity. Now, up to a certain point, this simultaneity is mere appearance, surface, a spectacle. Go deeper. ... Let your gaze ... transgress its limits a little. You at once notice that every plant, every tree has its rhythm. And even several rhythms. Leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds. On this cherry tree, flowers are born in springtime along with leaves that will survive the fruits, and which will fall in the autumn, though not all at once. Henceforth, you will grasp every being, ... every entity ... and every body, both living and non-living, ‘symphonically’ or ‘polyrhythmically’
(Lefebvre and Régulier, 2013, p. 89).

This consideration for the symphony and polyrhythm of beings, entities and bodies, in my view, illuminates Joyce’s approach to writing in Anna Livia Plurabelle. Joyce embodies these natural rhythms as heard in the Liffey in his text, embracing the dichotomies between smooth flowing -

Wring out the clothes! Wring in the dew! Godavari, vert the showers! (Joyce, 2012, p. 213)

and unpredictable jauntiness -

Well, you know or don’t you kennet or haven’t I told you every telling has a tailing and that’s the he and the she of it (ibid.)

in a way that is at once evocatively present and so intertwined with the words themselves that it remains unobtrusive to the narrative. Just as the washerwomen’s gossip ebbs and flows, and just as the Liffey does the same, so too do the rhythms of this more-than-English narrative, through which Joyce deeply embeds rhythm into the words of the characters and the events surrounding them. Joyce brings the river to life not just through describing how it looks, or even how it sounds, or even through how the characters sense it - rather, he allows its rhythms to flow through the words as a medium, carried by the sounding agents within the story. The words on the page don’t sound, but the sensation of allowing oneself as a reader to be embodied by this rhythmic command is a deeply affecting experience rooted in audiation. This, therefore, is not merely a question of linguistics and semantics - it is a question of sound itself.

Here, we see how the sonic potentiality of the words on the page serves as a catalyst for the construction of fictional worlds not just through Joyce’s ability to craft a world in this unconventional way, but in his ability to invite the reader to be embodied by his words. This command of language, then, naturally owes itself to rhythmanalysis (a term first coined by Lúcio Alberto Pinheiro dos Santos [Elden, 2013, p. 6]), audiation, and thus sonority by default. Given that Joyce describes this chapter as ‘an attempt to subordinate words to the rhythm of water’ (Joyce, n.d., quoted in Chrisp, 2013), it is no surprise that rhythmanalysis serves as an effective framework for analysing this section.

We can further encompass this in what Garrett Stewart deems phonotextuality (Stewart, 1990). He begins his work by asserting that ‘Silent reading locates itself ... in the conjoint cerebral activity and suppressed muscular action of a simultaneously summoned and silenced enunciation’ (ibid., p. 1). His ideas around phonotextuality as a physical phenomenon which is at once sounding and silenced is crucial to the way we perceive the work of Joyce. Stewart himself goes on to discuss Joyce, saying that ‘At the microlevel, the smallest impulse of linguistic articulation becomes the real shape-changing protagonistic urge of [Finnegans] Wake, whose dreamplay encodes the encyclopedia of experience in a polyglot storm of alphabetic “characters”’ (ibid., p. 232). Clearly, to revere Finnegans Wake for its sonic potentiality, audiation, or phonotextuality is a key part not just of reading the text, but of experiencing its world as Joyce constructs it through this linguistic complexity and parallel sonic materiality.

Through applying Lefebvre and Régulier’s ideas around rhythm and Stewart’s ideas around phonotextuality, we can evaluate a section such as the following in a sonically holistic way:

Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of. Flittering bats, fieldmice bawk talk. Ho! Are you not gone ahome? What Thom Malone? Can’t hear with bawk of bats, all thim liffeying waters of. Ho, talk save us! My foos won’t moos. I feel as old as yonder elm. A tale told of Shaun or Shem? All Livia’s daughtersons. Dark hawks hear us.
(Joyce, 2012, p. 215).

These rhythmic features - the ebbing and flowing; the interplay between regularity and irregularity of meter and of syllabic structure - play into and out of one another while grappling with sound in a literal sense. Joyce draws on the sense of sound itself while toying with our preconceived notions of how a narrative would traditionally read. For instance, Joyce dangles ‘of’ at the end of two singular clauses in a row, continuing through the passage with a stop-start rhythm which, when twinned with the discomfort of the sounds he describes more literally, leaves the reader unsettled. This unique linguistic command rooted in the sonic is therefore key to Joyce’s construction of a fictional world. As David Vassalotti puts it, ‘Joyce’s desire for a representational language above these established languages became even closer to a reality, practically scraping aliterature’s outlying pole’ (Vassalotti, 2009, p. 39).

Music of the Mad

Four women sitting round the table. The steaming plates, the white tablecloth, the ceremonial of the meal. On this side - or perhaps on the other side too - of the inevitable noises, lay a dense, painful silence, the inquisitorial silence of the past observing us and the ironic silence of the future that awaits us
(Saramago, 2019, p.66).

The focus of the previous section, based largely around Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, is primarily on how the use of language which owes itself to sonority can help a reader to construct fictional worlds regardless of visual cues. This feeds into my wider research topic around the sound-based construction of fictional worlds in modernist literature through my assessment of Joyce’s command of an adapted language which owes itself to audition, in turn leading us to a certain phonotextuality.

In this chapter, I will pivot my assessment of sonic language away from the phonotextual and onto the inherently sonic. I will examine an excerpt from José Saramago’s Skylight (1953), attempting to place his demonstrations of sound-based storytelling into my wider research by evaluating his auditory command as it pertains to a reader’s understanding of the worlds he builds and against a pre-existing framework for the analysis of sound. I will attempt to unpack the ways in which a narrative shift away from the visual might further aid the construction of fictional worlds in modernist literature.

i. Sound in Skylight

When, in Skylight, Amélia decries that it ‘seems impossible that anyone could possibly like that music of the mad’ (Saramago, 2015, p. 63), she refers not just to Honegger’s La Danse des Morts which emanates from another room in the apartment block, but also to the complex composition spelled out by Saramago as he intertwines the stories of its residents using sound-based language. The cacophony which he orchestrates over a three-page stint by refocussing his narrative command away from the visual and onto the sonic contributes to the multi-sensorial architecture of a fictional world, in this case the apartment block, that is at once vividly constructed and comparatively devoid of visual cues.
Confined in its intense detail to the pages of the novel, to build a world in this way functionally shifts the reader into a mode of interpretation which prioritises the sonic word. In Saramago’s text, I propose that this method of world-building around audition works for three key reasons:

1. This fictional world is more believable when served by sonic imagining than visual cues.

This is to say that the fictional world which Saramago constructs is served better by the assumption of auralities than by the impossibilities of a visual omnipresence. When we suspend disbelief that the narrative voice can see through walls and detail the ins and outs of the lives of the characters, we subscribe to a notion that ocular ambivalence remains superior to sonic etymologies. To move away, then, from this predisposition to prioritise the visual over the sonic, even for just a few pages, Saramago reassigns the reader a sense of being in and around the words by granting them only the same comprehension of the characters’ surroundings that the characters themselves have.

2. The condition of this fictional world as experienced by its characters owes itself to the inescapability of sound, or of hearing.

Saramago’s use of sound is useful in the construction of a fictional world in that it owes itself to the simple reality that we can close our eyes but not our ears, serving the story in suggesting how inescapable the soundscape of the literary situation is. Were Saramago using only the language of visualisation, we would be tempted to urge the characters to look away; to close their doors and tune out, so to speak. This privilege cannot be granted to the characters when pervasive sound vocabulary is so persistent as to prevent our ocular dissociation.

3. Evoking a sense of aural commoning grants us a more pervasive sense of place within a text.

In a similar vein, this third point speaks to a more specific understanding of the public sphere by allowing us to access an aural commons rich in stories and lives. When what we hear weaves a rich tapestry of person and place, it creates a sense of belonging arguably more visceral than that which could be established using the written word alone, or using mere silence. The suggestion, then, of an aural commons not necessarily as a forum for discourse but as a sounding board for residents to share their personalities gives us a deeper sonic understanding of the lives of those very residents.

ii. Reading-to-have-heard, hearing-to-have-read

This prioritisation of the sonic word is arguably rooted in what François Jost (1989) refers to, albeit regarding film, as ‘auricularisation’ - that is, the auditory equivalent of the relationship between what the camera shows and what the character sees (Vandevelde, 2018, p. 39). Tom Vandevelde (ibid.) suggests that Jost’s focalisation, ocularisation and auricularisation present a possible framework through which to understand sound in modernist literature if we reapply these filmic notions to the literary world.

The main issue with Jost’s ocularisation and auricularisation in this context as I intend to apply them is that, while both apply in equal measure to filmic endeavours (i.e. the relationship between what a character sees and what the audience sees, and the relationship between what the character hears and what the audience hears, respectively), they do not as neatly transpose into a literary framework, in relation to one another. That is to say that a literary ocularisation may be the relationship between what a character sees and what the audience reads, while a literary auricuralisation may only go so far as to address what a character hears and what the audience reads-to-have-heard. Unless listening to an audiobook reading, generally speaking this literary ocularisation at least remains confined to the sense of sight, if removed from the actual physicality of witnessing a visual event as on a screen. With this in mind, literary auricularisation is therefore one sense further removed from the sonic event in that not only do we not hear it, but we do not use the sense of sound to interpret a representation of the literary sounding event. Reading-to-have- heard, therefore, is not necessarily encompassed by auricularisation.

Jost (n.d., quoted in Vandevelde, 2018, p. 39) does acknowledge that ‘literature does not entail the actual sounds and images that are contained in film’, which spurs Vandevelde to question what this lacking framework might be; how it might look and how it might sound. He goes some way in identifying a model based around 'focalisation' which he demonstrates through using Virginia Woolf’s In The Orchard (1923), dispelling many of the inherent visual biases in literary analysis to some significant avail. Despite this, he does not entirely move away from the prioritisation of the visual in the sense that one sees to read, but must see-to-read-to-hear, see-to-read-to-smell, etc. (or if listening to an audiobook, one hears to read, but must hear-to-read-to-see, hear-to-read-to-smell, etc., where reading is a comprehensive mediator between hearing the written word and interpreting it as a sensual cue).

This concern with accessing the sonorities of a fictional space through auricularisation so as to detach from our ocularisational tendencies echoes Melba Cuddy-Keane’s call for ‘the development of a critical methodology and a vocabulary for analysing narrative representations of sound’ (Cuddy-Keane, 2007, p. 382). Cuddy-Keane’s acknowledgement that existing analytical frameworks fall short of being able to accurately assess the state of sound in literature reaffirms the importance of authors’ explorations of sound-centric narrative, just as she ponders a ‘new focus, in the modernist period ...[on] the act of auditory perception’ (ibid.).

To dig deeper into why Skylight is so effective in an auditory realm, we might look to Saramago’s later work, specifically the 1995 novel Blindness, where a sense of more readily embodying the sonic over the visual is more obviously explored. In the text, every citizen of an unnamed city goes blind. Sound plays a similar role here to that which it plays in Skylight, and in its most striking use transcends the visual in a way that at once feels all-encompassing and deeply personal:

The dog of tears gave a very long howl, it let out a wail that seemed never-ending, a lament which resounded through the corridor like the last voice of the dead down in the basement
(Saramago, 1999, p. 313).

Saramago, both in his command of sound-language and in his skill at evoking an auricularised response from a reader where it owes itself to a narrative, is able in his work to ensure the continued embodiment of fictional worlds by characters inasmuch as readers. Arguably, then, an analytical framework built around the sharing of sonic-being-in-a-space between reader and character is close to Cuddy-Keane’s call for a critical methodology. For instance, we could build on Vandevelde’s focalisation framework (fig. 1), adding in ‘sensorial embodiment’ as a stream separate to ‘sensory perception’ which overlaps with focalisation itself to outline a sounding relationship with the textual narrative voice which reaches deeper into the reader’s auricularised response. When the ‘announcer’s voice [fills] the apartment’ in Skylight (Saramago, 2015, p. 62), we do not simply read the sounding event. Instead, we read-to-have-heard it, and in so doing we might embody this sonic- being-in-a-space on a deeper level, one where the construction of a world around us is altogether a more pragmatic and lucid event.

That First Warbling

Koaxpf ... Koaxpf ... Koaaacch ... (Calvino, 2010, p. 168).

In this third chapter, I will examine one final approach to the use of sound to construct fictional worlds in modernist literature, focussing on Italo Calvino’s short stories. Most of the stories, which comprise collections such as Cosmicomics (1965) and Time and the Hunter (1967), begin with a scientific notion, fact or speculation, which was, at the time of writing, newfound and pregnant with literary possibility. I will pay particular attention to The Origin of the Birds (~1967) from Time and the Hunter, which uses a curiosity in the evolution of birds as its scientific basis through which to tell the story of how birds came to be.

I will explore the use of sound as framed through characteristic comprehension (or lack thereof) and semantics, as Calvino weaves sonic materiality through his short-stories. Whereas sound is taken on face value in Saramago, and taken as suggested in Joyce, in Calvino we will aim to listen to the text not holistically as an audiotext but as the incursion of sound is interpreted and analysed by character, and in turn by the reader. This moves us towards a sonic understanding which aids with the construction of fictional worlds through necessitating the embodiment of sounding-to-know, sounding-to-learn, sounding-to-understand, etc: a sonic epistemology, or 'acoustemology' as Steven Feld (2015) might put it.

i. Sounding science

When, in the Cosmicomics story Without Colours (~1965), Qfwfq suggests that Ayl is ‘a happy inhabitant of the silence that reigns where all vibration is excluded’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 53), we get a sense that the experience of sound on a metaphysical level is, in Calvino’s fictional world, a multi- faceted sensation that occurs in different dimensions. We must consider, for instance, what it could possibly mean for one to be entombed in a space so silent that no vibration exists within it; how such a silence could ever last long enough to reign; how one could so happily inhabit that silence. This approach to sounding which is at once rooted in and extrapolated from science is important in reading Calvino’s work as sonic.

For instance, we are led to consider how we might make sense of a narrative voice which, in the case of Qfwfq, is learning about the world as he goes. On singing, for example, he notes that he hears ‘something making a sound that nobody has ever made before’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 167). This sonic naivety functions as a literary window into the kind of sounding-to-know, -to-learn, -to- understand to which I previously alluded; that is to say that when we read of Qfwfq’s newfound sound we access a primitive acoustemology which places us at the heart of what it means to sound and be sounded at; we learn with the character. In an audiotextual context, this approach renders Calvino the composer of a score of unknowable and unsayable music. Reading from a purely literary standpoint, however, the text here owes itself to a complete lack of criticality afforded to the reader by Calvino’s intentional apathy towards narrative command over the sonic. This is a world away from Saramago and Joyce, inviting the reader into the sounding world through completely new means. It is this approach to sounding as a vibratory carrier of semantics which underpins our reading of sound in The Origin of the Birds, a text rich in sonic signification and meaning.

Qfwfq goes on to tell the story in comic strip form, though still entirely in prose. He describes the scenes as they would appear in a comic strip, with no actual printed comic strip imagery to supplement this. For example, Calvino, or perhaps Qfwfq himself, interjects in the text where we may otherwise expect to see ‘A ‘bang!’ written in big letters’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 171) or ‘a lot of exclamation marks and question marks spurting from [the characters’] heads’ (ibid., p. 168).

Curiously, ‘Koaxpf’ and ‘Koaaacch’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 168) are onomatopoeically used to demonstrate birdsong, two unnerving and unnatural ways of representing a sound with which we are so familiar, and one which is generally considered agreeable. With context removed, it seems almost impossible to garner that a bird resides within these words. Such is the nature of Calvino’s sonic command that we are able to completely remove ourselves from what we know about sound and, without suspending disbelief per se, question to what extent we know what we know. After all, some birds do make a koaxpf-like sound - the word as it is written simply doesn’t resonate with our pre-conceived notion of how it should look on the page.

The reader’s perception that the sonority inherent in this text is fractious, unhinged and altogether incomprehensible creates friction against the trust we have in Calvino and his command of scientific fact: sound in this story becomes the unstable phenomenon which weaves in and out of what we take on face value. Thus, the sonic understanding that the reader is left with as pertains to the birds is one that uproots any expectations predicated on real-world knowledge: Calvino commands sound in such a way that he strips us of what we already know to be true, plunging us into his world of naivety and ignorance. The effect is that the reader feels entirely compelled by the soundings to redirect their fascination with the birds onto the acoustic realities and fictions which they command.

ii. Sounding presence

Qfwqf reveals around halfway through the story that ‘The birds, which a short time before had been for [him] the strangest of apparitions, were already becoming the most familiar of presences’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 172). The idea of ‘presence’ here has often occupied scholars. For example, in an essay on Calvino and the postmodern ‘monster’, Curtis White explains that, in The Origin of the Birds, a presence grounded not in original birdiness, but rather in a monstrous and disruptive paste- up of mutative reptile and fish is not only an important philosophical idea (because it implicitly denies a metaphysical/theological origin), but a crucial literary distinction as well  (White, 1984, p. 133).

This focus on ‘presence’ is, in my view, one that is rooted in and reveals itself to us through sonic understanding of the vibratory vestiges of the overall, potentially monstrous presence which is woven through Calvino’s work. Just as White suggests a ‘monstrous and disruptive paste-up’ as a basis for the ephemeral ‘presence’, one seemingly based on appearance, I propose that impositions such as koaxpf and koaaacch, the bang! written in big letters, or even the ‘Alarms, pursuit, dangers’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 173) equally arrive at a monstrous and disruptive paste-up which is rooted in sonority, and arguably allow access to this narrative disruption more readily than those such impositions rooted in visual cues.

White goes on to quote Calvino himself, claiming that Calvino as the author is as much ‘the promotor of a process of refusal to see and say things the way they had been seen and said up to that very moment’ (Calvino, 1981, p. 80) as Qfwqf is as a character. At this point, we might look to Bob Cobbing’s 1969 allusion to the ‘poetry of pure sound’ (Cobbing, 1978, p. 39). Though in the text We Aspire to Bird Song Cobbing points to a concretism of the treated human voice, we might reapply his notions of ‘new tricks of rhythm and tone, power and subtlety’ (ibid.) to those of Calvino’s birds. After all, to expand the boundaries of the voice is also to unlearn what that voice is capable of, and Qfwqf certainly comes to change the way he both sees and says things as he acquaints himself with those ‘most familiar of presences’.

We are ultimately no closer to identifying what this ‘presence’ may actually be, that which simultaneously eludes comprehension and guides us through the story. However, Calvino’s presence is not something identifiable at all, but rather a sense of the sublime that occurs between scientific fact and fantastical fiction. We have seen up to this point how this interplay is facilitated through the use of sound. It may now be interesting to apply this sonic approach to another common theme in Calvino’s work: that of distance.

iii. Sounding distance

Returning briefly to Without Colours, it is interesting to note Qfwqf’s experience of his own voice as it battles with the sound of the sea:

I threw the ball to Ayl beyond a crack opening in the ground, but my throw proved inexplicably shorter than I had intended and the ball fell into the gap; the ball must have become suddenly very heavy; no, it was the crack that had suddenly yawned enormously, and now Ayl was far away, beyond a liquid, wave expanse that had opened between us and was foaming against the shore of rocks, and I leaned from this shore, shouting: ‘Ayl, Ayl!’ and my voice, its sound, the very sound of my voice spread loudly, as I had never imagined it, and the waves rumbled still louder than my voice. In other words: it was all beyond understanding
(Calvino, 2010, p. 56).

Distance is a key element in much of Calvino’s work, and is a key factor in decoding the sounds contained within. The approach to sounding in The Origin of the Birds as a catalyst for the learning and unlearning of one’s placement in a fictional world can be attached to distance as a narrative device to deepen our understanding of Calvino’s use of sound to construct said worlds. In the above passage from Without Colours, for example, the very notion of distance makes Qfwqf’s sonic interjection in the space more pertinent and hopeless - he learns from his own voice how little he truly understands.

We might also look to another Cosmicomics story, The Distance of the Moon. In a world where leaping between the Earth and the Moon as they pass each other by is not an unusual task but a challenge nonetheless, it is no surprise that it is Qfwqf’s cousin, the Deaf One, who shows ‘a special talent for making those leaps’ (Calvino, 2010, p. 5). That distance is no object when sound is removed reaffirms our sense that distance and sound are so firmly intertwined in Calvino’s work that their relationship at any given moment drastically changes how characters interact with the world around them, in many cases entirely disrupting our notion of scientific fact which is so integral to the stories themselves.

Referencing the ability of echoes to reveal more to us about a sound than the original sound signal itself, Robert Rushing summarises a ‘catacoustic’ approach to reading as that which ‘suggests that it is only in and with the echo that the sound is fully realized, and this realization or repletion of the origin happens in a way that demarcates and defines a space’ (Rushing, 2021, p. 1). Rushing applies this theory in an ‘echo-logical’ (ibid.) reading of Calvino, going on to use Calvino’s short story A King Listens from the collection Under the Jaguar Sun (Calvino, 2009) in a reading of Calvino as ‘catacoustic’, owing to its ‘cognizing of space and environment through an attentive study not of the signal, but of the signal’s echoes’ (Rushing, 2021, p. 5).

While Rushing continues that Calvino’s ‘acoustic world is inherently political’ (ibid.), this emphasis on the relationship between sound and distance as a way of knowing speaks to my reading of sound in Calvino as that which simultaneously constructs and deconstructs knowledge of and ways of knowing in the fictional world. Rushing’s recognition of catacoustics in A King Listens could be loosely applied to other Calvino short stories. While not always explicitly pertaining to echoes, similar resonances and resoundings rooted in the relationship between sound and distance often bolster Calvino’s construction of fictional worlds. There is, for example, the embodied voice’s sounding out of interpersonal differences in The Distance of the Moon as its echoes exclude the Deaf One:

Nothing could separate her more from the Deaf One than the sound of the harp. I took to singing in a low voice that sad song that goes: ‘Every shiny fish is floating, floating; and every dark fish is at the bottom, at the bottom of the sea...’ and all the others, except my cousin, echoed my words
(Calvino, 2010, p. 11).

That embodied voice too sounds out temporal distance in All at One Point as it echoes across millennia:

‘Boys, the tagliatelle I would make for you!’, a true outburst of general love, initiating at the same moment the concept of space and, properly speaking, space itself, and time, and universal gravitation, and the gravitating universe ...
(ibid., p. 48).

In Without Colours, its complete lack of echo marks an inability to bridge a communicative stalemate:

How would we understand each other? Nothing in the world that lay before our eyes was sufficient to express what we felt for each other, but while I was in a fury to wrest unknown vibrations from things, she wanted to reduce everything to the colourless beyond of their ultimate substance
(ibid., p. 54)

and in The Daughters of the Moon, resounding in a space simply constructs it:

All around, a low murmuring resounded throughout the crater of terrestrial rubbish.
(ibid., p. 316).

In each of these excerpts, the catacoustic approach to reading Calvino, that which implores us to cognise space and environment through attentive study not of the emergent sonic signal but of its echoes (or to bend this approach somewhat, its resoundings and resonances), allows us a deeper insight into that breakdown and rebuilding of embodied knowledges, emboldening the fictional world through its sonorities. Ultimately, to read Calvino as sonic is often to read him echo-logically or catacoustically; it is through this recurring theme of sound and distance that many of Calvino’s worlds come into existence.

See link below for the full dissertation text and bibliography: