Among Chuang-tzu's many skills, he was an expert draftsman.
The king asked him to draw a crab. Chuang-tzu replied that he needed five years, a country house, and twelve servants.
Five years later the drawing was still not begun.
"I need another five years," said Chuang-tzu.
The king granted them.
At the end of these ten years, Chuang-tzu took up his brush and,
in an instant, with a single stroke,
he drew a crab, the most perfect crab ever seen.

Italo Calvino
On Quickness
from Six Memos for the Next Millennium

Important literary figure and highly respected Italian writer, born in Cuba in 1923, the son of two Italian botanists. Was made a compulsory member of Mussolini's Young Fascists: later joined and fought for the Italian Resistance.

He writes almost scientifically precise, beautifully detailed prose. He explores and extends simple legends, such as the series of Italian folktales he transcribed and his retelling of the tale of Marco Polo (Invisible Cities): he also experiments a lot with literary form, especially meta-fiction, as in the amazing If on a winter's night, a traveller, and was influenced by the Oulipo school of experimental writing. The content of his writing covers almost every subject you could wish to name: it's thought-provoking and very beautiful, and well worth reading.

A list of works translated into English:

He died in 1985 at his home in Italy after a cerebral haemorrhage. Gore Vidal wrote an eulogy on his death, which can be found at http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/eulogy.html.

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