I've come to the last chapter in Calvino's novel Il barone rampante, which I found on the shelf when I arrived in mid-September. I must have read it for the first time say ten years ago, there are still pencilled words above the words, most of which I can't make out, some of them words I now know. It belonged to several schoolchildren (names barred) who read it before me. Doggedly I read a few pages a day...
Set in the 18th century the protagonist is a boy, Cosimo Piovasco, barone di Rondo, who defies his parents, climbs a tree and stays there for the rest of his life. The narrator is his younger brother. In the last chapter the Barone has died, and his younger brother writes (in rapid translation):
"Before my brother was here, he told me: "He was here to do the thinking," for me it sufficed to live. The sign that things had changed for me was not the arrival of the Austro-russians, nor the annexation of Piedmont, nor the new taxes or what have you, but not seeing him any more, up there swaying on his branch when I opened the window. Now he is gone, I seem to have to think of so many things, philosophy, politics, history, follow the news, read books, it makes me dizzy, but the things he wanted to say aren't to be found there, and are other than he intended, which was something that embraced everything, and couldn't be said with words but only by living as he lived. Only by being so stubbornly oneself, as he was till he died, could he give something to all men."