07 February 2012


Italo Calvino is a virtuoso of many subjects, but especially of the otherness of ourselves.  This is from "Meiosis," in the collection T Zero:

     Separation, the impossibility of meeting, has been in us from the very beginning.  We were born not from a fusion but from a juxtaposition of distinct bodies.  Two cells grazed each other: one is lazy and all pulp, the other is only a head and a darting tail.  They are egg and seed: they experience a certain timidity; then they rush--at their different speeds--and hurry toward each other.  The seed plunges headlong into the egg... the two nuclei are shattered: you might expect heaven knows what fusion or mingling or exchange of selves; instead, what was written in in one nucleus and in the other, those spaced lines, fall in and arrange themselves, on each side, in the new nucleus, very closely printed; the words of both nuclei fit in, whole and clearly separate.  In short, nobody was lost in the other, nobody has given in or has given himself; the two cells now one are packaged together but just as they were before: the first thing they feel is a slight disappointment.  Meanwhile the double nucleus has begun its sequence of duplications, printing the combined messages of father and mother in each of the offspring cells, perpetuating not so much the union as the unbridgeable distance that separates in each couple the two companions, the failure, the void that remains in the midst of even the most successful couple.
     ... What we claim to be in our exterior form counts for little compared to the secret program we carry printed in each cell, where the contradictory orders of father and mother continue arguing.  What really counts is this incompatible quarrel of father and mother that each of us drags after him...

If you incorporate chromosomal recombination into this model, it's no wonder that even the two distinct sets of orders are garbled...

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