The Electronic Labyrinth

Tarot Cards: The Castle of Crossed Destinies

In The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1976), Italo Calvino weaves a number of narratives around a group of medieval travellers staying at a highway inn:

This book is made first of pictures--the tarot playing cards--and secondly of written words. Through the sequence of the pictures stories are told, which the written word tries to reconstruct and interpret. (124)

Later, Calvino comments on the act of telling stories with the tarot and how it implicates all the untold stories hidden within the deck:

I realized the tarots were a machine for constructing stories; I thought of a book and I imagined its frame: the mute narratives, the forest, the inn; I was tempted by the diabolical idea of conjuring up all the stories that could be confined in a tarot deck. (126)

The untold stories within the deck correspond to the untravelled pathways in a hyperbook. Calvino's description of the Tarot has many affinities with electronic hypertext, providing a model for a graphic means of reading that stands in contradistinction with the signifying practices of The Book.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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