Experience of Multiple

“Whatever the starting point, the matter in hand spreads out and out, encompassing ever vaster horizons, and if it were permitted to go on further and further in every direction, it would end by embracing the entire universe” (Calvino 107).

Calvino describes multiplicity as the quality of many connections.  It’s as if there is a giant knot representing the plot.  While everything may seem completely jumbled and messy, in reality it can all be tied together; a piece of the same string.  Many writers don’t know where to end their intricacies and therefore spit out an encyclopedia of their knowledge rather than a novel.

My experience with “Weep Not, Child” in relation to multiplicity is the realization of what is important to the various characters.  Njoroge wants peace which he plans to find through education and faith, Mwihaki wants love and a relationship, Boro wants revenge, many men want power and money like Jacobo.  There we see multiple goals.  It is brought together in some way or another, however, through the land.  Everyone believes that it is rightfully theirs so their goals ultimately reflect their chosen path to claiming ownership.

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Experience of Visible

Perhaps the reason I chose this novel for the learning screen is because I found it to be highly adaptable.  I found it to be adaptable because I could see it in film form.  Calvino’s quality, visibility, is embodied in “Weep Not, Child.” 

“In the cinema the image we see on the screen has also passed through the stage of a written text, has then been ‘visualized’ in the mind of the director, then physically reconstructed on the set, and finally fixed in the frames of the film itself…This mental cinema is always at work in each one of us, and it always has been, even before the invention of the cinema.  Nor does it ever stop projecting images before our mind’s eye” (Calvino 83). 

Visibility is adaptation.  In reading “Weep Not, Child” the mental cinema was in business.  It’s funny how when you think back on a novel you’ve read; you don’t see the words on a page.  You see what your mind imagined it to look like. 

“There was only one road that ran right across the land.  It was long and broad and shone with black tar, and when you travelled along it on hot days you saw little lakes ahead of you.  But when you went near, the lakes vanished, to appear again a little farther ahead” (Thiong’o 5).  The first chapter of the novel is uncharacteristically descriptive painting the picture of the land for the reader, maybe to emphasize the importance of what everyone is fighting over.

Experience of Exact

According to Calvino, exactitude means:

  1. “A well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question;
  2. An evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images;
  3. A language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination” (Calvino 56).   

To be exact means to be precise and detailed.  Calvino tells us how in trying to escape vagueness he becomes tangled in an infinite amount of details.  Where is the compromise?  That is really more of a preference of the writer. 

I can’t say that I believe “Weep Not, Child” to be an exact novel.  The amount of time and conflicts covered in the short amount of pages doesn’t leave room for much detail.  In some situations, the reader is left guessing what the author means due to the round-about way in which the scene is described.  “And Ngotho had now for days been tortured in all manner of ways, yet would tell nothing beyond the fact that he had killed Jacobo” (Thiong’o 119).  This sentence, which is also its own paragraph, is all that is described of Ngotho’s torture.  We later see him on his death bed when he has been released but that is all that the reader knows about the extent of the horror he faced.  Nothing more is needed, especially since Njoroge’s torture is briefly described.  We can infer what Ngotho endured. 

Despite the lack of specific details I find it amazing the way the novel flows together.  Sometimes the information Thiong’o gives us seems irrelevant but in the end everything was connected to tell the story of the Mau Mau uprising as it effected a boy and his family.  This is just as much a part of exactitude as details are.  The author has a purpose behind every word and nothing insignificant moves on to the published work.

Experience of Quick

“Weep Not, Child” is a novel that tells the story of a boy as he transforms into a man; done effectively in 136 pages.  I believe that this is the embodiment of Calvino’s quality of quickness.  To go into even more detail, no single event or situation in the novel lasts longer than a few pages.  It is too the point then suddenly skips a year to get to the next significant moment in Njoroge’s life that relates to the Mau Mau uprising. 

“Speed and conciseness of style please us because they present the mind with a rush of ideas that are simultaneous or that follow each other so quickly they seem simultaneous, and set the mind afloat on such an abundance of thoughts or images or spiritual feelings that either it cannot embrace them all, each one fully, or it has no time to be idle and empty of feelings” (Calvino 42). 

As a result of Calvino’s description, “Weep Not, Child” is a quick read.  Not only is it short, but it follows an exciting path.  Every chapter has something either interesting or appalling or both.

Experience of Light

Italo Calvino sought to remove weight from his writing, as he explains in “Six Memos for the Next Millennium.” Weight, he says, is natural to a writer. He must seek lightness in order to be successfully light. “Maybe I was only then becoming aware of the weight, the inertia, the opacity of the world—qualities that stick to writing from the start, unless one finds some way of evading them” (Calvino 4).

Would I call “Weep Not, Child” a light novel? In the class discussion on the book there seemed to be a general consensus that it was written from the perspective of a child. The narrator is 3rd person omniscient which tends to follow Njoroge, a youth. It is not directly his words, however. Unless the author is a child, can it ever be a child-like perspective? I think that rather than being elementary, it is written simply. That’s not to say that it can be read by a child. Yes, the sentence structure and vocabulary are light. No, the content is not. Torture, war, death, broken dreams; it’s some pretty heavy stuff. What makes it even heavier is Njoroge’s inability to escape it all. Even with the move away from his village to a secondary school, he is dragged back to face the mistakes of family members. I believe the themes may be too much for a child to follow. When you put the book down upon completion, it seems as though there was no resolution. Everyone dies; everyone is miserable. What can we take away with that? It requires reflection and thought, possibly a discussion with others.

“He ran quickly out, away from the light into the night. It was only when they turned their eyes to Ngotho that they knew that he too would never return. Nobody cried” (Thiong’o 125). This sentence represents the simplicity of the style and, simultaneously, the complexity of the story.