andrew michael roberts

Italo Calvino’s “Under the Jaguar Sun”: Cannibalism and All Consuming Love

“Under the Jaguar Sun” is a story in a small eponymous collection, a collection which Calvino had slowly been putting together before he died in 1985. He was writing a book that would discuss each of the human senses and completed taste, hearing and smell. “Under the Jaguar Sun” uses the concept of, and focus on, taste, and more specifically, cannibalism, to illuminate the primal, the mundane, the sensual, our obsession with death and all consuming love.


Calvino and Olivia are traveling through Mexico, and their love, while strong for each other, has become chaste. The story begins with a description of a painting:



that portrayed a young nun and an old priest standing side by side; their hands, slightly apart from their sides, almost touched…The painting had the somewhat crude grace of colonial art, but it conveyed a distressing sensation, like an ache of contained suffering.The lower part of the painting was filled by a long caption…The words devoutly celebrated the life and death of the two characters, who had been chaplain and abbess of the convent…The reason for them being painted together was the extraordinary love (this word in the pious, Spanish prose, appeared charged with ultra-terrestrial yearning- that had bound the abbess and her confessor for thirty years, a love so great (the word in its spiritual sense sublimated but did not erase physical emotion) that when the priest came to die, the abbess, twenty years younger, in the space of a single day fell ill and literally expired of love…”


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January 27th, 2009 / 5:42 pm