With magical dexterity, Italo Calvino (author of Invisible Cities and other books) uses the device of tarot cards and their archetypal images to create a series of short fantastic narratives. In a fairytale setting a castle and a tavern in the heart of a dense wood-a company of men and women are brought together by chance. Distraught by strange adventures, they find they have lose their voices. To communicate their fates-love affairs, battles, conquests, betrayals-they must deal out, one after the other, the cards of a game of tarot, whose configurations reveal their several plights. Some of the stories turn out to be authentic folk myths and legends-Parsifal, Oedipus, Hamlet-but others are entirely Calvino's own. All of them have a prismatic lend of the old and the new; the author has pinpointed the potentially mythic elements in our frenzied, plastic twentieth-century world and uses ancient symbols to comment wryly on what we have become. Calvino was inspired by a series of beautiful fifteenth-century tarot cards, eight of which are reproduced in actual size and full color. Black-and-white reproductions of an eighteenth-century pack run along the margins of the tales, showing the combinations out of which the stories grew. His use of the cards is precisely that made by fortunetellers, but his method is more complicated; he has created what amounts to a crossword and cross image diagram. The book is fascinating in tits inventiveness, in the evocative use of the tarot, in the elegance of its twists and turns.