"as you try to read a person’s thoughts in the expression of his eyes, so now I looked at those strong, sharp teeth and sensed there a restrained desire, an expectation."
Under the Jaguar Sun is a collection of three short stories by Italo Calvino, published posthumously. Calvino had plans to incorporate these stories and two more additional ones into a book, probably a novel, about five senses. Unfortunately he couldn't write the stories on vision and touch. The three stories contained in this volume deals with sense of taste, sound and smell. Each story is a unique experience to read and varies considerably in narrative style and structure.
Under The Jaguar Sun, explores the relationship of a couple on vacation in Mexico. The history and cuisine of Mexico rekindles their failing relation. The rich food history of missionaries and indigenous tribes fancies them initially. But as the knowledge of the bloody rituals of past deepens, so does their desire to explore each other through taste.
A King Listens is special because it is a rare story that has a second person narrative. It deals with sense of hearing. A King is compelled to use his palace as a hearing aid. It is about the paranoia of losing power and how every bit of information, however insignificant it may sound feeds it. The story is all the more significant in current times.
"The palace is a construction of sounds that expands one moment and contracts the next, tightens like a tangle of chains. You can move through it, guided by the echoes, localizing creaks, clangs, curses, pursuing breaths, rustles, grumbles, gurgles."
The Name, The Nose is a story about sense of smell. Three parallel narratives are presented which happens at three different timelines, bound together by the quest for feminine scent. A French sensualist tries to reconstruct a whiff of perfume that he sensed at a party. A rock musician tries to identify a woman by her smell after a hard night of drug induced orgy. A primal man running with his herd, is also on the quest to find the female scent that attracted him.
"With my nose I learned that in the herd there is a female not like the others, not like the others for me, for my nose; and I ran, following her trail in the grass, my nose exploring all the females running in front of me, of my nose, in the herd; and there I found her, it was she who had summoned me with her odor in the midst of all those odors; there, I breathed through my nose all of her and her love-summons."