On levity

I am accustomed to consider literature a search for knowledge. In order to move onto existential ground, I have to think of literature as extended to anthropology and ethnology and mythology. Faced with the precarious existence of tribal life - drought, sickness, evil influences - the shaman responded by ridding his body of weight and flying to another world, another level of perception, where he could find the strength to change the face of reality In centuries and civilisations closer to us, in villages where the women bore most of the weight of a constricted life, witches flew by night on broomsticks or even on lighter vehicles such as ears of wheat or pieces of straw...I find it a steady feature in anthropology, this link between the levitation desired and the privation actually suffered. It is this anthropological device that literature perpetuates.

from Six Memos for the Next Millenium, Italo Calvino