The beginning of light

« At daybreak », in Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino, pub. Seuil, coll. « Points », trans. Jean Thibaudeau, 1968 (1st publication 1963), pp. 32-33.

At one point, obscurity was obscure by contrast to something else that was not : light. […] Thus there was :

Firstly, the sky, dark as ever, but continuously growing brighter;

Secondly, the surface on which we stood, all wrinkly and crusty, made of an ice-cap so dirty one would rather stay clear of it, which was slowly falling to pieces because of the fast-rising temperatures

and Thirdly, what one would later call a source of light : a mass that grew incandescent, and that was kept from us by a huge void, and it seemed to be successively trying out each and every colour, with varied twitches.[…]

petite illustration

The hardest had thus been done : the heart of the nebula, whilst shrinking on itself, had developed heat and light, and the Sun had been made.  Whatever was left kept on spinning around it, all split-up and gathered in various pieces : Mercury, Venus, the Earth, and a few others a little further, and all. And to top that, it was hot as hell. […]

The Sun’s beams had started burning the planet’s envelopes, and these were made of helium and hydrogen : in the sky, where our uncles were supposed to lie, globes of fire went around, dragging behind them long golden and turquoise beards, just like a comet’s tail.

Then obscurity came back. And we thought that all that could happen had happened, and :

– This is definitely it, said the grandmother, one ought to always trust one’s elders.

Quite the opposite : Earth had in fact just begun one of its daily spins. It was nighttime. All was just about to start.

The astronomer Dr. Dennis Roscoe immortalized this image of a nebula through a telescope. A nebula is a celestial object made of gas and interstellar dust, the gravitational collapse of which could be the origin of stars.


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