1. The classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.
2. A classic is a book which each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
3. A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.
4. A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers.
5. A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.
Detta är bara några definitioner av många- och Calvino avslutar sin essay med att citera Emil Cioran (rumänsk författare/filosof)- citatet riktas till alla dem som inte förstår varför man vill göra sig besväret (om det nu är ett besvär) att läsa just klassiker:
"While the hemlock was being prepared, Socrates was learning a melody on the flute. "What use will that be to you?" he was asked. "At least I will learn this melody before I die."
Allt detta (och mer därtill) står att läsa i "Penguin Modern Classics"- the complete list.