If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
Translated by William Weaver
Published by Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1982
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
March and April have been very full with a long trip, pictures coming soon, and now has come to go back to reading and reviewing! To go on with traveling, in some way, here is my review about Italian literature.
I have been curious about Calvino for a while, and decided to try him first with this book. This is certainly one of the strangest books I have read for a while.
It is for me more a book about books and writing than a novel; yes there is a sort of plot, and a love story, as the Reader and Ludmilla try to find each other through books they begin and can never really end – because the book ends up not being the book they thought it was, or because the book was corrupted, or pages have been replaced by pages of another book, or translated from another book. Have I managed to lose you yet? Good, that’s what your experience may be with this book. But just go with the flow, from book to book, and be ready to stop and taste some nice gems as the real author reflects about the act of reading and writing. Be also prepared to experience a whole array of genres as the Reader opens another book, and I really liked this aspect of the book, as an experiment in writing different genres.
If you are interested in modern literature, you absolutely need to read this book. This is the kind of books I would have liked to study in my younger years in literature classes.
It took me half of the book to realize what was happening with the title of each chapter, I won’t tell you what, but now that I mentioned it, you’ll get it quickly.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Italo Calvino’s masterpiece combines a love story and a detective story into an exhilarating allegory of reading, in which the reader of the book becomes the book’s central character.
Based on a witty analogy between the reader’s desire to finish the story and the lover’s desire to consummate his or her passion, IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER is the tale of two bemused readers whose attempts to reach the end of the same book—IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER, by Italo Calvino, of course—are constantly and comically frustrated. In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another—an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age. [from randomhouse.com]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979).
His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic reminiscent of fairy tales (Our Ancestors, Cosmicomics), although sometimes his writing is more “realistic” and in the scenic mode of observation (Difficult Loves, for example). Some of his writing has been called postmodern, reflecting on literature and the act of reading, while some has been labeled magical realist, others fables, others simply “modern”. He wrote: “My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.“[goodreads]
REVIEWS BY OTHERS
“[Italo Calvino is] one of the world’s best fabulists.”
—John Gardner, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
“Calvino is a wizard.”
—Mary McCarthy, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
“[Calvino] manages to charm and entertain the reader in the teeth of a scheme designed to frustrate all reasonable readerly expectations.”
—John Updike, THE NEW YORKER
“Calvino is that very rare phenomenon, a true original . . . If on a winter’s night a traveler is breathtakingly complex and self-conscious (there are moments when it quite literally makes one gasp with astonishment) . . . [yet it] is one of the most accessible and enchanting novels written in the last fifty years.”
—from the Introduction by Peter Washington [from randomhouse.com]
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