(2012)#20 review: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler



Translated by William Weaver

260 pages

Published  by Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1982

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:




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end – because the book ends up not being the book they thought it was, or because the book was corrupted, or pages have been replaced by pages of another book, or translated from another book.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. This is what makes Italo Calvino such an amazing member of the Oulipo movement.

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.


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]


 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]



23 thoughts on “(2012)#20 review: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

  1. So glad I read your review because I haven’t heard of this author and his writing sounds so intriguing to me. Since I love to read and write this book seems to be my cup of tea.


  2. This has been on my TBR shelf for a while, but I keep putting it off. I really should read it, Thanks for including your review on the European Reading Challenge.


  3. I found your review from the I Love Italy challenge. This book has been on my shelf for a while and I hope to get around to it soon (I ended up reading Calvino’s Invisible Cities first which I love to pieces!). Thanks for posting your thoughts on it! =)


    • -You are welcome, and thanks for your encouraging comments to read Invisible Cities. I really plan to read that one too.
      -I just added your blog to my google reader – interesting reviews
      -as for your portfolio, you have gorgeous pictures! do you know about the Weekly Photo Challenge organized by WordPress? they post a new theme every Friday, you create a post where you post your picture illustrating that theme. and you link it. it brings you lots of visitors.
      here is the link to join:
      http://dailypost.wordpress.com/ [it’s under The Daily Post, but this thing is only once a week.
      here is my latest post for that challenge:


  4. Pingback: (2012) #44 review: Invisible Cities « Words And Peace

  5. Pingback: I love France #52: Book review: Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa | Words And Peace

  6. Pingback: Book Review - IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELLER by Italo Calvino - Booklover Book Reviews

  7. Pingback: Book Review - BEAUTIFUL DISASTER by Jamie McGuire - Booklover Book Reviews

  8. Pingback: Book Review - RIDING THE TRAINS IN JAPAN by Patrick Holland - Booklover Book Reviews

  9. Pingback: Book Review - KIPLING & TRIX by Mary Hamer - Booklover Book Reviews

  10. Pingback: Book review: The Lover’s Dictionary | Words And Peace

  11. Pingback: 2018: June-July-August wrap-up | Words And Peace

  12. Pingback: It’s Monday! What are you reading? October 15 | Words And Peace

  13. Pingback: Six degrees of separation: From Versailles to hacking | Words And Peace

  14. Pingback: Six degrees of separation: from phos to light | Words And Peace

  15. Pingback: The Satanic Verses: read-along, pre-read discussion | Words And Peace

What do you think? Share your thoughts, and I will answer you. I will also visit your own blog

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.