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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo…

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979)

by Italo Calvino

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,659199458 (4.06)1 / 487
  1. 122
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  2. 100
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Different yet both well-written approaches to meta-fiction.
  3. 51
    At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (macflaherty)
  4. 20
    Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (macflaherty)
  5. 20
    In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom (GlebtheDancer)
    GlebtheDancer: Metafiction, characters appear as both actors in and tellers of the same story
  6. 20
    The Logogryph: A Bibliography Of Imaginary Books by Thomas Wharton (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Excerpts and intimations of books that don't exist. A celebration of reading.
  7. 00
    Kafka's Soup by Mark Crick (wester)
    wester: Playing with authors styles. Do not read if you take Literature very seriously.
  8. 00
    Voyage Along the Horizon: A Novel by Javier Marías (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Both books deal with books within books, and have a mysterious feel.
  9. 00
    Cesta na jih by Michal Ajvaz (Artran)
    Artran: Metafiction, stories within stories, tale about power of storytelling, Ajvaz wittingly elaborate Calvino's aesthetics.
  10. 11
    Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian (susanbooks)
  11. 00
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  12. 00
    Music, in a Foreign Language by Andrew Crumey (alzo)
  13. 00
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  14. 00
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  15. 01
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1970s (4)
My TBR (20)

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English (179)  French (6)  Italian (5)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (200)
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
I think I may need to re-read this one, or maybe just concede that I'm not smart enough to "get it." I pretty much felt like it was pretentious nonsense.
  tntbeckyford | Feb 16, 2019 |
A crazy ride of a story, in which the Reader is the main character who is simply trying to read a book, but who gets frustrated at every turn and by more and more outlandish disruptions. Each new manuscript promises to be the completion of the previous, but only introduces yet another new book, which, in turn, is cut short and unfinished. Chapters of this main plot (which also contains an Other Reader, with whom the Reader carries out a love story of sorts, and a romp of a detective story as well) alternate with the actual first chapters of the unfinished manuscripts, which themselves leave the (R/r)eader genuinely frustrated and wanting more.
In short, it's a hoot, although it does get a bit bogged down in its own absurdities toward the end, I feel. Think Inspector Clouseau meets Arabian Nights meets a Choose Your Own Adventure book in which all the choices are just tantalizingly out of your reach, and then throw in a healthy pinch of musings on the nature of readers, authors, books, and the act of reading itself. ( )
1 vote electrascaife | Feb 2, 2019 |
This would have to be one of the most unusually good books I have read. It is not quite a novel and not quite a collection of short stories, organised in an unusual way. It is partly written in the second person (Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City was my first second-person novel) and on several occasions, the author speaks directly to the reader (a literary technique known as "authorial intrusion"). The main story is structured using numbered chapters, interspersed with the beginnings of several books (with the relevant book names as chapter headings) that relate directly to the main story. It is rather complex in terms of its structure and I couldn't help thinking it is very much a "post-modern" novel. But it works. I am often surprised by the number of books that are about books and authors, a bit like 42nd Street - a musical within a musical. But this book is very clever. While at times I couldn't help thinking that Calvino had turned a number of "false starts" into a publication, it is too good to have been written so perfunctorily. Two stand-out parts work for me. First, Calvino addresses two types of writers (pp. 173-4):One of the two is a productive writer, the other a tormented writer. The tormented writer watches the productive writer filling pages with uniform lines, the manuscript growing in a pile of neat pages. In a little while the book will be finished: certainly a best seller - the tormented writer thinks with a certain contempt but also with envy. He considers the productive writer no more than a clever craftsman, capable of turning out machine-made novels catering to the taste of the public; but he cannot repress a strong feeling of envy for that man who expresses himself with such methodological confidence... [The productive writer] feels [the tormented writer] is struggling with something obscure, a tangle, a road to be dug leading no one knows where... and he is overcome with admiration. Not only admiration, but also envy; because he feels how limited his work is, how superficial compared with what the tormented writer is seeking.I certainly feel like each of these authors depending on the type of writing I am engaged in. That self-consciousness is part of the process is something that Calvino weaves into the plot perfectly. Second, Calvino picks up on how I read (p. 254):Reading is a discontinuous and fragmentary operation.What I find most interesting about this reflection is that Calvino's work, or at least the several of his works I have read so far, all seem to play to the discontinuous and fragmentary reader. The structure of this work, much like Invisible Cities and Mr Palomar, suits a style of reader who is unable to read in large chunks of time. While not being able to read long and uninterrupted is far from ideal, Calvino's work is presented in convenient and memorable chunks that suit the fragmentary and disrupted peace of the post-modern worker. There is still a little more of Calvino's work for me to read, but I have now covered his most famous works. And I am delighted to have "discovered" Marcovaldo in a Shanghai bookstore which introduced me to one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century only a few years ago. ( )
  madepercy | Dec 26, 2018 |
What an experience this book was! It took me two tries to finish it, but I sailed through on my second try. I would warn anyone who wants to read this postmodern novel, to allot enough time to it as it is not an easy read. Within this novel itself are ten unfinished and unrelated novels. If that doesn't scare you away, prepare yourself for some intriguing reading. Know that this novel is about books and reading. The plot weaves around the inserted novels which are incorporated for a reason you, the Reader, will only find out at the end. I was totally absorbed in this book my second go round. The only thing I found disconcerting was that the writing was so good, I often wondered if some of what the author was trying to say was simply floating away over my head. It is too involved a novel for me to ever consider giving it a reread, but I would love to try another Calvino novel...after a short break to unwind! ( )
1 vote SqueakyChu | Aug 13, 2018 |
This was every bit as good as the last time that I read it.

For me, this is an 'event book', one of those novels that divides reading into a before and after. Wikipedia quotes David Mitchell as saying that the book has dated and is less impressive than it was. I suspect that I know which writer's work will still be read a hundred years from now (and Calvino's already been dead for three decades)... IOAWNAT is an education for any novelist wishing to experiment with the form. And at the same time, it really is laugh-out-loud funny for much of the time. Echoes of Borges' 'Fictions' reverberate around this novel and it's none the worse for that. It has to be read for Chapter 9 alone, the Ataguitania sequence, one of the smartest, funniest passages of writing in modern fiction.

In case you don't know this book, I'm not going to give away anything about the story. Suffice to say, I loved it but for those looking for a 'safe' read, this isn't it. ( )
1 vote PZR | Jul 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
Re-reading a novel you loved is like revisiting a city where you loved: you do it in the company of your younger self. You may not get on with your younger self, or else the absence of what is missing colours your judgment. Despite my reservations, however, I wouldn't want a word of If on a winter's night a traveller to be different, and if Calvino's ghost seeks me out after this, I'll still get down on my knees and pay homage.

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
功, 脇Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooley, StevenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, JormaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melander, VivecaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raboni, GiovanniAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raboni, GiovanniAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sallenave, DanièleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salu, MichaelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strömberg, RagnarPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walsmith, SheltonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Washington, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Daniele Ponchiroli
First words
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.
"Your case gives me new hope," I said to him. "With me, more and more often I happen to pick up a novel that has just appeared and I find myself reading the same book I have read a hundred times."
In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days are Numbered.
What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from time and measurable space.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
If on a winter's night a traveler

Outside the town of Malbork

Leaning from the steep slope

Without fear of wind or vertigo

Looks down in the gathering shadow

In a network of lines that enlace

In a network of lines that intersect

On the carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon

Around an empty grave

What story down there awaits its end?
Haiku summary
Reader do beware / You are just a reader, yet / Here you're subject too. (Ludi_Ling)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156439611, Paperback)

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is a marvel of ingenuity, an experimental text that looks longingly back to the great age of narration--"when time no longer seemed stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded." Italo Calvino's novel is in one sense a comedy in which the two protagonists, the Reader and the Other Reader, ultimately end up married, having almost finished If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. In another, it is a tragedy, a reflection on the difficulties of writing and the solitary nature of reading. The Reader buys a fashionable new book, which opens with an exhortation: "Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade." Alas, after 30 or so pages, he discovers that his copy is corrupted, and consists of nothing but the first section, over and over. Returning to the bookshop, he discovers the volume, which he thought was by Calvino, is actually by the Polish writer Bazakbal. Given the choice between the two, he goes for the Pole, as does the Other Reader, Ludmilla. But this copy turns out to be by yet another writer, as does the next, and the next.

The real Calvino intersperses 10 different pastiches--stories of menace, spies, mystery, premonition--with explorations of how and why we read, make meanings, and get our bearings or fail to. Meanwhile the Reader and Ludmilla try to reach, and read, each other. If on a Winter's Night is dazzling, vertiginous, and deeply romantic. "What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:37 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Two readers, a man and a woman, pursue story lines that intrigue them, in a novel about reading novels.

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