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If On A Winter's Night A Traveller…
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If On A Winter's Night A Traveller (Vintage classics) (original 1979; edition 1992)

by Italo Calvino

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,618175354 (4.07)1 / 430
Member:Catterick
Title:If On A Winter's Night A Traveller (Vintage classics)
Authors:Italo Calvino
Info:Vintage Classics (1992), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (1979)

  1. 122
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (ateolf)
  2. 80
    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
    In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom (GlebtheDancer)
    GlebtheDancer: Metafiction, characters appear as both actors in and tellers of the same story
  5. 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.
  6. 20
    Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (macflaherty)
  7. 00
    The Book / The Writer by Zoran Zivkovic (ateolf)
  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. 00
    Music, in a Foreign Language by Andrew Crumey (alzo)
  11. 00
    Budapest by Chico Buarque (hippietrail)
  12. 00
    The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (slickdpdx)
  13. 11
    Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian (susanbooks)
  14. 01
    Chapel Road by Louis Paul Boon (ateolf)
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English (157)  French (5)  Italian (4)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (176)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
You are reading a book which opens with the line, “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveller,” and you think, sigh, metafiction. But this is Italo Calvino, and so you take the advice Calvino offers: “Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought”– Hang on, every other? How will you know which ones to dispel and which ones to keep? And yet, it is perhaps sound advice as you read about a reader who reads a book only for his reading to be cut short, and when he goes looking for a complete copy of the novel he was reading he discovers he had been reading an entirely different book altogether… And at the book shop he meets a young woman who is also interested in this literary mystery he has uncovered, and together they discover yet a third novel mixed in with the previous two. But then he meets the young woman’s sister and becomes involved in her schemes… and at some point both young women end up in one of the narratives you are reading about him reading… And yet despite this literary shell game, where the narrative peas seem to proliferate out of sight under the cups, the whole is intensely readable and not in the slightest bit confusing. In parts it reminded me of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, although without the prissiness. It certainly convinced me I should read more Calvino – If on a winter’s night a traveller may be one long literary trick, but it’s gloriously done. Bravo. ( )
  iansales | Jul 27, 2016 |
This is a book that, if it sounds interesting to you, it is probably worth trying.

As it turned out, I really didn't like it.

It has some interesting things to say on reading and writing, but I had a couple of major problems with it.

The first, is that the story is written in the second person. Outside of a Chose Your Own Adventure, I've always found second person POV very distancing from the story, even when "you" is clearly a character in the book, not the reader. In this case, "you" is explicitly the person reading the book, and "you, the reader" are unambiguously male, which I am not. It helped, somewhat, when I mentally recast the POV character as Bob.

The other problem I had may be partly caused by the translation, certainly it is partly due to my personal tastes. That problem is the books Bob starts, but never manages to finish. They make up half the book and I had two issues with them.

1)They all felt like they were written by the same person. Okay, they were, but in the book they're supposed to be by different authors and in different genres, but they never captured that feeling. Maybe they were more distinct in the original or maybe this was just beyond the author's ability. (I suppose it's possible this was a deliberate choice too.)

2)They were all boring and I honestly couldn't understand why Bob would go to such lengths to try to finish reading them. The most promising one involved two characters having a hard time disposing of a corpse, but it was full of just as many dull introspective passages and poorly flowing flashbacks as all the rest. What should have been tense, or funny, ended up a snoozefest.

I don't regret reading it, it was short enough that it didn't massively overstay its welcome, but I have no urge to reread it or read anything else by the author. ( )
1 vote Lostshadows | Jun 27, 2016 |
If you haven't yet read this book, and you have any interest in meta-fiction or fiction-as-process, then you have neglected one of the greatest treasures of modern world literature. While some find this book a bit daunting, it is worth committing to read at least 75 pages, at which point, you should be well invested in the plot(s). Calvino is a master storyteller, and this book should be savored rather than read. A modern classic, definitely required reading. ( )
  anna_hiller | Jun 22, 2016 |
I liked the idea of the stories separated and mixed, but I wanted smething more to happen to bring everything together at the end. Entertaining but not absorbing ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
Calvino has written ten short stories linked by the narrator’s obsessive/compulsive desire to find the author/authors of 10 short stories. Each short story could stand on its own merit, but Calvino tries to link them by telling us that the author of the first story is really the author of the second story, who is actually the author of the third story, and so on and so on ad nauseum. The premise of the ten stories in the novel is based on this sentence; “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, in a network of lines that intersect, on a carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon, around an empty grave, what story down there awaits its end?” Calvino tries to makes this literary mishmash into a detective story by asking, “Who is the real author and where is he so I can interview him?” Ultimately the book failed for me for I grew weary keeping all the titles, authors, characters, locations, and plots straight. In fact, I even wrote a short summary of each story up to including Chapter 8, but eventually I lost interest, became disengaged from the whole process, and read the rest of the book just to finish it off. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (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 (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooley, StevenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, JormaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melander, VivecaTranslatorsecondary 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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Epigraph
Dedication
For Daniele Ponchiroli
First words
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.
Quotations
"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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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)

Calvino shows that the novel, far from being a dead form, is capable of endless mutations. If on a winter's night a traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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