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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by…

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (original 1979; edition 1982)

by Italo Calvino, William Weaver (Translator)

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8,117156391 (4.06)1 / 400
Title:If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Authors:Italo Calvino
Other authors:William Weaver (Translator)
Info:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1982), Edition: 259 pages, Paperback, 260 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

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

  1. 111
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (ateolf)
  2. 60
    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
    Jacques the Fatalist by Denis Diderot (macflaherty)
  6. 10
    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. 10
    The Letter Killers Club by Sigismund Krzyzanowski (aidan_w-m)
  8. 00
    The Book / The Writer by Zoran Zivkovic (ateolf)
  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. 11
    Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian (susanbooks)
  12. 00
    The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (slickdpdx)
  13. 00
    Budapest by Chico Buarque (hippietrail)
  14. 01
    Chapel Road by Louis Paul Boon (ateolf)

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English (139)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (157)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
I am not quite sure whether this book is arrogantly pretentious and convoluted, full of vain conceit, or if it is clever and elegant and insightful. One thing I am sure of is that this book about reading and readers and the truth and trickery in books will definitely delight those who like their books meta.

It is even meta enough to have the description perfectly contained within the story of the book:

'I have had the idea of writing a novel composed only of beginnings of novels. The protagonist could be a Reader who is continually interrupted. The Reader buys the new novel A by the author Z. But it is a defective copy, he can't go beyond the beginning... He returns it to the bookshop to have the volume exchanged...

I could write it all in the second person: you, Reader... I could also introduce a young lady, the Other Reader, and a counterfeiter-translator... and an old writer who keeps a diary like this diary'

If encountering that sort of thing in your fiction feels like cheap trickery and laziness, this is probably not the book for you. But if you like the cleverness and the self awareness I have never encountered a book that does it quite like this one. ( )
  atreic | Mar 23, 2015 |
Read All My Reviews at http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com


You, The Reader, are standing in a huge Waterstones in London. You're not planning to buy more books, because you still have to take a plane home, and you have limited space in you're luggage left. You're waiting for some one, and as you wait, your eyes go over a table filled with books. One of them has a title that attracts you, so you pick it up, get a seat and start reading the first few pages, just to pass the time. By the time your friend shows up, you know you won't be able to leave without the book. You end up buying it, so you can discover the tale for yourself.

Original Title: Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore

This book is special in many ways. First, there are many different stories we get a look at, but we never get to see how they end, as the stories are always interrupted in one way or the other. Still, they leave you thinking you wanted to now how they continued, some more than others of course. This was the level I really liked, all the different stories and how they were connected somehow.

Then there is the story about The Reader & The Other Reader. Like I said before, I was impulsively bought this book, just because I thought the first few were so special and intriguing. But I have to say that at a certain point, as the story turns out to be less and less realistic, I lost a bit of interest. At that point I felt like the post-modernism was just taken one step too far. But overall, it's a very special read, I'm quite sure you won't find another book just like it. ( )
1 vote Floratina | Jan 4, 2015 |
I've started this book twice before in the last 20 years, and never got very far (which is odd for me). So when my bookgroup decided to read it, I was glad that I'd attack it for real. However, after reading more than half, I gave myself permission to not read another word.

What an odd book. I have to say, some of the story "starts" were interesting and well written, but by about the 5th one, I got tired of being dropped mid-story only to return to the author's self-indulgent treatise on his disgruntlement with the writing and publishing process. If you carefully pick through, there are interesting philosophical sentences on human nature and reading, but the excess around these made for my feeling it was a tremendous waste of time... and when do I ever feel that way about a book?!! ( )
3 vote asawyer | Dec 30, 2014 |
Postmodern is not my thing, but Italo Calvino’s [If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler] captivated me and surprised me.

Meta, meta, meta. Half of Calvino’s collection of interconnected stories is told in the second-person, as if the reader is the narrator, and the things happening on the page are happening to the reader. Calvino’s inclusion of each reader in the process of telling the story fosters and helps to develop an ongoing conversation about the nature of reading and writing. It’s brilliant:
“Reading,” he says, “is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something that is not present, something that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead. …” “Or that is not present because it does not yet exist, something desired, feared, possible or impossible,” Ludmilla says. “Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be. …”

The other half of the book consists of the first chapters of ten novels, different in setting, style, and tone. They are consumed by the reader – both in the book and outside the book – only to be abandoned in mid-stride. There are spy thrillers, historical period pieces, romances, and philosophical essays in these chapters, and each encourages the pursuit on an ending that is certain never to come.

Calvino’s writing skill is on display with every new story, as he manages to slip into a new skin at the beginning of each new story. The list of authors who could pull off such diversity is pretty short. Why is Calvino not more well-known? He was considered for the Nobel in literature, though I can’t say which year. On the basis of [If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler] alone, he establishes himself as a master writer.

Bottom Line: A master writer who shows off a rare diversity of talent in a postmodern examination of reading and writing.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
9 vote blackdogbooks | Nov 9, 2014 |
I've been puzzling over what to say about this book since I finished it a few days ago. On the one hand, I was entranced especially by the first chapter and dazzled by Calvino's imagination and writing. On the other hand, I felt strangely uninvolved in what happened as the book progressed.

The novel is written in two alternating parts. In the first chapter, the Reader, addressed as "you," but who then becomes a character in the novel, is about to start to read this very book, If on a winter's night a traveler. He then reads first chapter of that book, as does the reader of this book. In the second chapter, the Reader is frustrated, because after the beginning chapter the book is filled with blank pages, and resolves to visit the bookstore to exchange the book. There he meets the Other Reader, Ludmilla, and is attracted to her, and the bookseller gives him what is supposedly a good copy of the book but in fact, in the next chapter, turns out to be the first chapter of another book, called Outside the town of Malbork. Thus the chapters alternate: the even numbers continue the story of the Reader and Other Reader and the many other characters they encounter as they search for a complete book, and the odd chapters are the first chapters of a series of books by different authors. Along the way, the Reader and Other Reader meet professors, writers, translators, and even revolutionaries who ban books.

This is really a book about reading, and also about writing, and a little bit about a lot of other things including academic politics, publishing and bookselling, advertising, and even politics. It is also a little bit about love, or at least sex.
I also enjoyed the first chapters of the books the Reader reads, and Calvino's ability to stop each one just when the Reader (and the reader) are getting interested. He is clever and a great writer who can capture the ambiance of different locations in a few paragraphs.

My absolute favorite part of the book was in the first chapter, where Calvino brilliantly describes a book lover's trip to a bookstore, and the categorization of books into groups that he or she can skip or that intrigue him or her. The section is too long to quote here, but here are a few examples of both sets of categories.

For books that can be skipped: "Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Read But Your Days Are Numbered . . . Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Should Read First . . .Books That Everybody Has Read So It's As If You Read Them Too . . ."

And for books that capture you: "the Books You Want To Own So They'll Be Handy Just In Case, the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer, the Books To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves, the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified" and finally "the Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It's Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them."

This was a book I've Always Pretended To Have Read and I'm glad that, thanks to the encouragement on another LTer's reading thread, I found Time To Sit Down And Really Read it. My copy dates back 30+ years to when the paperback edition originally came out, and the spine split while I was reading it and I had to tape it up.
8 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (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 (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, JormaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melander, VivecaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sallenave, DanièleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strömberg, RagnarPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary 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.
Stai per cominciare a leggere il nuovo romanzo Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore di Italo Calvino.
Už ve výkladu knihkupectví jsi rozeznal přebal s titulem, který jsi hledal. Vydávaje se po této vizuální stopě, prodral ses do obchodu přes husté zátarasy Knih Které Jsi Nečetl. Zachmuřeně na tebe zíraly ze stolů a z polic a snažily se podlomit tvou vůli. Ty však dávno víš, že nesmíš projevit slabost, že se mezi nimi nalézají celé hektary Knih Bez Jejichž Četby Se Obejdeš, Knih Určených K Jiným Účelům Než K Četbě, Knih Které Jsi Už Četl Aniž Jsi Je Musel Vůbec Otevřít Neboť Náležejí Do Kategorie Toho Co Bylo Přečteno Ještě Předtím Než To Bylo Napsáno. A tak překonáváš první pás šancí, načež proti tobě vyráží pěchota Knih Které By Sis Jistě Rád Přečetl Kdybys Tu Byl Věčně Jenže Máš Bohužel Jenom Tenhle Život. Rychlým úhybným manévrem jim unikáš a vrháš se doprostřed šiků Knih Které Máš V Úmyslu Si Přečíst Ale Dříve Si Musíš Přečíst Ještě Některé Jiné, Knih Které Jsou Moc Drahé A Které Si Koupíš Později Až Je O Polovinu Zlevní, Knih Které Viz Výše Až Vyjdou Jako Paperbacky, Knih Které Si Můžeš Od Někoho Vypůjčit, Knih Které Už Všichni Četli Takže Máš Pocit Že Jsi Je Už Četl I Ty. Odraziv tyto výpady, míříš pod věže pevnosti, kde ti kladou odpor
Knihy Které Sis Chtěl Přečíst Už Dávno,
Knihy Které Léta Beznadějně Sháníš,
Knihy Které Se Týkají Něčeho Čím Se Právě Zabýváš,
Knihy Které Chceš Mít Abys Je Měl Pro Každý Případ Při Ruce,
Knihy Které Bys Mohl Dát Stranou A Přečíst Si Je Eventuálně Letos V Létě,
Knihy Které Patří K Jiným Knihám A Ve Tvém Regálu Zatím Chybějí,
Knihy Které V Tobě Vyvolávají Náhlou Frenetickou A Ne Zcela Odůvodnitelnou Zvědavost.
Nuže, dokázal jsi neohraničený počet sil, jež si nalezl v poli, zredukovat na množinu, která je pravda značně rozsáhlá, nicméně kalkulovatelná v řádu konečných čísel; nic na tom nemění ani skutečnost, že tato relativní úleva je ze zálohy ohrožována Knihami Které Jsi Četl Strašně Dávno A Měl By Sis Je Přečíst Znovu a Knihami O Kterých Jsi Vždycky Tvrdil Žes Je Četl A Je Nejvyšší Čas Aby Sis Je Přečetl Doopravdy. (s. 11-12)
Milostné spojení a četba se nejvíce podobají v tom, že se v nich otevírají časy a prostory odlišné od těch, jež umíme změřit. (s. 158)
Již ze zmatené improvizace prvního setkání lze vyčíst možnost budoucího soužití. Dnes jste jeden předmětem četby druhého, každý čte v tom druhém svůj dosud nenapsaný příběh. Budete-li spolu i zítra, Čtenáři a Čtenářko, budete-li uléhat do stejného lože jako řádná dvojice, každý rozsvítí lampu nad svou poduškou a pohrouží se do své knihy; dvě souběžné četby budou doprovodem přicházejícího spánku; nejdřív ty a pak ty zhasnete své lampy; při návratu z oddělených světů se letmo znovu shledáte ve tmě, kde se smazávají všechny vzdálenosti, a nato vás různoběžné sny znovu odvedou jinam, tebe jedním směrem a tebe druhým. Nevysmívejte se však této perspektivě manželské harmonie: jaký šťastnější obraz dvojice byste dovedli postavit proti ní? (s. 158-159)
"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
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Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:44 -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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