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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by…
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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (original 1979; edition 1981)

by Italo Calvino, Willliam Weaver (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,760None430 (4.06)1 / 349
Member:peirastic
Title:If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Authors:Italo Calvino
Other authors:Willliam Weaver (Translator)
Info:Harvest (1981), Paperback, 260 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Rating:****
Tags:20th century, postmodernism, metafiction, fiction, italian literature

Work details

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

1001 (48) 1001 books (42) 20th century (140) books (49) books about books (59) Calvino (40) classic (38) experimental (67) fantasy (32) fiction (1,122) Italian (315) Italian fiction (48) Italian literature (265) Italo Calvino (31) Italy (172) literature (198) magical realism (68) metafiction (181) novel (254) oulipo (55) own (32) postmodern (142) postmodernism (97) read (113) reading (38) Roman (33) to-read (151) translated (47) translation (94) unread (63)
  1. 111
    The Master and Margarita by Mihail Bulgakov (ateolf)
  2. 50
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Different yet both well-written approaches to meta-fiction.
  3. 41
    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. 00
    Cesta na jih by Michal Ajvaz (Artran)
    Artran: Metafiction, stories within stories, tale about power of storytelling, Ajvaz wittingly elaborate Calvino's aesthetics.
  8. 00
    The Book / The Writer by Zoran Zivkovic (ateolf)
  9. 00
    Music, in a Foreign Language by Andrew Crumey (alzo)
  10. 00
    The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (slickdpdx)
  11. 00
    Budapest by Chico Buarque (hippietrail)
  12. 11
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  13. 01
    Chapel Road by Louis Paul Boon (ateolf)
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English (134)  French (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Beautiful, brilliant, smart and weird. All I need from book to love it. ( )
  Lui1313 | Mar 14, 2014 |
I read this after reading and liking Cosmicomics. After what seemed like a strong opening, I found this book to be too repetitive. I've noticed that most reviews of the book are very positive. I like the writing style which is similar to Cosmicomics. I may still try another book by Calvino, which I hope I'll like more, but I can't recommend this one, except to say that other people liked it. ( )
  dougb56586 | Feb 1, 2014 |
Not so gem-like as Borges, but still a really clever master of meta-fiction. ( )
1 vote wrk1 | Jan 15, 2014 |
A reader sits down to start reading Italo Calvino’s latest novel. He gets through a single chapter only to find blank pages where the second should be. The pattern repeats throughout the novel in an obvious production error, so the Reader gives up and plans to take the book back to the bookstore the next morning. There we meet a second Reader, a woman named Ludmilla who is passionate about reading and is exchanging the same novel. The shopkeeper explains to them that not only were there novels faulty, the actual story was not even Calvino’s but an insertion of a different novel by a different author. Already engrossed in the story, both Readers decide to buy a proper copy of this new novel instead. When they resume reading that night, they find that this new novel has absolutely no relation to the one they’ve started.

Thus starts the two Readers’ adventure to try and secure an ending to one of the countless novels they encounter. The story is divided between the actions and thoughts of the original reader and the chapters of what he reads throughout his journey. He travels to distant lands, encounters numerous readers with vastly different opinions on reading and becomes embroiled in literary conspiracies, all in pursuit of being able to finally finish just one novel.

I gave this novel the subgenre metafiction because it’s an important factor to note when deciding whether or not to read it. As with all of Calvino’s works, the plot of this story is far from linear or anything you’d expect from your average story. This novel is fiction about fiction (the meaning of the term metafiction), and urges the actual reader (though the character readers do this as well) to think about reading and all of the varieties of reading that exist in the world. Why do you read? What do you look for in a novel? What is the most important thing you aim to get out of reading? This novel brushes on the topic of the writer as well, but primarily this story displays the vast diversity of readers and kinds of reading. The writing is witty and at times mind-teasing, but you’ll find that you learn a lot about yourself as you follow the path of the Reader. ( )
2 vote wangthatsea | Jan 2, 2014 |
I liked how he would write the first chapters of a multitude of novels in different genres, breaking off when the action came to its most exciting moment, over and over again. I'm not so sure the framing story actually makes much sense but I'd have to read it again to be certain. ( )
  rmagahiz | Dec 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (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 (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary 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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Original title
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Important events
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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.
Stai per cominciare a leggere il nuovo romanzo Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore di Italo Calvino.
Quotations
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
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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 5 descriptions

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