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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by…

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

by Italo Calvino, Willliam Weaver (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,753180346 (4.07)1 / 434
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
Tags:20th century, postmodernism, metafiction, fiction, italian literature

Work details

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

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    Artran: Metafiction, stories within stories, tale about power of storytelling, Ajvaz wittingly elaborate Calvino's aesthetics.
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English (162)  French (5)  Italian (4)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  English (1)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  English (181)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
I love/hated this book. It is something of a frame narrative in a hall of mirrors. Both fun and frustrating. ( )
  PaulGodfread | Sep 23, 2016 |
I love/hated this book. It is something of a frame narrative in a hall of mirrors. Both fun and frustrating. ( )
  PaulGodfread | Sep 23, 2016 |
You have just finished reading Italo Calvino’s novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Now, you want to write a review of the book that summarizes your thoughts and feelings about the experience. However, given the playfulness and complexity of the work itself, you are finding writing that summary a very hard thing to do. So you decide to follow the advice that the author himself offers the reader at the beginning of the book: “Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.” Unfortunately, though, you find that counsel to be considerably less helpful than you might have hoped!

You begin by trying to describe the structure and plot, but even that proves challenging because this book is about as meta as any fiction you have ever encountered. The novel you read is divided into 12 chapters, the first ten of which are each split into two parts. The first halves of those initial chapters tell the story of how you, the reader, while simply trying read something new and interesting, become immersed in a complicated international conspiracy in which a secret cabal called the Organization of Apocryphal Power led by a sinister language translator is apparently intent on trying to undermine the value of fiction itself. In the second part of each chapter, you then confront the beginning of a different novel, all entailing a completely separate story told in a different style. However, all ten of those books are cut off at a dramatic moment in their respective plots, which compels your globe-trotting effort to find how each of them ends.

So, did you enjoy the experience of reading If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino? Well, mostly yes but, you reluctantly admit, a little no as well. On one hand, you found the book to be remarkably inventive and unlike anything you have ever read before; the influence it has had on other novels you also like (e.g., David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas) is abundantly clear. Further, you thought that the author’s frequent ruminations on the nature of reading and the implicit relationship between the reader and the writer were really interesting. You also were intrigued by several of the novel fragments and fully understood the desire to find out how they concluded. On the other hand, there were times when you thought the frame story to be too convoluted and you were somewhat frustrated by the underdeveloped nature of how your love affair with the Other Reader was told. Still, you will have no problem recommending this post-modern classic to any other you who might contemplate reading it. ( )
1 vote browner56 | Sep 3, 2016 |
An interesting attempt at involving the reader as more than just a passive observer. What appears at first to be a simple printer's error evolves into something much weirder. Ultimately though, I liked the first and last framing chapters the best, and I liked some of the "first chapters" but disliked others. That's the best description for this that I can think of, it's a book of first chapters. ( )
  5hrdrive | Aug 21, 2016 |
I could not get into this one. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (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
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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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