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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)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,307159375 (4.06)1 / 415
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  5. 20
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  6. 10
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  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.
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English (142)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
Dedicated to but also challenging the idiosyncrasies of readers and writers, this experimental, postmodern novel reads like a serious thesis / is an older sibling of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. The idea is a bit on the nose - stores within a story about what makes up a story while acknowledging itself as a story - and would have become a cliche in the hands of a less capable writer. The disjointed chapters, the different interpretation of the same event, the second person pronouns, etc are just some of the hallmarks of this fun starter into postmodern literature.

- as a book might elicit different responses from its readers due to their own background and experiences different, my experience with the book begins before the story even starts. My Vintage Classics edition came with a Translator's Note page which looked awfully much like a Dedications page in terms of position in the book and brevity of the page. Imagine my shock when I see the initials WW in what I thought was the dedications page.
- by only writing the beginnings of several different genres - an impressive feat considering how disparate yet engrossing, convincing and evocative they were -, the author could write the most outlandish things without having to get out of its cliffhanger predicaments, thus avoiding any anticlimactic resolutions. On one hand, not knowing where the stories go is highly frustrating but on the other, they were so enjoyable and the potential for a good read outweighs the not knowing. Page 177 of the novel of course self-references this, much better than I have. Double aside: the incomplete stories could serve as a good exercise for a writing course.
- I was disappointed when the you turned out to be a he and felt tricked when the sudden switch to a she-you only lasted for a few pages. What is the point of using you, a gender-neutral, speak-directly-to-the-reader pronoun, if you're still going to impose this arbitrary rule. "You" should only paint someone as blankly as possible so the reader-you can situate themselves as the rightful you, without being jerked around to fit one mould or another. I was particularly uncomfortable when the novel tried to impose on my personality as a man who would creepily pursue a woman who is clearly not interested and be possessive about a woman I only just met because women are not objects, did you know. I felt vindicated about his-your-my awfulness when his-your-my attempts to impress upon the woman his-your-my false knowledge of books were pretty immediately shot down by her more expansive readings.
- I enjoyed the little titles twist which was obvious in hindsight, as all good twists should be, but did not enjoy the marriage for reasons listed above.
- Recommended for high-school students. ( )
  kitzyl | Nov 6, 2015 |
A strange and imaginative book. It's a fictional narrative of the required length but I couldn't say it was actually a novel. Very clever. ( )
  Lukerik | Oct 8, 2015 |
Not quite sure what to make of this one. Calvino has crafted an amusing and clever book about reading, writing, and books. There were many passages that had me laughing and many that had me thinking, so I liked it in that respect. But part of me wondered why I needed to read to the end of the book once I figured out the pattern and form. In that sense, I found it a little repetitive and boring. It's odd to feel that a book is at once innovating and boring! ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 29, 2015 |
This is a favourite book of mine, I love the multi-layered narrative, the diverse fragments of novels, the monologues on books, books shops and reading, and the sheer inventiveness of it all. It's a clever, experimental book, but it's also fun to read. ( )
1 vote AlisonSakai | Jul 21, 2015 |
If ever there was a book written expressly towards my interests and ability, If on a winter's night a traveler is one. Someone mentioned it to me years ago, possibly when I was still in university, or maybe during one of the early SantaThings, and I stuck it on my To Read list. It lingered there for quite some time, until the book I planned to take on vacation got lost and I needed a last minute substitution from the library. I no longer remembered the particulars of the novel or why I had put it on my TBR list, and so had no real expectations or anticipations for what I was about to read when I finally opened If on a winter's night a traveler at the pool.

I love novelists who play with reader's expectations, whether through language or structure, so while I was a bit bemused at the first page or two with the second-person pov, I quickly found myself completely delighted with the structure of the story - and also the book itself: it's all about the acts of reading, writing, and the relationship between author and readers or between readers themselves. The primary method of looking at these subjects is through alternating chapters wherein a narrative grows around The Reader You (who is trying to read Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, just as the out-of-book reader is doing) and the beginnings of novels he encounters.

One thread I found intriguing, and which I will need to reread the book to have a better understanding, is of the "truth" or "reality" of books and the author. There is a question of authenticity - is it the "real" book the author wrote? can the book in the author's mind be accurately transmitted to the reader? and if not, which one is the real book? what happens when you add translations to the mix? if someone copies a writer's style and forges their name such that no one would know it's a forgery, does it have any worth as a real book or is it worthless as a fake? - which ultimately leads to the dual question "what is reality, and who creates it?"

I believe chapter 8 might be the pivot of the book. It is possibly the most 'meta' of any chapter and is the first to plainly link the inside book to the outside book, a sort of literary möbius strip. It's a multi-layered möbius, in fact, because it also brings the some of the previous novel beginnings into the reality of The Reader's narrative, and is the point when I felt The Reader's narrative shifted to mingle with the novel beginnings. At any rate, chapter 8 is when I sat up and said "wait a second, how did Calvino know exactly what to write to reach my heart?" - so many aspects felt exactly written to appeal to the kinds of things I like to read and to challenge my brain with, even when they were elements that stretched my comfort zone. It is playful and quietly satirical in spots, but also serious and weighty. It deconstructs the entire concept of "book", but also celebrates it.

I can't possibly give a succinct overview of this book beyond what I've written here, nor can I recommend it to just anyone. It's not an easy read, and it's going to be too weird or postmodern for loads of people. But it is exactly to my taste, and I love it tremendously, and I am so glad I finally borrowed a copy. (And now that I've just finished reading it, I'm craving a reread of other postmodern writers on my shelf - Borges and Cortazar and Rushdie...) ( )
2 vote keristars | May 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (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
Kapari, JormaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melander, VivecaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sallenave, DanièleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strömberg, RagnarPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary 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.
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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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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