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The Baron In The Trees by Italo Calvino
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The Baron In The Trees (original 1957; edition 1977)

by Italo Calvino

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3,370402,335 (4.05)99
Member:mashiox
Title:The Baron In The Trees
Authors:Italo Calvino
Info:Mariner Books (1977), Edition: 1, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino (1957)

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English (26)  Italian (5)  Spanish (5)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Set in 18th century Italy, following conflicts with his aristocratic parents and after being ordered to eat a bizarre deliberately disgusting snail dish prepared by his sociopathic sister, the 12 year old Baron Cosimo rebels and escapes up a tree. The initial reaction is that this quite standard act of defiance won't last long, and he'll be down by nightfall. But Cosimo is a stubborn child, and the standard act soon becomes anything but.

That afternoon he travels from tree to tree to meet Viola, in neighbouring grounds, and is enraptured by her, in his juvenile way. Her spiteful nature dares him to come down and lose this dare-game to her. So he stays up, to win the game, and possibly also secretly prove himself to her (she returns decades later for the most tempestuous emotive section of the novel). These are the initial impetuses that keep Cosimo in the trees in the coming days. But then the habit takes on a life of its own, becomes a kind of life trial, and he stays in the trees for weeks, months, and then for the entire rest of his long life, as this one act utterly defines him - and makes him famous Europe-wide.

Being in the trees gives Cosimo a unique perspective, both literal and metaphorical, on the ground and people below. This distance, rather than separating him from those around him, instead gives him an objective perspective. Despite being a Baron with vast lands, he adopts principles of equality and socialism. He befriends and helps the peasants and thieves around him. He becomes a dedicated steward of the forests and birds around him. He reads voraciously, mainly from enlightenment scholars, and mimics many enlightenment ideas, and this transforms him into a polymath.

Around Cosimo the main characters are at least as vivid and eccentric. For instance, his mother is obsessed with military matters and seems only able to understand and interact with the world through such a lens. And his snail-feeding sister comes back as an adult to live on the family estate with her husband, and demonstrates with apparent glee the mechanism of the guillotine (following the French Revolution), chopping off the heads of various live animals.

This larger-than-life, subtly magic realist plot is hard to capture in a single interpretation, partly because there are various distinct stages to Cosimo's life in the trees, as he goes from child rebel through to wise leader, jealous lover, and eventually to mad old man. But the slippery nature of the hidden meaning generates a richness of views, as if the ideas themselves are the branches of a tree, hard to support your weight, so numerous as to obscure your vision.

Compounding this fog is the clearly meta-fictional theme. At one point Prince Andrei from War and Peace turns up, for instance. But far more than this is the constant theme of the unreliable witness. The narrator, Cosimo's apparently conventional brother, regularly relates events from the perspective of either people classed as insane, or otherwise seriously misleading. Sometimes the same event is retold multiple times, in multiple different ways. The times, too, are saturated with superstition. Many of these obviously apocryphal viewpoints concern Cosimo himself, but so many other examples demonstrate that the viewpoint of most people in these times is replete with fantastical delusions that they all seem to relish in. Then, at the end, the narrator makes explicit that this is just effectively a story, pieced together imperfectly, haphazardly, dreamlike.

As an adult fable, with these exuberant characters and dramatic scenes, The Baron in The Trees is exciting, gripping reading. But the hidden, almost fractal-like structure in this novel make it clear that there are far deeper concepts at play, and because of this the book, and its over-arching metaphor of living in trees, live on in the memory many days after the last words are read. ( )
  RachDan | Sep 13, 2017 |
4,5 stars, hands down. A compelling story of young son of a Baron who, when standing against his fathers authority climbs up in a three and stays in trees the rest of his life. So many interesting angles of life in this relatively short novel. Cosimo stays in the trees for two reasons. Out of love to sinferosa and out of conviction that in order to examine world you have to above it. His ideas go about society go largely unnoticed as people tend to see him as a village idiot. Meanwhile the world around goes gets more violent and confusing.. ( )
  Kindnist85 | May 25, 2016 |
Il narratore ripercorre la lunga vicenda del fratello, Cosimo di Rondò, vissuto nella seconda metà del XVIII secolo a Ombrosa, in Liguria. Cosimo, per sfuggire a una punizione inflittagli dai suoi educatori, decide di salire su un albero per non ridiscendere mai più. Cosimo si costruisce un mondo aereo dove diversi personaggi della cultura e della politica (Napoleone compreso) lo vanno a trovare, testimoniandogli la loro ammirazione. Vive anche una tormentata storia d'amore con la volubile Viola. Cosimo muore vecchio, senza mai discendere in terra: ammalato, in punto di morte, si aggrappa alla fune di una mongolfiera e scompare mentre attraversa, così appeso, il mare.
  npl.mattixleggere | Apr 17, 2016 |
To be completely honest, I truly believe that this book should be on of the ONLY reading requirements for Jr. High and High School. It is absolutely breath taking. Anyone can take a number of things from this story. One of the most amazing books I've ever read in my life. ( )
  gracelovera | Nov 3, 2015 |
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Cosimo, a young eighteenth-century Italian nobleman, rebels by climbing into the trees to remain there for the rest of his life. He adapts efficiently to an arboreal existence and even has love affairs.

My Review: This being a famous and well-studied book, I suppose the publisher didn't feel the need to do a sell-job on it. That little squib is barely a log-line!

I read this book first in ~1974, because it had a cool-looking jacket. It also had an Italian author, which was also cool. But the reading of it was a revelation because the titular Baron was the perfect rebel, firm of purpose and adamant of spirit. And all over what seems, at first anyway, such a ridiculous cause: Refusing to eat snails. I'd never had snails offered to me at that point, and I was in full agreement with the Baron. But as the pages flipped on, I could see what was really at stake was the right to set one's own boundaries, to establish a core identity by and for one's own self.

All adolescents resonate to that theme, I think, and that's why I'm surprised that this book isn't required reading until college. It would serve well in junior or senior year of high school. Anything that deals with the process and price of becoming and being an individual seems to me to be a good fit for that age. Plus it's beautifully translated, so it's easy to read.

And for the record, I ate snails the first time they were offered to me. They were delicious. ( )
  richardderus | Oct 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agostinelli, Maria EnricaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alin, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baranelli, LucaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bertrand, JulietteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Calafate, José ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Calvo Montoro, María JosefaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Capmany, Maria AurèliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cavilla, TonioPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cavilla, TonioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colquhoun, ArchibaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hagemann, IngeborgTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maria Enrica AgostinelliIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miravitlles, FrancescTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moulin, NilsonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saarikoski, PenttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valter, EdgarIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
von Nostitz, OswaltTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodhouse, John RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
A Paloma
First words
It was on the fifteenth of June, 1767, that Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo, my brother, sat among us for the last time.
C'est le 15 juin 1767 que Côme Laverse du Rondeau, mon frère, s'assit au milieu de nous pour la dernière fois. Je m'en souviens comme si c'était hier. Nous étions dans la salle à manger de notre villa d'Ombreuse ; les fenêtres encadraient les branches touffues de la grande yeuse du parc. Il était midi : c'est à cette heure-là que notre famille, obéissant à une vieille tradition, se mettait à table ; le déjeuner au milieu de l'après-midi, mode venue de la nonchalante Cour de France et adoptée par toute la noblesse, n'était pas en usage chez nous. Je me rappelle que le vent soufflait, qu'il venait de la mer et que les feuilles bougeaient.
-- J'ai déjà dit que je n'en voulais pas et je répète que je n'en veux pas, fit Côme en écartant le plat d'escargots.
On n'avait jamais vu désobéissance plus grave.
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Do not combine with the Barone Rampante by Italo Calvino. This is a different version of the book, edited by Calvino itself under pseudonym.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
La storia del Barone Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, indomabile ribelle che a dodici anni sale su un albero per non ridiscenderne mai più, è considerata uno dei capolavori di Calvino. Questa splendida versione, dedicata ai ragazzi, fu realizzata dall'autore nel 1959 mantenendo intatte la qualità della scrittura e la suggestione del racconto. Una storia piena di avventure, leggerezza e libertà.
(piopas)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156106809, Paperback)

Cosimo, a young eighteenth-century Italian nobleman, rebels by climbing into the trees to remain there for the rest of his life. He adapts efficiently to an arboreal existence and even has love affairs. Translated by Archibald Colquhoun.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Cosimo di Rondo, a young Italian nobleman of the eighteenth century, rebels against his parents by climbing into the trees and remaining there for the rest of his life. He adapts efficiently to an existence in the forest canopy--he hunts, sows crops, plays games with earth-bound friends, fights forest fires, solves engineering problems, and even manages to have love affairs. From his perch in the trees, Cosimo sees the Age of Enlightenment pass by and a new century dawn.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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