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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 1982)

by Italo Calvino (Author), William Weaver (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,893229473 (4.05)1 / 524
You go into a bookshop and buy If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. You like it. But alas there is a printer's error in your copy. You take it back to the shop and get a replacement. But the replacement seems to be a totally different story. You try to track down the original book you were reading but end up with a different narrative again. This remarkable novel leads you through many different books including a detective adventure, a romance, a satire, an erotic story, a diary and a quest. But the real hero is you, the reader.… (more)
Member:claudecat
Title:If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Authors:Italo Calvino (Author)
Other authors:William Weaver (Translator)
Info:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1982), Edition: First, 260 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:None

Work details

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

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» See also 524 mentions

English (203)  Italian (7)  French (6)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (230)
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
A book for every reader who likes to think about reading! A tour de force about the role of fiction, the function of writers, and especially the act of reading. It's also the only book I can think of that is successfully told primarily in the second person.

It has the best first chapter I've ever read. Here's a delightful passage:

"You have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the 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. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too." ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
“At times a title is enough to kindle in me the desire for a book that perhaps does not exist.”

When I first attempted to read Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler years ago, I was not prepared for, or maybe not in the mood for what a strange metafictional trip Calvino had in store for me. I had just finished his Invisible Cities, which I adored, and I have to admit the title of this novel captured me in a way that had nothing to do with what the book was, but in a way the above quote (from the penultimate chapter) suggests.

If you understand that this “novel” is really the beginnings of ten distinct stories, each interrupted just as it gets really interesting, interspersed with the Reader’s (and Other Reader’s) attempts to track down the missing pages, which is all part of a mind-bending meditation on reading and storytelling, then you will have a much better chance of appreciating Calvino’s book. I’m glad I finally came back to it. It was challenging at times, but I know it will stay with me for a long time. ( )
  alexlubertozzi | May 24, 2021 |
Well, what are you waiting for? Stretch your legs, go ahead and put your feet on a cushion, on two cushions, on the arm of the sofa, on the wings of the chair, on the coffee table, on the desk, on the piano, on the globe. Take your shoes off first. If you want to, put your feet up; if not, put them back. Now don't stand there with your shoes in one hand and the book in the other.

Adjust the light so you won't strain your eyes. Do it now, because once you're absorbed in reading there will be no budging you. Make sure the page isn't in shadow, a clotting of black letters on a gray background, uniform as a pack of mice; but be careful that the light cast on it isn't too strong, doesn't glare on the cruel white of the paper, gnawing at the shadows of the letters as in a southern noonday. Try to foresee now everything that might make you interrupt your reading. Cigarettes within reach, if you smoke, and the ashtray. Anything else? Do you have to pee? All right, you know best.


Good advice before diving into this virtuoso performance of whimsy and perception, a sort of ultimate book on books, story within a story. Taking some of the most annoying tropes and tricks of literature (and what could be more annoying than a story with constant interruptions? oh, that's right, several interrupted stories) the master constructs a fascinating tale on words, memory, meaning, and the joyous, pointless, amusing, and deadly serious business of reading for the pure love of it.

It is impressive that Calvino is able to create and sustain a narrative out of his chosen form, but I found more impressive his incisive impressions of reading, romance, and life and living. His exploration of the parallels between reading and work, reading and expectation, reading and sex, reading and love, reading and just about everything else, in repeating themes throughout, are delicious and will be worth coming back to.

Those who are sensitive to themes of gender and language may wish to be aware that the initial 'you' of the story is a man before diving in. (I am not spoiler tagging that as it has been pointed out to me by wiser readers than I that this fact would be immediately apparent in the original Italian by use of the masculine singular form of 'you.') Otherwise, I have nothing more to add. The book is all of 260 pages long in English. Go on. What are you waiting for? ( )
1 vote amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
Funny and rewarding, especially for anyone that's interested in studies of the actual act of reading and readers. The book is at times shoved a little too firmly up its own ass but I think that was part of the joke and when I was in the right mood I could definitely roll with it. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
hrough various unfortunate events and mix-ups, two readers never seem to get past the first chapter of a series of books. Within the various extracts from the books and in the parts addressed to the two readers the author reflects on different ways of reading and writing, and on translation.

I can recognise that it is something of a tour-de-force and I know it is loved by many but, although it has made me more aware at least for the moment of how I read, ultimately this book didn't really do it for me. ( )
1 vote Robertgreaves | Apr 13, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (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 (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
功, 脇Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benítez, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooley, StevenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, JormaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kroeber, BurkhartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mays, JeffersonNarratorsecondary 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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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.
Quotations
"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.
What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from time and measurable space.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

You go into a bookshop and buy If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. You like it. But alas there is a printer's error in your copy. You take it back to the shop and get a replacement. But the replacement seems to be a totally different story. You try to track down the original book you were reading but end up with a different narrative again. This remarkable novel leads you through many different books including a detective adventure, a romance, a satire, an erotic story, a diary and a quest. But the real hero is you, the reader.

No library descriptions found.

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)

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