Cover image for If on a winter's night a traveler
Title:
If on a winter's night a traveler
Uniform Title:
Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore. English
ISBN:
9780679420255
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1993.
Physical Description:
xli, 254 pages ; 22 cm.
Summary:
Based on a witty analogy between the reader's desire to finish the story and the lover's desire to consummate his or her passion, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler is the tale of two bemused readers whose attempts to reach the end of the same book - If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino, of course - are constantly and comically frustrated. In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another - an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age.
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Summary

Summary

Introduction by Peter Washington; Translation by William Weaver

Italo Calvino's masterpiece combines a love story and a detective story into an exhilarating allegory of reading, in which the reader of the book becomes the book's central character.

Based on a witty analogy between the reader's desire to finish the story and the lover's desire to consummate his or her passion, IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER is the tale of two bemused readers whose attempts to reach the end of the same book--IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER, by Italo Calvino, of course--are constantly and comically frustrated. In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another--an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age.


Author Notes

Italo Calvino 1923-1984

Novelist and short story writer Italo Calvino was born in Cuba on October 15, 1923, and grew up in Italy, graduating from the University of Turin in 1947. He is remembered for his distinctive style of fables. Much of his first work was political, including Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno (The Path of the Nest Spiders, 1947), considered one of the main novels of neorealism.

In the 1950s, Calvino began to explore fantasy and myth as extensions of realism. Il Visconte Dimezzato (The Cloven Knight, 1952), concerns a knight split in two in combat who continues to live on as two separates, one good and one bad, deprived of the link which made them a moral whole. In Il Barone Rampante (Baron in the Trees, 1957), a boy takes to the trees to avoid eating snail soup and lives an entire, fulfilled life without ever coming back down.

Calvino was awarded an honorary degree from Mount Holyoke College in 1984 and died in 1985, following a cerebral hemorrhage. At the time of his death, he was the most translated contemporary Italian writer and a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Kirkus Review

A romp--a grand Calvino-style romp, complete with a fun-house tilt, a high-gloss (but consistently good-humored) elegance, and a big, telescoping, central conceit. This is a book about reading books, about the shivery comedy of that act. Urged to shut off the TV, remove shoes, and lie back, the reader is then introduced to a Chirico-esque railroad-station scene in which ""the lights of the station and the sentences you are reading seem to have the job of dissolving more than of indicating the things that surface from a veil of darkness and fog."" In this story, a traveler is supposed to meet someone, exchange something. . . and then suddenly Calvino's beginning has been succeeded by the opening of a wholly other and different novel: Outside the town of Malbork, written by a Pole! What's going on? A mistake in binding, it turns out. And when the Reader (now enrolled as a full-fledged, understandably puzzled character) goes to his bookstore to exchange copies, he meets there a woman, Ludmilla, whose copy of the Traveler novel was similarly frustrated by faulty binding. But inside the new copies they receive is yet another novel: one in a dead language called Cimmerian and titled Leaning from the steep slope--which Ludmilla's professor at the university is an expert on. (Marxist students there dispute him, however, claiming that the book is actually one called Looks down in gathering shadow.) And so on--through the starts of ten different novels, each parodied style overruling the previous one: existential; rustic; political; murder mystery; psycho-perverse; revolutionary; German; Japanese, Russian; South American. Yes, Calvino is toying with the discontinuities of literature here--and his wildest creation is the figure of a shadowy young translator who goes around the world writing novels and substituting them for other ones in languages few know well enough to call him on: ""a literature made entirely of apocrypha, of false attributions, of imitations and counterfeits and pastiches."" The issues addressed are important ones: the whole sincerity/ artifice issue in modern literature, as well as the ""erotics"" of reading, the sham mysteries, the question of authorlessness. The satire is frequently that of an editor (Calvino's longtime occupation in Italy). And the philosophy--seriously visionary yet light as clear broth--is that of a working writer. True, about halfway through the concept knots itself up a little densely. But it pulls out straight thereafter--and in all this is a delightful, never too-coy book (yet very Italian and mischievously gestural), a dandy trick done with mirrors that are all but smudgeless. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.