2.5 stars If On A Winter’s Night, A Traveller… is the 3rd stand-alone novel by Italian author, Italo Calvino. It is translated from Italian by William Weaver. The format is somewhat unusual: the chapters are addressed to the Reader (=you), written in the second person. These are interspersed with opening chapters from books the Reader is reading, or tries to read. Frustrated by printing errors, the Reader returns to the book shop to complain, where he is joined by the Other Reader (Ludmilla).
The fragments of the various books are vaguely interesting, but not as compelling as they apparently are to the Reader and the Other Reader, intent on finding the original titles and completing their reads. Some pieces are so dense, so tortuous (or is that torturing?) that the reader’s eyes (mine) glaze over. The stories feature espionage, leaving the farm, prison escape, revolutionaries (x2), murder, ringing telephone paranoia, mirrors as means of deceit, Japanese seduction, erasure and a duel.
The chapters featuring the Readers’ quest presents philosophy on the experience of books and reading from different perspectives: the reader, the translator, students of literature, publishers, authors, analysts of books and censors. The Reader is difficult to identify with, and must be starved for literature to be so enthralled by these fragments. It’s a mercifully short read that will at least give the reader an idea if they want more of Italo Calvino, or not.