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Calvino's masterpiece opens with a scene that's reassuringly commonplace: apparently. Indeed, it's taking place now. A reader goes into a bookshop to buy a book: not any book, but the latest Calvino, the book you are holding in your hands. Or is it? Are you the reader? Is this the book? Beware. All assumptions are dangerous on this most bewitching switch-back ride to the heart of storytelling.

Buy If on a Winter's Night a Traveller book by Italo Calvino from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.

Book Details

ISBN: 9780099430896
ISBN-10: 0099430894
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 17mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 5-Apr-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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Book Review: If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino - Reviewed by (20 Nov 2016)

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.


Author Biography - Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. During the war he was a member of the Italian Resistance and joined the Communist Party, although he later left in 1957. One of the most respected writers of our time, his best-known works of fiction include Invisible Cities, If on a winter's night a traveller, Marcovaldo and Mr Palomar. In 1981 he was awarded the prestigious French Legion d'Honneur. He died in Siena in 1985.

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