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The Castle of Crossed Destinies Paperback – April 16, 1979

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest/HBJ Book
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (April 16, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156154552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156154550
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Semiotic fantasy novel by Italo Calvino, published in Italian in 1973 as Il castello dei destini incrociati. It consists of a series of short tales gathered into two sections, The Castle of Crossed Destinies and The Tavern of Crossed Destinies. The novel concerns two groups of travelers through a forest, both of which have lost the power to speak as the result of traumatic events. One group is spending the night in a tavern, the other in a castle. In each place, the travelers tell the stories of their lives, using tarot cards instead of words. A narrator at each place interprets the cards for the reader, but since the tarot cards are subject to multiple interpretations, the stories the narrators offer are not necessarily the stories intended by the mute storytellers. -- The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature

Language Notes

Text: English, Italian (translation)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By mcap@sprintmail.com on March 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
Of the four books I have read by Calvino(all to be highly recommended for anyone who does not wish to be allowed to read passively, and who also is looking for something that will "delight in the re-reading", as well as the surprise in the new), "Castle" most adopts a particular structure to present a tale of shifting identities, as do his other novels. Knowledge of the Canterbury Tales is helpful, but Calvino makes sure it sits in the background and does not dominate his readings. I use "readings", if you must know, because this is the strucutre of the novel-a series of tarot card readings of a group of travelers who stop in this castle. The stories are wonderful, in the proud Italian tradition of Boccacio, Petrarch, and Chauser(who learned all he could fropm his Italian masters), and his modern master Borges, and the framing device, is interesting and used subtly and skillfully. If you don't have questions about the nature of narratives and fictions, and about the way those answers implicate how a human subject understands reality or comes to it, "Castle" may not be for you, as you may get bogged down in it's introverted labyrinthine reflections. If Borges' metaphysical fariy tales are your cup of tea, it here runneth over.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jill Walker Rettberg on August 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Italo Calvino's an author I've enjoyed for years, devouring his strange narratives. Reading The Castle of Crossed Destinies for the first time I feel like someone's torn the carpet from under my feet: I'm disappointed. Yes, it's "ingenious", as a back cover excerpt from a New Yorker review states, but it's not gripping or enthralling or a good read. The genius of this book lies in its structure, in the way it's been created. This is a book of stories interpreted or laid over patterns found in tarot cards placed on a table in criss-crossing patterns. Stories read horisontally and vertically like words in crossword puzzle.
As concept art or an experiment in narrativity this is ingenious. I love it. But it's not just concept art. (Ah, and I realise that "just" is dodgy. I'm not quite sure where it might lead.) This is a book. Books are meant to be read. This ingenious structure results in dull, uninspired stories. I'm exhausted after two: I've seen the structure (concept, gimmick) and I'm sated.
The concept is cool but then what? Is a gimmick enough? I suppose that depends on what you want. I mostly want more.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Italo Calvino was a master of surreal storytelling -- he was, for example, one of only two authors I've seen who could manage a second-person narrative. But his gimmick falls flat in "The Castle of Crossed Destinies," a book that is intriguingly laid out, but never manages to be more than a curiosity.

In the first section, a traveler comes to a castle full of other guests, but for some reason no one there is able to speak. To tell each other about their histories, they use a pack of tarot cards to communicate their stories -- tales about love affairs, ancient cities, and Faustian pacts.

The second is pretty much the same, except that it takes place in a tavern, where mute people are still using tarot cards to describe their pasts. The stories -- evil queens, fallen warriors, even an Arthurian tale -- get darker and stranger, especially when the narrator himself began to describe his own past to the people who are watching him and the cards.

As an idea, tarot cards being used to tell a story is brilliant. Especially since the stories that Calvino spins out are not necessarily the only interpretation -- each card used to tell the story can be interpreted differently. The problem is, in the first half of the book, Calvino tries to apply this to some very boring, straightforward little stories. They tend to stop suddenly, without much of a finale.

The second half of the book uses this gimmick more skilfully, with Calvino writing in greater detail, and using more ornate, atmospheric writing. It feels less like stories wrapped around some cards, and more like stories with cards as illustrations of what might have been. He also adds a more eerie, macabre tale to this half, making it even more engaging.

The first half sags in a big way; it's almost tiring to read. But the second half of "Castle of Crossed Destinies" is where Calvino's tarot gimmick starts to pay off. Interesting, but not all that it could have been.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By the heckler on March 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Calvino is one of the most creative writers I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The concept alone of this book is jaw-dropping in its possibilities--a group of strangers come together and tell their adventures through tarot cards. Each tarot combination is illustrated and interpreted by the narrator with ties to several mythological tales. It is all extremely subjective and extremely ambitious.

All of that aside, the concept proved to be more than Calvino could adeptly handle. (He admitted to never being completely satisfied with the book and finally published it as a way to put it to rest) However, I don't think I've ever read another author who could have handled the subject matter better than Calvino. All in all, I would only recommend this to Calvino's most devoted admirers.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on March 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just as the tarot card reading unfolds in the story, this book has innumerable levels that beg for thought and interpretation: it is part historical novel, part fortune-telling, and part a history of the great classics of western civilization. It is also a fascinating experiment in expanding the literary vehicle, adding the dimension of the cards - functioning as kind of symbolic building blocks as well as a springboard for association - that creates a parallel narrative to the gorgeous descriptive power of the work. Calvino, I feel, has created a work as complex and rich as the best of Nabokov. As with all truly great novels, there is a great deal left unsaid, that the reader can mull over if she so chooses. While the vocabulary was very difficult for my primitive Italian, it was as beautifully written as Calvino's other work.
Warmly recommended.
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