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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, wacky tales and magical, beautiful prose
Here's a tip of the hat to the English translator (George Martin) of this wonderful collection. If you've noted the glowing reviews and prizes, you might still hold back, thinking "Well, I'm sure it's fantastic in Italian, but the English probably doesn't quite capture the brilliance of the original." Maybe so, but -- unless you're fluent in Italian -- there's...
Published on December 3, 2003 by Bryan Pfaffenberger

versus
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Kindle version is not the same book as the print...
I was sorely disappointed to discover that the contents of the Kindle version ARE NOT the same as the print version. The Kindle version has only 53 tales, the print version over 200. The Kindle version is translated by Louis Brigante. The print version is translated by George Martin. Consequently, NONE of the reviews or the Book Description noted on the page for this item...
Published on November 1, 2012 by Simon J. Hernandez


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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, wacky tales and magical, beautiful prose, December 3, 2003
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
Here's a tip of the hat to the English translator (George Martin) of this wonderful collection. If you've noted the glowing reviews and prizes, you might still hold back, thinking "Well, I'm sure it's fantastic in Italian, but the English probably doesn't quite capture the brilliance of the original." Maybe so, but -- unless you're fluent in Italian -- there's no reason to skip this sparkling, wonderful English translation. It's -- well, delicious.
I first read this book years ago -- out loud, to my kids, and it quickly became a family favorite. Be aware that this collection isn't your usual compendium of "I've heard that before" stories. They're all rather strange; sometimes, they're downright weird, as if the good folk of traditional Italian villages were tuned into the X-Files several centuries ago. Some of them -- my favorite example is "Ari, Ari, Ari, Money, Money, Money" -- are flat-out, bust-your-gut hilarious.
If the stories don't do you in, you'll find some of the most gorgeous and unforgettable English you'll ever read, thanks to the brilliant translation. It's spare - it's closer to Hemingway than Faulkner, perfectly pitched to its task - and exquisitely structured and paced.
This is a book that truly belongs on every shelf. Give it for the holidays, birthdays, or for the hell of it -- and, please (if you love English and fine writing) treat yourself.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italo Calvino's Labor of Love, February 10, 2004
By 
Eric J. Lyman (Roma, Lazio Italy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
I haven't been a particular fan of folk tales in the years that have passed since more or less my tenth birthday, but it's hard not to adore this charming, magical, and fantastic collection of traditional Italian stories as recounted by master storyteller and author Italo Calvino.
In the book's introduction, Mr. Calvino seems to regard his production of this almost 800-page volume as a sort of obligation. But in reading its pages, it's clear that it was really a labor of love, a massive project undertaken by an already established writer who had no need to produce something so unusual and challenging in order to help his own reputation.
But we are clearly better off because of he did produce it. Inside are exactly 200 precious stories, parables, fables, and good old fashioned yarns -- all of them plucked from the Italian folk tradition, dusted off, and improved by Mr. Calvino. I admit that "improved" is not a word I'd usually want to read in regard to a modern production of classic literature, but from the bits and pieces I know from experience, improvement was needed: many of the tales were originally published based on cobbled together version of traditional oral stories with partially-developed sub-plots and characters whose names or motives change partway through the story. I have seen the original Italian versions of at least three of the stories between this book's covers -- Fra Ignazio, Rosemary, and the Peacock Feather -- and was thoroughly confounded by the original, only to be charmed later by Mr. Calvino's cleaner and more thoughtful retellings.
It is important to remember that the Italian literary tradition dates further back in a direct line than any other in Western Europe: many of these tales were originally written in Italian long before the language evolved beyond being anything more than a vulgar street slang and when only Latin and Greek was spoken in the drawing rooms of literate Italians. And yet it wasn't until 1956 and Mr. Calvino's self-described obligation that more than a couple dozen or so of these wonderful stories was gathered in a single volume.
Hats off also to George Martin, Mr. Calvino's translator, surprisingly enough, for only this book. Mr. Martin does a terrific job of preserving Mr. Calvino's cadence and subtle linguistic flare, and he does it while staying away from the temptation of translating too literally, a flaw that has a hold on many less talented translators.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical reading aloud for both adults and children, July 3, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
Read this book to yourself, or better, aloud to your favorite adults and children. The tales, some short and some longer, offer magic, fantasy and adventure for the kids and sly insights into human nature for adults. The tales are not "dumbed down" as unfortunately happens in some folktale collections. Calvino preserves the flavor of the spoken word, but these stories work as literature, too. For the scholarly-minded, an appendix in the back gives the provenance of each story.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Kindle version is not the same book as the print..., November 1, 2012
By 
Simon J. Hernandez (Westford, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Italian Fables (Kindle Edition)
I was sorely disappointed to discover that the contents of the Kindle version ARE NOT the same as the print version. The Kindle version has only 53 tales, the print version over 200. The Kindle version is translated by Louis Brigante. The print version is translated by George Martin. Consequently, NONE of the reviews or the Book Description noted on the page for this item are accurate or relevant. It is a completely different publication. DO NOT BUY THIS IF YOU WANT THE ORIGINAL COLLECTION. Rated 1 star only to complete the review. This rating does not reflect any impression of the original title, which is not what you get when you purchase the Kindle version. I will seek a credit for this mislabeled item.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cornucopia of Tiny Tales, May 21, 2006
By 
Neutiquam Erro (Isles of Llyonnesse) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
This collection of Italian folktales, collected and rewritten by Italo Calvino, is a cornucopia of tiny tales. The 200 stories (twice the number in that other great collection of Italian tales - the Decameron) of this 700 page book sparkle with wit and provide insight into the minds of the poorer classes of medieval and premodern society.

The tales are, according to the introduction, from previous collections made by folklorists, mostly during the 19th century, when people still made a hobby out of collecting such things. The stories come from all around Italy and each has, at its conclusion, the name of the region from which it was drawn. I am under the impression that Italo Calvino rewrote them from their original dialects into standardized Italian. He also added his own special touch, distilling, trimming and rewriting them as only a master could. The English translation by George Martin is taut and clean and makes the read all the more enjoyable.

The book includes an introduction by the author, somewhat scholarly in nature. It also has a note for each story discussing technical issues and origins. It could be used as a scholarly reference for folklore studies but it is a delight to read just for pure pleasure. If you are looking for a book of fairytales for your children this collection is probably on par with the Grimm Brothers or the Red Fairy Tale Book. It was written, however, considerably later, in 1956. The book shares with these collections (their unexpurgated versions at least) a certain earthiness, an occasional tendency towards brutality and a distinct lack of political correctness. If you are offended by golden donkey dung, witches defenestrated, tarred and burned at the stake, or princesses killed by their husbands later resurrected and remarried to their repentant murderers, you might want to avoid this book. At the very least you might want to pick and choose which tales you read to your children. Not that the tales dwell on these things in detail but you will encounter them. You will also encounter the three little pigs (as geese), little Red Riding Hood as herself, a Snow White who falls in with thieves, a Sleeping Beauty awakened not by a prince but by her newborn child, and Aladdin, Ali Baba and Ulysses dressed up as merchants, peasants and monks. One can also hear vague echoes of celtic mythology, prehistoric magical rites and even a plot I find reminiscent of Gogol.

Two hundred stories is quite a few and while there are occasional variations on a theme, on the whole they remain remarkably fresh. Just when you think you've seen everything, a new plot twist comes along to enchant and amuse.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Folk tales (and then some), March 1, 2007
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
Italo Calvino is mostly known for being a brilliant magical realist. But he also collected two hundred Italian folk and fairy tales in "Italian Folktales," apparently because a publisher wanted a sort of Italian Grimm. The resulting collection is actually better than your average fairy tales -- full of the cute, bizarre and funny.

Basically, we have the usual collections of folk-tale oddities -- princesses and princes, talking animals, murderers, dragons, colourful peasants, ghosts, magical rings, bookworms, ogres, merchants, lots of money, wise professors, hunchbacks, people magically turned into dogs, and even an Italian version of Beauty and the Beast.

But there are also plenty of folktales in here that are outright weird: a kid with a goose that causes hands to stick to the holder, a young groom whose night in paradise has tragic consequences, a maid imprisoned in the sea, a girl transformed into a statue, the Queen of Luminous Souls, and a talking buffalo head. Even Jesus Christ and Saint Peter get to star in a longish story.

Fairy tales are always meant for kids, but folktales can be aimed at adults. And there's pretty much half-and-half in "Italian Folktales" -- Calvino includes some stories which are cute and have morals ("Don't be greedy, or a wolf will eat you"), but there are plenty that are weird, bizarre and grotesque (three dead men bowling with skulls).

Calvino can't include too much description, since most of these stories are straight-out fables. But he retells these stories with enchanting flair, funny dialogue and his knack for mixing the magical with the real. And the translator George Martin should get props for preserving the sparkling, spicy flavour of the original stories ("Cro! Cro! We come from brine/On gold and pearls we dine/Belsole's fair, as fair as day...")

These stories aren't the Brothers Grimm -- they're better. Calvino collected stories that were magical, horrifying and extremely funny, and "Italian Folktales" is a delightful, extremely fat book of folk stories.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An easy road to the future, February 20, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Hardcover)
Some books are best read nightly in small doses. A novel we pick up at any time, bound to the characters and their impulses; poems become a solid mass of emotion as we touch their seemingly amorphous edges. These folktales, retold by Mr. Calvino, allow us to take our world in by stripping down our guard. We laugh at the comical characters and the fanciful predicaments they find themself in, only to have our laughter fulfilled by understanding. These stories are as much about us and our deepest fears, emotions and it is only one by one that we can approach these tales, because otherwise we waste the lessons they teach us. Incredible reading
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an odd delight, September 9, 2006
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
Italo Calvino is one of my favorite authors and if you are considering buying this book because he is yours as well, I would say approach with caution. This isn't If on a winter's night a traveler or Invisible Cities. Calvino may have had a hand in the final print version of the tales, but this book in no way reflects his other writings.

That isn't to say I do not recommend this book.

If you are a parent, these make wonderful bedtime stories- though most are simply amazingly strange. If you enjoy reading odd little folk tales, I am certain you'll find most of these original. I took a class in folk tales and I have always enjoyed finding new ones and finding connections to other tales, this one is simply in a class of it's own.

The tales themselves are usually funny and where funny fails, oddness prevails. Additionally, these are all short, good for quick reads.

Hope this was helpful.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth it!, September 24, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Hardcover)
I wanted to purchase this book for awhile. I am glad that I finally bought it. It is a large volume. I purchased the new hardcover as I expected to keep it for awhile. These are the old stories of Italy, both folklore and fairy tales. If you're a lover of either of those two types of stories and want to learn more about the culture of Italy, I would recommend this book to you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calvino is spellbinding, July 10, 2002
By 
Roger Levy (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Italian Folktales (Paperback)
Calvino has been one of my all-time favorite writers ever since I encountered his masterpiece Invisible Cities. Much of his fiction experiments intricately--and successfully--with the conventions of storytelling. Italian Folktales, though, reveals a completely different dimension of Calvino. These stories are the fruit of painstaking ethnographic and archival research, retold by a master storyteller. In addition to being a collection of enchanting stories, the book also gives the reader tremendous insight into the life of the folktale. Elements of one story--characters, bits of dialogue, and in some cases even considerable fragments of plot--surface in another story time and time again. Calvino has also left some of the warts untouched--every now and then a story is obviously truncated, forgets to mention what becomes of an important character, or completely switches plot halfway through. Somehow these are very satisfying things to notice. Other nice touches include the introduction, where the author discusses how he collected the stories, and the attribution of each story to a specific region of Italy.

The translation is good, though I wish I could read Italian!
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Italian Folktales
Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino (Paperback - November 15, 1992)
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