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The Baron In The Trees Paperback – March 28, 1977

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Language Notes

Text: English, Italian (translation)

About the Author

ITALO CALVINO’s superb storytelling gifts earned him international renown and a reputation as “one of the world's best fabulists” (New York Times Book Review). He is the author of numerous works of fiction, as well as essays, criticism, and literary anthologies. Born in Cuba in 1923, Calvino was raised in Italy, where he lived most of his life. At the time of his death, in Siena in 1985, he was the most translated contemporary Italian writer.

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Product Details

  • Series: Harbrace Paperbound Library, 72
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (March 28, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156106809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156106801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on August 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
Like most of Italo Calvino's fiction, "The Baron in the Trees" is pure enchantment that charms the reader into an alternate reality with the warmth of subtle humor and the pioneering spirit, similar to Borges's, that desires to explore fascinating new literary territory within the context of world history. In this novel, set in Italy in the late eighteenth century, Calvino tells the story of a young baron named Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo who lives with his eccentric family in a villa on the edge of the town of Ombrosa. One day when he is twelve years old, after an argument with his parents (about having to eat snails), he runs out to the garden and climbs an oak, declaring that he will spend the rest of his life in the trees and vowing never to set foot on the earth again.

Like an arboreal Robinson Crusoe who has chosen his fate, Cosimo determines to make his living in the contiguous group of trees that link his family's garden with those of his neighbors and the forests beyond the town. He travels between trees by climbing and jumping from branch to branch, becoming as nimble and elusive as a squirrel, while he trains himself to survive by hunting wild animals for food and clothing and building a flume to draw drinking water from a waterfall. Even in the trees he engages in activities normally reserved for people on the ground: He continues his formal education, befriends a dachshund that helps him hunt, supports a bumbling brigand's reading habit, and even has an adventure on a pirate ship without touching the deck.

Through his life in the trees, Cosimo becomes notorious throughout Europe and attains a reputation for madness that gradually turns into a strange sort of esteem.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on August 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Baron in the Trees is one of the most enchanting novels ever written. When the Baron decides to take up his arboreal existence, one cannot help but believe he is making the right decision. Calvino fleshes out the Baron into one of the most believable characters in literature. This is an amazing feat considering the farcical lifestyle the Baron decides to adopt. Calvino takes the opportunity to create a world at once steeped in history, philosophy and politics while at the same time illustrating the everyday existence and lives of those around him. The cat skin hat, the exiles in the trees, the Napoleonic troops all brought to life with amazing detail. Memory, love and history all combine and swirl throughout the story. While there is nothing exactly magical or out of this world about this book, it is one of the best examples of magical realism I have read. I could not put this book down. Stop reading this review and buy the book.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Calvino is another of those writers I'd heard of, but would never have read had it not been for our book group's selection of this book. I'm glad to say that this is a tale enjoyable by children and adults alike, skillfully operating on several levels. The story concerns Cosimo, a noble born boy in late 18th-century Italy who one day defies his parents by climbing a tree and refusing to come back down. His life story is narrated by his younger brother, and Cosimo's adventures in the trees work both as charming tale for children, and as a metaphor for the Enlightenment for adults. Living among the treetops, Cosimo is seeking to distance himself from social traditions and norms while creating his own world and relationships. It obviously requires a little suspension of disbelief, but even those who normally hate magical realism (like me) will find it palatable. The cast of supporting characters are quirky and vividly entertaining, including his dog, militarist mother, disaster-in-the-kitchen sister, and exiled Spanish nobles. It's one of the most enjoyable (and short) piece of utopian literature I've encountered, and would make ripe reading for high school students.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Calvino never fails to mesmerize. His books suck you in and don't let go until the final word (and that final word always seems to include a touch of sadness that the novel is over). This is one of Calvino's earlier works, written in 1957, the same year he left the communist party (his reason is summed up in: "my decision to resign as a member of the party is founded on the fact that my discrepancies with those of the party have become an obstacle to whatever form of political participation I could undertake"). "The Baron in the Trees" does include some passages about disappointed political ideals (e.g., about the French Revolution), but the book touches on far too many topics to reduce it to a mere "political" novel.
The story begins, as the first line of the novel tells us, on the fifteenth of June, 1767. Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò is a member of a family whose father has sights on climbing the aristocratic ladder. In the very first chapter there is a family scuffle, during dinner, which results in Cosimo going into the trees and vowing never to come down ("And he kept his word" Cosimo's brother, who narrates the story, states). Cosimo then resigns himself to a life in the trees. After some initial mishaps (dealing with rain, bathing, food, etc), he proves himself very adaptable to living off the ground. Human adaptability seems to be at the back of the story (along with many other things); his family and town almost grow accustomed to Cosimo's darting amongst the branches. Cosimo even makes a name for himself "up in the trees" (Voltaire asks about him, and Napolean insists on meeting him). Of course the big question that comes from this action, in the very opening of the novel, is why did Cosimo go up into the trees?
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