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If on a Winter's Night a Traveller Paperback – February 1, 1992

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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description

Editorial Reviews


"Breathtakingly inventive" -- David Mitchell "The greatest Italian writer of the twentieth century" Guardian "Reading Calvino, you're constantly assailed by the notion that he is writing down what you have always known, except that you've never thought of it before.This is highly unnerving: fortunately you're usually too busy laughing to go mad... I can think of no finer writer to have beside me while Italy explodes, Britain burns, while the world ends" -- Salman Rushdie "A devastating, wonderfully ingenious parody of all those dreary best-sellers you buy at the airport... It is a "world novel": take it with you next time you plan to travel in an armchair" -- Lorna Sage Observer "A brilliant work of the imagination and the intellect working in union.And, by the way, it's very funny also" Scotsman

About the Author

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (February 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099430894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099430896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #952,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
One definition of metafiction is "Fiction that deals, often playfully and self-referentially, with the writing of fiction or its conventions." That could pretty much describe Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler," a gloriously surreal story about the hunt for a mysterious book.

A reader opens Italo Calvino's latest novel, "If On A Winter's Night A Traveller," only to have the story cut short. Turns out it was a defective copy, with another book's pages inside. But as the reader tries to find out what book the defective pages belong to, he keeps running into even more books and more difficulties -- as well as the beautiful Ludmilla, a fellow reader who also received a defective book.

With Ludmilla assisting him (and, he hopes, going to date him), the reader then explores obscure dead languages, publishers' shops, bizarre translators and various other obstacles. All he wants is to read an intriguing book. But he keeps stumbling into tales of murder and sorrow, annoying professors, and the occasional radical feminist -- and a strange literary conspiracy. Will he ever finish the book?

In its own way, "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler" is a mystery story, a satire, a romance, and a treasure hunt. Any book whose first chapter explains how you're supposed to read it has got to be a winner -- "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, "If On A Winter's Night a Traveler." Relax. Concentrate." And so on, with Calvino gently joking and chiding the reader before actually beginning his strange little tale.

As cute as that first chapter is, it also sets the tone for this strange, funny metafictional tale, which not only inserts Calvino but the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dog Lover on January 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Incredible.I was deeply enthralled by this book.

I was reluctant to start because the cover of my copy appears to be so dark and dreary. However, one of the posts on a group mentioned the humor. The book finally percolated up to the top of my TBR pile and I began. Laughed out loud during Chapter 1 when Calvino writes about how "you", The Reader, feel when you come into a book store. All those books! The burden! Exactly the way I always feel in a large bookstore, library, or working on the Shelfari catalog. All those books!

Then the "story" begins at the train station. The way you are addressed by "I" made me immediately think of Pirandello. I was completely drawn in. From that point, I was looking for that suitcase. Were you?

Each chapter (not the stories) resonated deeply with me. Each would bring certain "Aha!" moments making me think of situations about reading that I have encountered. The stories, themselves, were always good too. I found that to be incredible that I, as much as The Reader, became more and more despairing as, inevitably, the story would abruptly end. (I laughed out loud at the first abrupt ending, though.) Throughout the read, I was constantly challenged with the language - a dictionary had to be next to hand because I found so many words new to me.

I mentioned Pirandello but "Carpet of Leaves" made me think of Anais Nin. The style of each story was both unique and, yet, had a common feel with all the others. I was truly impressed by that fact. I plan to go back and write some notes about each chapter. Some of the thoughts on censorship both amused me and made be reach for that nearby dictionary. Some of the academic scenes also made me laugh. Been there, done that with jealousies in academe.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HORAK on March 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Has the book you're holding really been written by the author mentioned on the cover? We readers rarely ask ourselves this question but in Mr Calvino's novel, even this simple assumption is questioned. The story is quite confusing indeed because nothing is as it appears.

But apart from the plot, Mr Calvino reflects on interesting topics which in my view save the book. For instance the reader's dilemma of choosing the appropriate novel among the thousand existing publications, the required ingredients to create suspense in a plot, the fact that books are easily defined entities which can be enjoyed without risks compared to the elusive quality of real-life existence, the pleasure of using a paper knife as the reader cuts his way through a novel or the problem posed by someone reading a text which may impose an undesirable pace on the listener. The author also casts a critical glance at universities as literary institutions which have forgotten that literature can be enjoyed in a natural, innocent and primitive way without having to be lacerated by intellectual analysis.
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Format: Paperback
Actually, 3.5 stars. I am a hard critic. But any reader will like Italo Calvino's intellectual feat. What a gift he has for words! I regret I didn't have pad and pen on hand to jot down opportunities to expand my vocabulary. Don't make the same mistake.

Italo Calvino's ability to use language can be a mind-blowing experience for any reader. This is the first work of his that I read. The idea---interspersing 10 stories with a tale of the reader of these stories---is very unique. But as the book goes on, I find less creativity. The intimacy with Calvino I found after the first story is something I was deeply looking for much later into the book. Instead the reader's story there is barely different from the stories he reads. I admit that I may be the obstacle. I DO recommend the work, and guarantee that you will be touched by a creative mind who brings you to all possible corners of the experience of reading, and has much to teach us. I look forward to his "Italian Folktales".
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