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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Everyman's Library Classics) Hardcover – International Edition, May 20, 1993

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Editorial Reviews


"[Italo Calvino is] one of the world's best fabulists."--John Gardner, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Calvino is a wizard."--Mary McCarthy, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS "[Calvino] manages to charm and entertain the reader in the teeth of a scheme designed to frustrate all reasonable readerly expectations."--John Updike, THE NEW YORKER "Calvino is that very rare phenomenon, a true original . . . If on a winter's night a traveler is breathtakingly complex and self-conscious (there are moments when it quite literally makes one gasp with astonishment) . . . [yet it] is one of the most accessible and enchanting novels written in the last fifty years."--from the Introduction by Peter Washington

About the Author

Italo Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923 and grew up in Italy. He was an essayist and journalist and a member of the editorial staff of Einaudi in Turin. 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 1973 he won the prestigious Premio Feltrinelli. He died in 1985. A collection of Calvino's posthumous personal writings, The Hermit in Paris, was published in 2003.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library (May 20, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857151380
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857151381
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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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3 of 3 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andy on December 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I consider true literature to be something that has the unique characteristic that it will try to explore ideas that are new - imagined or otherwise but new - and attempt to portray them with words. If it succeeds in conveying some meaning to the reader, then the work itself succeeds. But at it's limit, in one extreme case, the reader, however gifted she/he maybe, might find it difficult to express the same ideas, of whose understanding she/he believes to have completely mastered, in words much different from that used in the book itself, or in the other extreme, find a flurry of words crowding over each other to do the same. After reading the book, I am left with ideas of both these types. Calvino's imagination and gift with words surpass anything that I could imagine about imagination and usage of words themselves.

It's a radical way of writing a novel, and I never expected to be addressed myself when reading it. As other readers have mentioned here, the book starts off by declaring that it is incomplete. From there, the reader of the book (that is yourself), takes a dizzying journey, starting with perambulations within the city, in search of the rest of the story, through journeys across countries, finally ending where he (you?) started. On the way, he runs into other books (which you read, but all breaking off at some climax), other readers, conspiracies, ghost-writers ...

Everyone who reads gets involved in the plot-lines developed in a novel, and some might imagine themselves to be one of the characters in the novel. Here, the protagonist is the reader - yourself - and the plot-line is an exploration of reading itself, hence it is even more compelling an involvement.
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