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If on a Winter's Night a Travelerby Italo Calvino
One of the most inventive books in recent decades, Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler has a nearly animate quality (or barely inanimate quality); its succession of unwinding mysteries suggests what it might be like to find oneself in a roomful of new, young ghosts. What is reading, then, if not the art of assembling and reassembling intimacies, in silent complement to whatever book is poised to lure its Reader (the keeper and helpless, hopeful audience of all of those apparitions) forth into hazily familiar but mutable terrain?
For those with an amorous affair with books, this may, perhaps, be the ultimate love letter to the reader. Calvino's novel, or more precisely, his book of ten interrelated stories, is both masterfully created and startlingly unique. Told alternately in second and third persons, the book is a fascinating exploration of the relationship between the author and the reader. Flawlessly composed, the novel weaves together seemingly unrelated tales, all of which relate directly to you, the reader. At its core is an ingenious concept the likes of which could have only come from the unparalleled imagination of Calvino. By the time you reach its dazzling conclusion, you'll be wishing you could somehow read it again for the very first time.
Synopses & Reviews
Calvino's anti-novel is about the efforts of his two characters — a man called only The Reader, and the Other Reader, a woman named Ludmilla — to read ten very different novels. They are never able to get to the second chapter of any of them; nor are the actual readers of this novel, who share their puzzlement and frustration — as well as their delight in the situation. Finally, the two marry and settle down to read in bed — a novel called If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. Among other things, Calvino insists that novels cannot be a form of "escape" from the world, because reading and life are inseparable. The text provides an examination of the different ways of reading and of the expectations of different kinds of readers; it is also an exploration of the relationship between the writer and the reader.
Italo Calvino imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers.
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive and extinct, through which two readers, a male and a female, pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.
Calvino shows that the novel, far from being a dead form, is capable of endless mutations. If on a winters night a traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author. Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
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