If on A Winter's Night A Traveler

If on A Winter's Night A Traveler

Book - 1981
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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.

Harcourt Publishing

Calvino shows that the novel, far from being a dead form, is capable of endless mutations. 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. Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

Publisher: New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1981
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780156439619
Characteristics: 260 p. ; 22 cm


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multcolib_susannel Feb 04, 2018

Like a fun house mirror this mystery is full of noir-like atmosphere- reflecting back on itself, taking you on one trip after another.

Oct 16, 2017

This is a witty bit of literary surrealism in which ten beginnings of ten different novels are linked by a framing story where "You" (the reader) and the book itself become characters (although it's never the right book). Eventually those unfinished novels become cheap, lurid imitations (supposedly written by machines) and the framing story spins itself into a Kafkaesque (but never quite serious) tangle of totalitarian censorship amid plots within plots within plots - and it comes to resemble those cheap imitations. Throughout, something is being poked fun at, though we're never exactly sure what: perhaps it is the over-intellectualization of literature; perhaps inept publishing companies (did Calvino have to deal with one of those?) or perhaps it's an allegory about bureaucracy. Whatever. I found it amusing, if sometimes frustrating, and parts of it made me laugh out loud. ...and then there's that joke about the titles near the end, which took the entire book to set up...!

Sep 16, 2017

This is more of a tour de force of writing for writers rather than readers. Intriguing at first, it is ultimately as frustrating as it is for the protagonist. try as I could, I gave up before the end.

TechLibrarian Apr 01, 2017

This is not an easy book, but it's a great one, well worth the effort, especially for serious readers. The main character is you, the Reader, as you seek a missing chapter, "traveling the earth from book to book." If that sounds mind bending, it's because it is! Calvino is a literary giant, on par with the likes of Borges and Garcia Marquez. Readers who are interested in trying Calvino but would prefer a lighter read would do well to pick up The Baron in the Trees. If On a Winters Night a Traveler, though, is a real masterpiece.

Jian Feng Wang
Feb 11, 2016

Unfortunately, I didn't make it past the first page.

Nov 28, 2014

The blurb on GR makes me think the book is going to be a cross between Robin Sloan's Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore and a book from Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series - books within books, characters aware that they are being read, and a detective story all at the same time. Sounds crazy weird and like a book that a reader's either going to get and love or not and hate. I hope I love it. Here goes... To be continued...

2 mins, 5.5 lines later - LOL! Laughing (in a good way) within six lines must be a record. Here's the passage that set me off

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice - they won't hear you otherwise - "I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone.

It's uncanny how true to my life this is. With the exact same dialogue. It's almost like this particular edition of the book was written just for me. In fact my dad's watching footy in the other room (I'm in bed with the book and my laptop, but I can clearly the hear the commentary from here) and just a few minutes ago he tried to pester me into staying up and watching it with him. He called out to ask if I wanted to watch the footy and I yelled back no. Then he asked why I didn't want to watch the footy and I replied because I'm reading a new book that I've wanted to read for ages (I didn't mention Calvino's name as he wouldn't have a clue who he is/was). Then he tried to lure me with the fact that it's the family team playing (they've been losing for the last few weeks, maybe months now, so it wasn't much temptation), but to forestall any further conversations held at the top of our voices from one room to another, I ignored this last ditch attempt and wrote the first instalment of my review. He gave up after that. Best opening lines EVER !!
This started out with a bang on my funny bone, which got it an initial four star rating, but once we got past that opening chapter the book just became too deep, too set on some kind of metaphysical message (or something, I really didn't understand what was going on for most of the book). You know me, I often hate (because the book becomes more about the message and less about the story) and generally tend to misunderstand 'messages' and that's what happened with If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. I'm glad I read it, because now I know what the book's about, but it wasn't a particularly pleasurable read and considering the fact that it's only 260 pages it shouldn't have taken me 17 days to read, with a chapter and a number of pages skipped.

Nov 26, 2014

The best way that I could begin to describe this book is "brilliant". This books truly leaves me with no words.

Mar 23, 2010

Why are you not already reading this book? Go, silly.

Sep 23, 2009

If you like stories within stories then this book about reading books will make you smile and hold onto your book just a little bit tighter. I should also mention it's perfect for anyone who thinks too much.

Sep 09, 2009

This book opens by telling both you and the character of The Reader what the experience of reading If On a Winter?s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino is like. After a few pages, however, The Reader realizes that his copy of this book has a printer?s error. He goes back to the bookstore to get a new copy, meets Another Reader who has the same problem and flirts with her, and is told that all the Calvino books are hopeless misprinted and what he?s been reading is actually a book by Polish writer. The Reader goes home with what he hopes is finally the right volume, reads for a few pages, and then discovers that no, this book is the wrong book too. Back to the bookstore, back to another tantalizing interaction with Another Reader, and back home again with a new book that?s supposed to be the book he?s been trying to read all along?but isn?t. This happens ten times (talk about novels within novels!) and we, the readers (not The Readers), are very content to go along for the ride. It may sound confusing, but the real author Italo Calvino (who died in 1985) has long been known as a master of avant-garde and experimental fiction. It?s not every writer who can begin ten separate novels that differ in tone and style and genre and still make them entertaining; it?s not every writer who can marry the solitary (and at times frustrating) act of reading with a story about a blooming romance that?s sparked by that very same solitary (and at times frustrating) act of reading. But Calvino does it?with wit, with charm, and with superior skill.


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Nov 26, 2014

TheFlyingPig thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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