Books, Fiction, Reviews

Book Review: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

Try to write a review of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is tricky. This is a first book I have read by Italo Calvino and I think this work is self-reflective and is right to be considered in major works of Calvino.

This light looking novel starts with very soothing words and a second person narrative that I think will be the engrossing point to any reader, drawing him to the story, making him a character in the plot. From the very first lines, Calvino tries to lure a reader’s attention with these words:

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. 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.

This novel is one of the best specimen when considering the structure. When reading it, for a period of time, you might forget that it’s a book and is written by someone. It is very surreal for that duration, and while visualising the written words, I came across the experience as if someone is dictating this book to me, word by word, and I engrossed onto listening to that person.

As I mentioned earlier that to write a review of this book is quite tricky, but I am trying to give my best shot here. Let me summarise the whole novel for you now. Two readers, one male and one female run into each other in a bookshop. Both begin reading the new novel, ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler’ only to find out that the publisher has somehow mixed up this novel with another one. Returning to the bookshop, both discover the volume, which they thought was by Calvino, is actually by the Polish writer Bazakbal. Given the choice between the two, he goes for the Pole, as does the Other Reader, Ludmilla. But this copy turns out to be by yet another writer, as does the next, and the next.. On their hunt for the continuations of all these books the Reader and Ludmilla, the female Reader, keep finding the beginnings of other novels. Each time they start becoming involved in one book, it’s broken off and they’re left hungry for more.

The idea behind this book is that Calvino tires his hands on intertextuality. Calvino borrows plot and style from authors of each of different genres, inserting them in his novel, making it intertextual, or based off of many texts. The author has a lot to stay with the ongoing story. He talks about reading and writing. He tells that how each reader is unique and every reader resonate a unique meaning on reading the same book based on their personal experiences and philosophies.

It’s a clever novel, and every reader must experience that it intents to provide. This is a novel that you will not want to end.

3.5 out of 5

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20 thoughts on “Book Review: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino”

  1. I read it in Italian when I was a teenager and I still remember it as one of my favourite books (even though I can’t remember it properly). Calvino is a brilliant writer, you made me want to read this novel again, thanks!

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