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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book lover's book
Often when I'm reading an extraordinarily well-written book, I marvel at how difficult and even agonizing the writing process must be; here's a book that makes me realize that this is a phase most readers go through and a challenge that confronts most writers. A charmer from the very first paragraph, "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" makes readers feel good...
Published on April 30 2002 by A.J.

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars who enjoy this book the most, was Calvino. writing it.
probably one of the best work of italian 1900 literature. All though appears that Calvino creates a piece of art (or maybe a masterpiece) that seems to say: "look what I`m capable of writing" more than: "look what I have writen for you to enjoy". The whole novel is infact a pure literature virtuousism, in which Calvino shows his immence knowledge and...
Published on Oct. 18 2000 by Alessandro Carloni


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book lover's book, April 30 2002
By 
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
Often when I'm reading an extraordinarily well-written book, I marvel at how difficult and even agonizing the writing process must be; here's a book that makes me realize that this is a phase most readers go through and a challenge that confronts most writers. A charmer from the very first paragraph, "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" makes readers feel good about reading and writers feel good about writing.
Never have I read a book that communicates with and understands its reader so well. Writers like Nabokov and Pynchon like to have fun with their readers by posing literary puzzles, but here Calvino empathizes with the avid reader's feelings of frustration from interruptions, expectations, academic blathering, and personal efforts to reflect on literature.
The protagonist of this novel is none other than you yourself, the reader. The novel is about the protagonist's (i.e., your) attempt to finish reading the novel that you have started. However, problems keep cropping up, obstructing you from your goal: misprintings, mixups, interruptions, paramilitary operations, incarceration. Joining you in your quest is Ludmilla, a woman you met in the bookstore and whom you would like to date. Ludmilla has a sister, Lotaria, a feminist who thinks literature should be used to further her polemic agenda and represents the kind of "ideological cheerleading" for which critic Harold Bloom has so much disdain. Ludmilla, on the other hand, represents the perfect passive reader who reads for purely escapist purposes.
The novel's structure is entirely original and somewhat difficult to describe. It consists of two sets of alternating chapters; one set narrates your search for the missing remainder of the novel, and the other set consists of fragments of other novels you mistakenly pick up in your search. Each of these "other" novels is a brilliant piece of writing in its own right, each by a different fictitious author and with a distinctive plot and style. Just as you're becoming engrossed in whatever novel you're reading at a certain time, another interruption occurs, forcing you to resume your worldwide odyssey.

This may sound like a frustrating reading experience, but it's actually a lot of fun, as Calvino demonstrates that starting a new "novel" saves an old plot thread from wearing out. And just when things seem to start spinning out of control for the hapless protagonist (i.e., you, remember?), Calvino brings it all together in a narrative masterstroke that summarizes what all fiction is really about, which hasn't changed much since ancient times: it is simply about telling a story that hasn't happened in real life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ... wandered through the world of fiction, Feb. 1 2005
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
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. That's right -- this book is written in the second person, with the reader as the main character. "You did this" and "you did that," and so on. Only a few authors are brave enough to insert the reader... especially in a novel about a novel that contains other novels. It seems like a subtle undermining of reality itself.

It's a bit disorienting when Calvino inserts chapters from the various books that "you" unearth -- including ghosts, hidden identities, Mexican duels, Japanese erotica, and others written in the required styles. Including some cultures that he made up. Upon further reading, those isolated chapters reveal themselves to be almost as intriguing as the literary hunt. Especially since each one cuts off at the most suspenseful moment -- what happens next? Nobody knows!

It all sounds hideously confusing, but Calvino's deft touch and sense of humor keep it from getting too weird. There are moments of wink-nudge comedy, as well as the occasional poke at the publishing industry. But Calvino also provides chilling moments, mildly sexy ones, and a tone of mystery hangs over the whole novel.

At times it feels like Calvino is in charge of "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler"... and at other times, it feels like "you" are the one at the wheel. Just don't put this in the stack of Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First. Pure literary genius.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Metaphysical Masterpiece, April 8 2002
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
A novel that questions the intricacies of the novel? A book that explores the intimacies of reading? Calvino gives us all that and more in *If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.*
It takes a very skillful writer to create a protagonist that can make direct contact with the reader. I've read more novels then I care to remember that attempted to pull this off and couldn't. But here, it's like, oh I don't know, we're handed a puzzle. A puzzle in which each individual piece is beautiful. There are so many dazzling images, brilliant colors, and something about the way they fit together is just radiant. But it feels like, as those pieces fall into place, the whole might be more than we can take. There is so much to process, but there is no question as to whether you have to continue.
Calvino manages to create a heady novel that is both intellectually stimulating and entertaining. You will relish every moment of following the threads of the broken novels within and you will long to find the protagonist in your favorite bookstore to discuss it with. This is one of those books that will make you change the way you think, that will change you in general, and you'll never be able to look at reading in quite the same way again. And then, don't stop here, at this one novel, read everything of Calvino's that you can find.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A conceptual review of a conceptual book, March 29 2002
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
You are getting ready to read an Amazon.com review of Italo Calvino's book "If on a winter's night a traveller". Is your mouse nearby? Are you sitting in a comfortable chair? You're not slouching over the keyboard, are you? Sit up! Now, rub your eyes, close any windows containing video games, and read on.
-----
Besides Tom Robbins' "Half Asleep in Frog's Pajamas", this is the only book you've ever read written (mostly) in second person narration. 'You' are the protagonist of the story, and are directly addressed by the author/narrator. 'You' are the Reader. This is a technique that Calvino uses very well, especially when he manages to predict (or accurately tell) the circumstances around how 'you' bought the book, how 'you're' reading it, and 'your' thoughts and feelings concerning it.
You notice that this book has no story, per se. Instead, it is about Stories. The structure of the book is more important than the narrative thrust. A Reader (you) begins reading Italo Calvino's new book, "If on a winter's night a traveller". But the book is misprinted, and ends halfway through. So you head down to the bookshop, anxious to get your money back. There you encounter The Other Reader, a young woman also foiled in her attempt to read Calvino's new book. You both buy a new copy from the shopkeeper, only when you get it home, you realize it is not Calvino's new book at all, but something called "Outside the town of Malbork". Things continue this way, back and forth from thwarted novel to encounters with The Other Reader (who, by this time, you've developed quite a crush on). Along the way, you will meet many other shady literary characters, like The Non Reader, The Writer, and the Plagiarist. Do not be afraid of these men. They are merely devices to get you thinking about the nature of reading, the nature of writing, the nature of authorship, and a number of other significant post-modern issues.
This all sounds quite fascinating to you, but you still have trepidations. You have a copy of the book with you right now. To help quench your fears you open it up, seemingly at random, to page 197, and read the following exchange:
"'On the contrary, I am forced to stop reading just when [the stories] become more gripping. I can't wait to resume, but when I think I am reopening the book I began, I find a completely different book before me...'
'Which instead is terribly boring,' I suggest.
'No, even more gripping. But I can't manage to finish this one, either. And so on.'"
You think this is pretty good so far. But wonder, is Calvino right on either count? Would such a novel be "terribly boring", or "even more gripping"? Would you get frustrated beyond repair if the story kept stopping, every time it got good? You realize that you must decide for yourself before you begin reading the book in earnest.
Continuing your perusal on the same page, you read the following passage:
"I have had the idea of writing a novel composed only of beginnings of novels. The protagonist could be a Reader who is continually interrupted. The Reader buys the new novel A by the author Z. But it is a defective copy, he can't go beyond the beginning... He returns to the bookshop to have the volume exchanged..."
You stop, because you can see where this is going. This is Calvino telling you the genesis of this book. This kind of self-reflexivity sometimes gives you a headache, for a story within a story within a story (etc.) can sometimes be very confusing. You stop reading for a while to get your bearings.
You take a break by going to the fridge for a glass of juice.
Later, you flip the book open again, this time to page 218, and you notice this:
"Then what use is your role as protagonist to you? If you continue lending yourself to this game, it means that you, too, are an accomplice of the general mystification."
"Calvino is challenging me?" you think to yourself. "He doesn't think I am capable of following him through this labyrinthine world. He doesn't think I have the brainpower. But I do!" You are getting a good head of steam now. "I can read his book, no problem! I am a Good Reader."
You turn to page one, intent on starting and then finishing this book. And when you do, you'll realize that it was a rewarding, if oftentimes difficult and confusing, experience. It will have questioned your preconceived notions of what it means to read, write, to tell stories, and to listen to them. And it will do it in a (mostly) fascinating and suspenseful way, to make the ideas go down that much easier.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific novel about reading, June 26 2001
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
=========================
QUOTE:
In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You've Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
the Books Dealing With Something You're Working On At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They'll Be Handy Just In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.
Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time To Reread and the Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It's Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.
With a zigzag dash you shake them off and leap straight into the citadel of the New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You. Even inside this stronghold you can make some breaches in the ranks of the defenders, dividing them into New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general) and New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you), and defining the attraction they have for you on the basis of your desires and needs for the new and the not new (for the new you seek in the not new and for the not new you seek in the new).
=========================
It took me three reads to really enjoy this book (although the above catalogue of types of books delighted me immediately), but it's one of my favorites. The plot, such as it is, is about the Reader's quest to finish reading a book. It's a very difficult book to explain. At heart, though, the plot isn't what makes me like the book so much: I enjoy its discussion of why and how people read. It's tremendously entertaining and thought-provoking as well.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Calvino is only one laughing, April 18 2001
By 
Derrick Martin (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
The inevitable question with metafiction of almost any flavor or style, running the gammet from Jorge Luis Borges to Richard Brautigan, is really a pretty simple one: who is having more fun here? Because there is no small amount of fun to be had between the bindings of Italo Calvino's "novel," If on a winter's night a traverler. As an experiment in the nature of literature, in the nature of the dialogue conducted between writer and reader, between artist and audience, a robust kind of hermit-scholar sense of humor abounds throughout, one taking sometimes insightful and sometimes self-indulgent pot shots at everything from popular fiction to the modern univesrity to second-wave feminism to the medium of the novel itself. It takes a sense of humor to actually compose ten different, incomplete story fragrments, each taking their various cues and nuances from the respective pillars of Calvino's canon. There's the chekov-inspired/parody of "Outside the town of Malbork," there's the Notes from Underground tinged "Leaning from the steep slope," there's spy novels and sentimentality and whole other load of interesting gibberish that may seem really innovative and insightful if one is ignorant to how derivitive Calvino's own style and method really is here. Aside from his aforementioned sense of humor, the elements of Calvino's novel which seem to justify its existence(i.e. - the second person narration, the belabored metafiction cliches, even the obnoxious, self-satisfied tone of a writer who has already decided that the reader will be entranced and hypnotized by the end of the first sentence) have all been done to death already by similarly dissaffected european scholars (either by blood or by mindset) Calvino is really at his best here between the fragments, following the nameless second-person narrator and the sisters Ludmilla and Loratia through their odyssy of untranslated manuscripts and printing errors until their eventual marriage(?), a plot line that ends on a week note, certainly, but is, at heart, the most honest, sincere portion of the novel. If metafiction is to work at all, it must be because it is used as a device to more clearly illuminate the voice of the author him/herself as a three-dimensional human character and the closest Calvino comes to doing that here is in his exploration of what it really means to enjoy art, "to read," as so many of Ludmilla's lines begin. Its just unfortunate that such an admirable exlporation had to wind up so cloaked in sarcastic device and narrative scaffolding that it could not have been done in a way that still maintains some respect for the reader of Calvino's own novel. Thus, unfortunately, the answer to the question posed above here is that it is the author, without question, is the one having the most fun, and more power to him. If any readers are still willing to subject themseleves to Calvino's projection and irony, may they persevere, for there is something to be gained from it. It's just not a very pretty ride.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A commentary on joys of literature and escapism, April 18 2001
By 
KIMBERLY A. O'BRIEN (Phila, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
I've had the experience of reading various modernistic novels written by authors ranging in times and settings. Yet never have I read a novel quite like that of Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. The novel is a brilliantly crafted story which guarantees surprises and an inevitably enjoyable reading experience. The novel is written in a form, style, and structure all its own in that it doesn't follow any set pattern or formula except that of taking the reader of guard with its highs and lows.
The novel is essentially comprised of the first chapter of ten different novels to which the reader both in the story and in actuality is never given the opportunity to complete. This is set against the backdrop of a love story between Reader One and Reader Two both of whom are victims of the same fate; a botched novel. In what appears to be a comic pursuit both readers one and two continue to hunt down the original novel in order to rest their minds and progress through the work as a whole. Throughout they encounter chapter after chapter of what they believe to be the next part of the novel in pursuit but then realize it is but another botched chapter. Yet through the course of what can sometimes be viewed as pure madness, both reader one and two find each other and are married at the story's end.
The novel seems to make an interesting statement regarding literature, which can be taken one of two ways. On one hand the reader may question whether or not the characters in the novel are genuinely concerned with the literature they are pursuing or are using the pursuit for the novel as a catalyst to develop their romantic relationship. On the other hand perhaps their relationship is second to the love they share for the literary experience and attaining the knowledge that one receives through the power of reading is reward enough. In addition there is a certain escapism that can be attained through the pursuit of literature. In If on a Winter's Night... each new chapter of "the" novel represents an escape from perceived reality. In the flip flopping of chapters between the perceived reality and the alleged next chapter of the novel in question I know I found myself longing to enter the next phase and escape. This is in fact the greatest joy of the reading experience; the ability to experience the illusions that you mold into reality.
The most ingenious element of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is the dynamic and intriguing style in which it is written. Each chapter has a different movement and structure and style and gives the illusion that each chapter may indeed be written by one of the supposed authors mentioned. The telling of the story is what defines this essentially wonderful novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A commentary on joys of literature and escapism, April 18 2001
By 
KIMBERLY A. O'BRIEN (Phila, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
I've had the experience of reading various modernistic novels written by authors ranging in times and settings. Yet never have I read a novel quite like that of Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. The novel is a brilliantly crafted story which guarantees surprises and an inevitably enjoyable reading experience. The novel is written in a form, style, and structure all its own in that it doesn't follow any set pattern or formula except that of taking the reader of guard with its highs and lows. The novel is essentially comprised of the first chapter of ten different novels to which the reader both in the story and in actuality is never given the opportunity to complete. This is set against the backdrop of a love story between Reader One and Reader Two both of whom are victims of the same fate; a botched novel. In what appears to be a comic pursuit both readers one and two continue to hunt down the original novel in order to rest their minds and progress through the work as a whole. Throughout they encounter chapter after chapter of what they believe to be the next part of the novel in pursuit but then realize it is but another botched chapter. Yet through the course of what can sometimes be viewed as pure madness, both reader one and two find each other and are married at the story's end. The novel seems to make an interesting statement regarding literature, which can be taken one of two ways. On one hand the reader may question whether or not the characters in the novel are genuinely concerned with the literature they are pursuing or are using the pursuit for the novel as a catalyst to develop their romantic relationship. On the other hand perhaps their relationship is second to the love they share for the literary experience and attaining the knowledge that one receives through the power of reading is reward enough. In addition there is a certain escapism that can be attained through the pursuit of literature. In If on a Winter's Night... each new chapter of "the" novel represents an escape from perceived reality. In the flip flopping of chapters between the perceived reality and the alleged next chapter of the novel in question I know I found myself longing to enter the next phase and escape. This is in fact the greatest joy of the reading experience; the ability to experience the illusions that you mold into reality. The most ingenious element of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is the dynamic and intriguing style in which it is written. Each chapter has a different movement and structure and style and gives the illusion that each chapter may indeed be written by one of the supposed authors mentioned. The telling of the story is what defines this essentially wonderful novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where to begin...or end, April 18 2001
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
After reading the novel "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" by Italo Calvino I wasn't sure what just happened. Now is not much different, all that I can say is that I was facinated by the sweeping journey that this narrative takes you. Never before have I felt so a part of the story before. Right from the very first paprgraph you can tell that this is not going to be a normal tale. For what it is worth, I could not help thinking that the story reminded me of an onion, and no matter how many times you think you know where the story is going, you read another page and find out how wrong you were. This is not a passive novel. To get full enjoyment out of the reading you have to emerse yourself completely. The novel revolves around the two readers of books, a man and a woman, and through them you are introduced to ten different novels. The readers never get to finish on of the novels due to different circumstances surrounding each. You as the reader try to determine why they can never find the end to the book they are trying desperately to finish. The complexities are numerous because the novel is so many stories at once, not only are you involved in the adventures of the two readers but as you read what they are reading of each new book you are intrigued with the story within the story, only to have that end at a moment of suspense. Part frustrating, part intellegent, part inventive, this novel has it all. This is not recommended for the person who wants some light reading but for the reader who wants to explore what makes them want to read and what awaits us at the end. Full of philosophical insight, Calvino marks the way for the most original novel I have read and I loved ever page. I loved the novel because I have so many questions about it. We are introduced to all these charcters involved in the reading and the counterfeiting of the books, then we learn of a suspense writer who is thinking about writing a novel about what we are reading, but then you think where does Italo Calvino fit in. I don;t want to write to much to give away any great parts but just know that if you decide to pick up this book you will not be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where to begin...or end, April 18 2001
Ce commentaire est de: If on a winter's night a traveler (Paperback)
After reading the novel "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" by Italo Calvino I wasn't sure what just happened. Now is not much different, all that I can say is that I was facinated by the sweeping journey that this narrative takes you. Never before have I felt so a part of the story before. Right from the very first paprgraph you can tell that this is not going to be a normal tale. For what it is worth, I could not help thinking that the story reminded me of an onion, and no matter how many times you think you know where the story is going, you read another page and find out how wrong you were. This is not a passive novel. To get full enjoyment out of the reading you have to emerse yourself completely. The novel revolves around the two readers of books, a man and a woman, and through them you are introduced to ten different novels. The readers never get to finish on of the novels due to different circumstances surrounding each. You as the reader try to determine why they can never find the end to the book they are trying desperately to finish. The complexities are numerous because the novel is so many stories at once, not only are you involved in the adventures of the two readers but as you read what they are reading of each new book you are intrigued with the story within the story, only to have that end at a moment of suspense. Part frustrating, part intellegent, part inventive, this novel has it all. This is not recommended for the person who wants some light reading but for the reader who wants to explore what makes them want to read and what awaits us at the end. Full of philosophical insight, Calvino marks the way for the most original novel I have read and I loved ever page. I loved the novel because I have so many questions about it. We are introduced to all these charcters involved in the reading and the counterfeiting of the books, then we learn of a suspense writer who is thinking about writing a novel about what we are reading, but then you think where does Italo Calvino fit in. I don;t want to write to much to give away any great parts but just know that if you decide to pick up this book you will not be disappointed.
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If on a winter's night a traveler
If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino (Paperback - Oct. 20 1982)
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