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4.0 out of 5 stars Inception, if the made you a character
I really enjoyed If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, even if the mechanics of the book grated in exactly the way the author intended. Over and over he takes you right up to the edge of revelation only to, in a playfully sadistic way, pull you back from the edge.

The world seems to flex in both directions as you become an actor on the stage he sets, move between...
Published 2 months ago by Craig Jenkins

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars I could be wrong about this ....
..... but about a half way through this book, when some characters become involved in intimate liaisons, I got the suspicion that Mr Calvino was representing sexual relations - or potential ones - as novels. And he was bemoaning the fact that most of our potential relationships are frustrated, incomplete, never fulfilled. And that so much of what we feel and hear is...
Published on Dec 12 2001 by A. G. Plumb


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4.0 out of 5 stars Inception, if the made you a character, Jan. 20 2014
By 
Craig Jenkins (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Paperback)
I really enjoyed If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, even if the mechanics of the book grated in exactly the way the author intended. Over and over he takes you right up to the edge of revelation only to, in a playfully sadistic way, pull you back from the edge.

The world seems to flex in both directions as you become an actor on the stage he sets, move between genders and roles, and in some ways, participate in the action.

It's manipulative, but remains, quite a ride.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shit! in a good way!, June 18 2013
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This review is from: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Paperback)
This is the most bizzare book I have ever read, all I can say is to read it. Read the first few lines, Calvino will suggest ways in which to do so.
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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
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This review is from: 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 Intruiging, Jan. 15 2010
This review is from: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Paperback)
At first I was skeptical of this book, it started off addressing the reader, and I was expecting a total bore, however as the book progressed the story made a twist that I did not expect and I found I could not take my eyes of the book. Very clever, and I would even say inspiring. It's a book I'll probably read again in two or three years and appreciate even more.
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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
This review is from: 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
This review is from: 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 I just reread the book and found myself swept away (again), March 3 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Paperback)
I first read "If on a Winters Night a Traveler" six years ago, when I was a far less skilled reader than I am right now. I enjoyed Calvino's novel back then, but didn't understand its intricacies. Then a few days ago when I was cleaning out the basement, I found the book in a storage and decided to re-read it.
Have you ever read a novel that causes you to walk around in a mental daze for days; have you ever found a book that causes you to re-examine everything you have ever read; have you ever read something that causes invisible shivers to travel up and down your spine whenever you think about it.
This is one of those rare books where -- as you near the ending -- you find your eyes holding the words tightly, your consciousness oblivious to the world around you, your fingers rapidly turning the pages, and your spirit hoping the book will never reach an end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the living illusion of the non-writer, and the non-reader, Jan. 25 2002
This review is from: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Paperback)
finishing a book, and bleeding for more. how can one beat being the protagonist of his own illusion; for reading is nothing more than the betrayal of the empirical world, and the dive into eternal enterpretation and creation. the process is virtually hermeneutic. YOU are the writer; the words guide you upon the journey YOU create. the writer is just a reformative corpus of words that preceded his own experience of giving in to eternity. his hand is the hand of all others and of IT. he lays down the pebbles, and you stroll down the pathway. you choose which turn to take, and when the monsters are to appear. what Calvino does is recreate this metaphor in the form of a literary text, creating a parody of writing and reading, with which the Reader has no choice but to be filled with awe and astonishment over the magic perplexity that has appeared before him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reader seeks Other Reader, Jan. 21 2002
By 
Brad (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Paperback)
This is a brilliant novel. Calvino has for me lived up to all the hype -- here is a book that is simultaneously a virtuoso display of story telling and mixed narrative modes, an exploration of the nature of meaning, an experiment in overall structure that pays off brilliantly... (Not often that a book makes you sound like a ... back-cover reviewer). I think this will turn out to be one of the most influential books I've read -- it left me sitting in an airport looking at the world as a sea of possibility waiting to explode.
(Oh, and if you are Other Reader -- get in touch? I'll be waiting in the bookstore...)
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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (Paperback - Sept. 22 1982)
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