November 16, 2013
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (Review)
Author: Italo Calvino
First published: 1979
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
It's a meta-book. It's a book about books. It's a book about you reading books. And yes, it's every inch as crazy as this description makes it sound! My feelings while reading the novel were something like "Ha-ha, Calvino, what are you doing to me? Stoooop, you bastard!". No wonder I couldn't slow down enough to read along with the guys from this wonderful event. I HAD to know what else he had in store for me!
The book focuses on a Reader - you, who has just bought a new Calvino book If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and is starting to read it. The first chapter totally grips you, but then... you discover that there is some printing mess, and the rest of the pages are from some other book. You go to the bookshop to scandal, but they could do nothing, and so you start a hunt for the book, exploring more and more book beginnings which have nothing to do with the book you have started to read... Sometime on the way you meet a beautiful female Reader, who joins you in your quest. Where it'll bring you? Ha, if only you knew...
Incorporated in this one novel there are a total of 10 book beginnings of different genres, with different settings, characters and plots. And they are ALL worth to be stand-alone novels if only they had the chance. It's amazing how Calvino plays with different styles and how unbelievably good he is at any and all of them. Somewhere in the middle of the book I felt frustration that I'm not to know how all these stories end, but then I started to think that it's really not necessary. I mean, if you recognize the genre of the book, you can very well predict what kinds of events will happen there. So do you actually need to read the book just to make sure? Isn't it better to guess?
In the intermissions between the book beginnings there are some really interesting thoughts and musings on reading-related topics. Calvino describes in detail the processes of preparing to open a new book, of visiting a bookshop, of participating in a book club... He lets the reader meet different types of bookish people: a researcher, a publisher, a writer, a non-reader and many more. It's not very fair, I think, as everybody reading this novel is a reader, so literally everybody reading it is bound to find something to relate to. So it's good to keep in mind that Calvino is playing with you and not to take it seriously :)
In my book:
It's a great novel, very readable, very amusing, and yet very thoughtful and sometimes frustrating. Not recommended to people who need a closure to everything - it can really piss them off :) Otherwise - it's a book for you and about you, reader, so go read it!