If On A Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino [Book Thoughts]

You might find that If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller is complex, intricate and different; a search for an end to a book which has only beginnings.
-Imran

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If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino

(William Weaver Translation)

You read a new review on Italo Calvino’s book. The review is new, the book isn’t. The review you are reading should convey some kind of understanding of the book’s subject matter, and perhaps some trivia about Calvino itself. Perhaps it will tell you that he was an Italian postmodern writer. Perhaps it will mention his famous books Cosmicomics and Invisible Cities. Or perhaps it will jump straight into the new review.

You begin reading If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller. The first chapter engrosses you. But your copy contains some kind of misprint; there is no second chapter. Frustrated, you return to the bookstore only to learn that the publishers have made a mistake and printed the first chapter of a different book under Calvino’s name. You don’t care, you just want to read the second chapter of whatever you were reading. But when you get your hands on that book, it turns out to be another story entirely; and another one with no continuation. And so it continues as you search from book to book, through a romance, a war story, a crime thriller and more, as you try to find the end of a book which contains only beginnings.

The review may have suggested to you that If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler is a sequence of opening chapters. But it should also suggest that between the chapters is a larger narrative, a quest to find these mysterious books, to find out who is responsible. By the end of this review, you will have understood that If On A Winter’s Night is a book about books. It explores the way to read them, it explores the way that they are read, it explores the way that are written, it explores the way in which you as the reader would interpret the book itself. In reading it you may read what Calvino didn’t know because you sought in it what you didn’t know.

And in reading If On A Winter’s Night, you will come to know that Calvino is eloquent, verbose. The reviewer is not sure if he’s a writer; the reviewer suggests that instead he is a painter, painting words instead of colours across the canvas that is the blank page. The review notes while the work is a translation, the prose is still beautiful.

By now, you are interested in reading Calvino’s Wintery book. You are intrigued by the changing novels, the novel second person style, the novelty of a book that is about reading itself. You may read it because you appreciate the complexity, the self-referential networks of lines that interlace and intersect. You may read it because of the artistry; because it is a novel aware of itself being written. You may read only because it is different. But whatever the reason, the final decision, dear reader, lies with you.

You might find that If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller is complex, intricate and different; a search for an end to a book which has only beginnings.

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