Book name: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Author: Italo Calvino
Publisher: William Weaver (English)
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 1979 (1981 in English)
Star Rating: 5/5
I like a postmodern novel that doesn't take itself too seriously, so I'm quite a fan of the works of Italo Calvino. In particular, If On A Winter's Night A Traveller.
Form is Italo Calvino's great pleasure, and here he explores it via a tale that unfolds chapter by chapter like a labyrinth that draws you in.
During If On A Winter's Night A Traveller each one reveals another copy of the 'tale' the reader is enjoying, subtly different so that many genres are explored: detective fiction, romance, satire, diary, quest, there's even room for erotic fiction.
Physically, the book is different every time another chapter opens, beginning from the moment the reader (addressed as 'you') starts the book.
The book you are reading in the chapter that follows isn't the same as the one you were reading in the last chapter!
Calvino's work is often playful and thought provoking in equal measure, and that's certainly true of this novel. Odd, amusing and slightly uncomfortable, it subverts expectations while simultaneously analysing the theory that all novels reflect a deep sense of unity.
No matter what genre the storyteller chooses to work in, they are telling the same tale nonetheless. Across the chapters, If On A Winter's Night A Traveller somehow manages to form a coherent whole that is satisfying.
As well as telling a complete tale in its own right, this work also reflects upon the validity of reception theory.
Can any novel have a 'meaning' when each reader brings to it their own unique experience and identity? Here 'you' (the reader is addressed directly) are specifically reminded that right now, others are reading If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino - and that they might gain something very different from the experience.
Yet, deftly and carefully, Calvino intermingles these different readers' responses so that they produce a unified whole. A rebuttal of reception theory? Or merely an assertion that each work of literary merit has room for alternative perspectives and interpretations? You decide!
A wonderful book, funny and intriguing in equal measure.
Thank you for reading my review.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested reading in my review of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
Or you might like to take a look at my review of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.