Jul 07 2007

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Published by at 8:48 am under Books

by Ttalo Calvino

This is another book that I bought and read by chance. I was looking for “The Cosmic Comics” by the same author when I found this book in a second hand book shop. And, it is an unusual book. Initially, it reminded me of stories by Luis Borges and it still does to some extent; recursive regresses and lots of talk about books and libraries. Books, writing books and reading books is the theme. That may make it sound like an academic book, but it isn’t. I read the whole book and enjoyed most of it.

The boo has an unusual structure consisting of 10 or 12 first chapters of fictional stories interspersed with chapters about the readers and writers of those truncated books. Most of the ‘first chapters’ are good first chapters that seem capable of being developed into a story, but they are never continued. The other chapters tell the story of two would be readers of those books and the imaginary authors or translators of them. The plot of the book is not important to the story, but the structure of the book provides a framework for an experienced author to relate a compendium of thoughts about writing, reading, and the relationship between authors and readers. Sounds dry, but it was kind of fun.

It was written near the end of Calvino’s long career as a novelist and it seems that the author was playing with all the ideas he’d encountered along the way and wrapped them into a last novel. Calvino died a few years after this book was written.

I plan to read at least one other of his book as he seems very clever and can writes interestingly.

PS. If you are wondering, “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” is the title of the first fictitious book in the real book!

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