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Italo Calvino (1923 – 1985)

Italian literature - postmodern literature - metafiction

In search of postmodern novels

If on a winter's night a traveler (1979) - Italo Calvino [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Italo Calvino (October 15, 1923 – September 19, 1985) was an Italian writer and novelist. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italo Calvino [Jul 2006]

If on a winter's night a traveler (1979) - Italo Calvino

If on a winter's night a traveler (Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore) is a novel published in 1979 by Italo Calvino.

This book is about a reader trying to read a book called If on a winter's night a traveler. The first chapter and every odd numbered chapter are in second person, and tell you (the reader) what you are doing to get ready to read the next chapter in the book. The even numbered chapters are all single chapters from whichever book the reader is trying to read.

It is a rather complex post-modern novel about reading novels. The book begins with a preface on the art and nature of reading, and is subsequently divided into twenty-two passages. The odd-numbered passages, and the final passage, are narrated in the second person. That is, they concern events purportedly happening to the novel's reader. (Some contain further discussions about whether the narrated, and male, "you" is the same as the "you" that is actually reading.) These chapters concern the reader's adventures in reading Italo Calvino's novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Eventually the reader meets a woman, who is also addressed in her own chapter, separately, also in the second person.


The second-person narrative passages develop into a fairly cohesive novel that puts its two protagonists on the track of an international book-fraud conspiracy, a mischievous translator, a reclusive novelist, a collapsing publishing house, and several repressive governments.

The title If on a winter's night a traveler is a good indicator of this novel which is reminiscent of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. The book commences on a hypothesis of novelistic elements ("If...") on a when, a someone...would do what? According to this book, the entire novel, even its plot, is an open trajectory where even the author himself questions his motives of the writing process. This theme — a writer's objectivity — is also explored in Calvino's novel Mr. Palomar, which explores if absolute objectivity is possible or even, agreeable. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_on_a_winter%27s_night_a_traveler [Jun 2006]

See also: postmodern literature - Italo Calvino - narrator

Fantastic Tales : Visionary and Everyday (1985) - Italo Calvino (Editor)

Fantastic Tales : Visionary and Everyday (1985) - Italo Calvino (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The brilliant Italian writer Italo Calvino (1923-1985) compiled Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday, a historical overview of great fantastic literature of the 19th century. Many of his 26 selections are from well-known authors (Sir Walter Scott, Honoré de Balzac, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Wells), but Calvino largely avoided their best-known stories; the only inclusions likely to be familiar to many Americans are Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and H.G. Wells's "The Country of the Blind." The remaining contributors range from moderately well-known to obscure. So the reader who purchases Fantastic Tales gains not only an intelligently annotated anthology of superb fiction, but, in one pleasant sense, a collection of mostly new stories. Interestingly, some of the finest stories are by authors least known in America. Théophile Gautier's beautifully written, wrenchingly ironic "The Beautiful Vampire" establishes the traditions for romantic vampire fiction. Mérimée's "The Venus of Ille," a tale of culture clashes (Parisian and rural, ancient classical, and contemporary Christian), is sharp, well-written, and uncommonly horrific. With the gorgeous "A Lasting Love," the sole woman contributor, Vernon Lee, paints the most vivid portrait of obsessive, transcendent, destructive love.

Caveat: Calvino's introductions sometimes reveal more of the plot than readers will like. --Cynthia Ward

From Library Journal
The famed Italian novelist and folk literature scholar Calvino (1923-85) assembled a rich and wide-ranging anthology of 26 fantastic tales from the 19th century, first published in Italian in 1983. The collection includes imaginative selections from the pen of famed writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nikolai Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, and Ivan Turgenev. The illuminating introduction traces the fantastic story from the beginning of 19th-century German Romanticism, with special attention to E.T.A. Hoffman (1766-1822), proclaimed the greatest author of the genre. Each of the stories, carefully selected, leaps immediately into intrigue and engages the reader with macabre descriptions and challenging juxtapositions. Concise, informative headnotes precede each story, identifying the author and the story's significance. These fascinating tales, along with Calvino's thoughtful comments, will be enjoyed by mature readers from the high school level and beyond.?Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, Pa. Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

see also: fantastic literature - fantastique

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