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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  34,874 ratings  ·  2,535 reviews
Italo Calvino imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers.

"If on a""Winter's Night a Traveler" turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive and...more
ebook, 276 pages
Published October 25th 2012 by Mariner Books (first published 1979)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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MJ Nicholls
You are about to read Mark Nicholls’s review of Italo Calvino’s postmodern classic If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. You might want to position yourself in a comfortable chair before you begin, or place a cushion behind your back, as we know how arduous it can be to read things off the internet. You might also care to prepare a coffee, a light snack, or to switch a light on before beginning.

You might be thinking that this review is not going to interest you, since book reviews on books you hav...more
Kinga
I say this is what happened:
Italo Calvino was suffering from a writer's block. He would start a novel, get it to its first curve and abandon it before the resolution. A few months later he would start another with a similar result. Finally, his publishers got impatient because it had been years since the last novel and they said:
'Italo, get your shit together! We need a new book. Now!'
Italo panicked and did the only thing he could think of. He glued all his failed attempts together and delivered...more
Hadrian
"YO DAWG, I HEARD YOU LIKE READING, SO I PUT A BOOK IN YO' BOOK, SO YOU CAN READ WHILE YO' READ."
Marvin
I arrived at the library with my two books in hand. As I plunked them down on the check-in counter, a thin matronly woman approached.

"Would you like to check these books in?"

"Yes I would but I would also like to..."

"Oh, I see you read If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino."

"Yes I did. Have you read it too?"

"On starting the first few pages, you were put off by what appears to be a artistic gimmick."

"Why yes a little. but..."

"you soon realized that the author was trying to involve you...more
Fionnuala
Reviewed in January 2014
When I read If on a Winter's Night a Traveler two years ago, I muddled through it, admiring the prose but frustrated by the amount of interrupted narratives it contained. I knew there was something very brilliant going on, some underlying logic, but I felt it was way beyond my comprehension. And so it was.

Yesterday, I discovered Calvino's rationale for the book written in a complex code in the yellowed pages of an old copy of one of the volumes published by the experimen...more
Ian Paganus de Fish
Manuscript #1

Unlike my friends and colleagues, Professors Calvino and Galligani, I intend to tell you my name and something of my modus operandi, soon, too.

This one sentence might already have supplied enough information or implication to let you work out who I am.

Have you guessed yet? No? Well, my name is Professor Uzzi-Tuzii, though my friends call me Julian. Not only is that my name, but that is who I am.

Yes. It's true. I am Professor Uzzi-Tuzii.

See how much I have revealed about myself, see...more
Aubrey
You are scrolling through the reviews and statuses and various examples of book mongering on Goodreads, eyes lazily wandering in hopes of something that will snatch them and hold them fast in fascination. After several refreshings of the page you see that Aubrey has recently finished and rated "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler', which means that a review will not be long in coming, as Aubrey is not the type to carefully compose and coordinate a review for more than a day, often submitting words...more
Garima
Well,I am not here to review this book but since that’s the only option available here so I can’t help it. I have nothing new or different to say that hasn’t been said earlier and neither am I one of those seasoned reviewers on GR that other members look forward to read their views on a particular book (OK! Enough of self-pity).

I mean come on, Calvino didn’t write this novel (or antinovel, like I read somewhere) so that some random reader would read this epic book and dare to have an opinion. H...more
Manny
You gaze, confounded, at your laptop, vainly trying to find a way to review this so-called novel, which you, an anglophone, have perversely read in French, not the native language either of yourself or of the author. Your companion notices your perplexity and tries to help, or, possibly, to confuse you further.

"It's beautifully written," she says. "But it has no heart."

"Mais chère Lectrice, how do you know?" you ask. "You have read If on a winter's night, a traveller, while I have read Si par un...more
Kalliope
I have not finished the book but it does not matter. I can post my review already.

You are wondering whether to phone the police to remove Mark Nicholls from your house. You are deeply confused as to why this reviewer whose opinions you find facile and banal is suddenly sitting naked on your couch reading the very book you were reading about,” he says. You look for a blunt instrument to hit him with, but can find only a cup. You throw the cup, but he ducks and it breaks against the wall. Then Gar...more
Michael
A delightful romp of two readers on a quest to find fulfillment in books. It felt like a wonderful hybrid of Borges’ compressed imagination, David Mitchell’s broken stories in “The Cloud Atlas”, and Jasper Fforde’s placement of reader sleuths into his farces.

The book got its hooks into me right from the beginning, talking directly to me as the reader entering a bookstore to acquire this new novel by Calvino. So engaging to have me negotiate through a bunch of idiosyncratic book categories. For...more
Steve
Calvino met a muse.
Then he met a metamuse.
But was it all a ruse?

nyehh...

Who am I to disabuse?


I had such grandiose plans for reviewing this book. Then I made the mistake of reading what my luminous Goodreading friends had already said and realized I had no luster to add. I briefly toyed with the idea of a metareview of those reviews, but lacked the energy and time to follow through. Besides, I’ve produced a lot of flab lately and decided to avoid the excess this time. If what you seek is insight,...more
Jonathan

You are about to read the review of On a Winter's Night A Traveller by Jonathan Terrington. You look at the review but it is not what you expect. You then think some deep thoughts about the world, are constantly addressed as You and wonder what on earth just happened....

This is the response I had to If On a Winter's Night A Traveller which is perhaps one of the most bizarre books I have read. I don't know if it was actually as smart as it seemed to think it was but I liked it still despite many...more
Madeleine
Your recent tango with a David Mitchell novel reminds you that he wrote "Cloud Atlas" under the influence of "If on a winter's night a traveler," a book you've been meaning to read since gleaning this information. You're anticipating a slow week at work so you'll need something to stave off the excruciating boredom you expect from the days to come: You grab the book on your way out.

You arrive at your job and are, indeed, greeted by a dearth of things to do. It looks like your day is going to de...more
Teresa
I'm not the kind of person to define myself. Of course, I know I'm a daughter, sister, wife, etc and most importantly, a mother. But besides my relationship to other people, if I'm 'forced' to think about what defines me, what I know I've always been, as far back as I can remember, is a Reader. And if you are the same, then, like me, you will feel that Calvino is speaking to you -- you are his You.

I can't say there weren't very brief times when my attention wandered during one of the stories tha...more
Samadrita
Putting into exact words all the feelings this book evokes in the reader, is a task not just tremendously challenging but virtually impossible to execute.
After getting through the first few pages, I felt like Naomi Watts in The Ring, being pulled against her will into the world of the creepy video by Samara.
I know that's a rather cheap analogy. Comparing a creation of one of the most accomplished post-modernist writers to have emerged from Europe to a Hollywood version of a Japanese film, is pre...more
Brian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Riku Sayuj
Single Quote Review:

A rule stands there like a sign-post. – Does the sign-post leave no doubt open about the way I have to go?

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 26, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tata J, Joseph
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 and 1001
Shelves: 501, 1001-core, favorites
My first book by Italo Calvino and it was an amazing read. Calvino's format is one of a kind. He alternately narrated the chapter in second person (he tells you what you are doing as a Reader) and the first chapter of different novels. Some of those first chapters eerily resembles what is happening in the second-person chapters.

This book was originally published in 1979 in Italian and its English translation came out 3 years after. Considering that this was originally written in a foreign langua...more
Chloe
I can not think of a book that has let me down more than Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler. Admittedly, this may have been caused by in no small part by my high expectations for this novel after having read the deliriously exciting first chapter several times in a bookstore during one of those quite regular hunts for the next book to steal my heart. I mean, who can resist a first chapter that contains paragraphs like:

"In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with...more
Jessica
Sep 29, 2007 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary types
Shelves: aborted-efforts
My head thought it liked this book -- terrific beginning -- but apparently my heart had other ideas, because I got about halfway through and just never got around to finishing it. The thing's still sitting on my "active" shelf, looking smug, and reminding me that when it comes to affairs of the book, I can be a little bit dumb, and a lot flakey.

I don't know. In my defense, I'm not so crazy about most "tricky" fiction, for the same reason that I don't like participating in psychological studies,...more
Yulia
May 14, 2008 Yulia marked it as left-unfinished  ·  review of another edition
You want to write a story about a reader, whom you call you, but you also want to write about a female reader, whom you also call you, and you want you and you to interact, leading to some technical challenges, and you want you, the reader of this book, to remain interested all the while in the stories in each other chapter of the book that are meant to be part of another book that has an ever-shifting identity, much a you do. ah, but how do you keep yourself interested? How do you write about a...more
Whitaker
*Available from KOBOBOOKS

When I first started reading this book, my first thought was, “Oh, gimmickry.” After all, as it so famously starts:
”You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room.”
How very post-modernist, how droll, the novelist talking about the reader reading the very novel being read.

And yes, Calvino...more
Lit Bug
You are about to begin reading the review of Italo Calvino’s novel If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Find the most comfortable position.

Well, what are you waiting for?

It’s not that you expect anything in particular from this particular book. You’re the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. So, then, you noticed in a news...more
Geoff
This exhilarating interactive novel- in which the reader, lured into the text by the enticements of Italo Calvino's splendid intelligence, turns into the book's central character--was its author's triumphant response to the question of whether the art of fiction could survive the vast changes taking place in the communications technology of our world.

This hilarious interactive novel where the reader, the text drawn by the lure of great intelligence Italo Calvino, becomes the central character of...more
Branduno
You are starting to read Branduno's review of Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveler. But something is stopping you. Perhaps you are on a library's public computer and the staff are telling you to hurry up, get out, there is a waiting list. Or maybe it is more peaceful: you are at home, sitting down to your own laptop. But your elderly uncle has just started to loudly play Wii in the next room. You can't take it.

"Be quiet!" you yell. "I am about to start reading Branduno's review of I...more
David
If on a winter's night
a traveller picks this book,
prepare for a bit of sleight,
for this book's a hook.

A series of just starts,
and no ends in sight,
Divid'd in many parts,
But no parts-whole, not quite.

This, advent'rous reader
is a book compendium,
of oulipo muse, ('ll need her)
and threatens of novels to end 'em.

Why are you still here?
Get going! Go read it!
It's so sure to endear
and addict, you'll re-read it.
Noce
Per un pugno di incipit

Poi vedete qual è il punto? Già i piaceri della vita sono per principio piccoli e scandalosamente brevi, allora perché non dilatare il più possibile il tempo per goderne?

Vi piacciono i rompicapo? Allora perché buttarsi a vedere due ore di Inception quando potete leggere questo libro, che se lo dosate bene, vi dura almeno 5 giorni e vi dà soddisfazioni quanto un trip mentale?

Perché confinarsi nella rigida categoria del solo lettore, o del solo scrittore, quando Calvino vi a...more
Algernon
First there was an intriguing title ... What could this book be about? Myths, legends, fairytales? Horror, thriller, fantasy?
Then there were references to the same book in reviews of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, followed shortly by other mentions in relation to Catherynne Valente and her Orphan Tales. I loved both these titles, so I had to find out what the connection to Calvino is.

Well, now I know: they are indeed related, and yet unlike each other. They could all three be called gimmicky, me...more
Hend
"every thinking activity implies mirrors for me. According to Plotinus, the soul is a mirror that creates material things reflecting the ideas of the higher reason. Maybe this is why I need mirrors to think: I cannot concentrate except in the presence of reflected images, as if my soul needed a model to imitate every time it wanted to employ its speculative capacity."

This isn't a review ,only my thoughts.my friends have written amazing ones.

first it is a brilliant work of the imagination,a group...more
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155517
Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).

His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic...more
More about Italo Calvino...
Invisible Cities The Baron in the Trees Cosmicomics Il cavaliere inesistente The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount

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“Sections in the bookstore

- Books You Haven't Read
- Books You Needn't Read
- Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
- Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
- Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
- Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
- Books Too Expensive Now and You'll Wait 'Til They're Remaindered
- Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
- Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
- Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too
- Books You've Been Planning to Read for Ages
- Books You've Been Hunting for Years Without Success
- Books Dealing with Something You're Working on at the Moment
- Books You Want to Own So They'll Be Handy Just in Case
- Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
- Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
- Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
- Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time to Re-read
- Books You've Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It's Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”
990 likes
“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you...And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too. ” 413 likes
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