Mike's Reviews > The Baron In The Trees

The Baron In The Trees by Italo Calvino
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Feb 12, 2008

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Recommended to Mike by: Ann Kim, Stefano Rastelli
Recommended for: Calvino fans, fairy tale
Read in January, 2008

Originally I had read sections of this book in Italian for a class I took while studying abroad. Calvino's sentences and vocabulary can be a bear to translate, especially given the nature of the book; the protagonist, Cosimo, spends most of the novel climbing in various species of tree, and even at the moments of the highest dramatic tension I had to flip through a rather large dictionary to find out that he was traversing a holm oak.

Rereading in English, this fascination with the particulars made the story much stronger, stoking my imagination where it remembers how certain trees were better to climb because of how their bark felt on my cheek. Calvino has a preternatural sense of how to spin a yarn; no matter how dense his books are or appear to be, I almost always imagine his readers telling the basic stories to their grandchildren.

As a reader I enjoy exploring the worlds created by certain works. Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander are two of them. It is clear that Calvino loves exploring these worlds as well, and perhaps this is the origin of his skills as a writer. But at times his love as a reader bleeds into his sensibility as an author, as if he can't resist accompanying the reader into the world he has created, bullying him (or her) out of the way in order to lead him to idea that he thinks is particularly interesting. It feels that Calvino has built his wonderous little idea into such an admittedly beguiling tale for his own sake, and the story loses some of its luster for it.

*I full well understand that post-modernism, a movement with which Calvino is often associated, often investigates the roles of author and reader and how these may be exchanged. My opinion is that sometimes it works (If on a winter's night a traveler) and sometimes it is merely distracting (The Baron in the Trees).
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