Mike Phelan's Reviews > The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
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Sep 06, 11


The twelve year-old heir to the Baron of Ombrosa climbs up a tree to escape an unappetizing family dinner, sometime in the late 1700s. Fifty years (and 200 pages) later, he dies in the treetops, having never again set foot on the ground. Climbing between branches, he travels, has adventures, conducts love affairs, and meets great men of his age. There are dozens of hardships brought on by his self-imposed lifestyle, and interesting methods of meeting these challenges.

This isn't my favorite of Calvino's works, but it makes some interesting points without being blunt. We all have systems of rules we set up for ourselves, and force ourselves to live by; we have personality traits that we pride ourselves on, and go to great lengths to cultivate, often at the expense of ease or convenience. Sometimes there are rewards - we can see farther from certain treetops, we can eat the freshest fruit from the orchards - but these rewards are not the reason we live the lives we do. Calvino's point, I believe, is that Cosimo, like us, decides that his life is going to go one particular way, and must actively make the choice to stick by that decision even when it would be easier not to.
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