Meghan Fidler's Reviews > If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
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Jan 25, 12

Read in January, 2012

"Try to foresee now everything that might make you interrupt your reading. Cigarettes within reach, if you smoke, and the ashtray. Anything else? Do you have to pee? All right, you know best."

If on a Winters Night a Traveler is one of the most intriguing explorations of, and on, narrative forms. Addressing a reader in the book, you 'as' a reader, and your awareness of other readers (a journey which you take alongside the book's reader), the text cultivates multiple lines of storylines by interweaving anecdotes.

"Your attention, as reader, is now completely concentrated on the woman, already for several pages you have been circling around her, I have—no, the author has—been circling around the feminine presence, for several pages you have been expecting this female shadow to take shape the way female shadows take shape on the written page, and it is you expectation, reader, that drives the author toward her; and I, too, though I have other things to think about, there I let myself go, I speak to her, I strike up a conversation that I should break off as quickly as I can, in order to go away, disappear."

Yes, that's a mouthful.
Yes, this is one of those books that you read again. And get more the second time.
Italio Calvino is brilliant, and this book is a masterpiece.

Literacy placed on display, literally.

"…from the terrace of the Swiss chalet, Silas Flannery is looking through a spyglass mounted on a tripod at a young woman in a deck chair, intently reading a book on another terrace, two hundred meters below in the valley. 'She’s there every day,' the writer says. 'Every time I’m about to sit down at my desk I feel the need to look at here. Who knows what she’s reading? I know it isn’t a book of mine, and instinctively I suffer at the thought, I feel the jealousy of my books, which would like to be read the way she reads. I never tire of watching her: she seems to live in a sphere suspended in another time and another space. I sit down at the desk, but no story I invent corresponds to what I would like to convey.'"

If you love to read, if you find a literate lifestyle a pleasure and an aspect of who you are, pick up Calvino.
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