Scurra's Reviews > If on a Winter's Night a Traveller

If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
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's review
Jul 21, 2008

it was amazing
Read in January, 2005

It's almost impossible to discuss this book without inadvertently spoiling it for others - because it is, perhaps, the ultimate example of high concept.
What makes this book unusual, compared to others who have attempted the same thing, is the consistency with which he maintains the conceit, all the way through to the magnificent punchline, which I have to warn people not to be tempted to look at before they get to it.

However, it also falls into that awkward category of books that I don't read for pleasure - the sheer mental involvement required to appreciate it inevitably diminishes my enjoyment. I have to say that it isn't helped (in the version I own) by the inferior translation: one of the major structural elements is what is meant to be the deliberate parody of different genre styles; unfortunately the translator isn't up to the job and so what I imagine is a whole extra layer of cleverness is sadly diminished here.

And no, it isn't the best thing he's done (for me, that's Invisible Cities) but it will be the thing he will be remembered for. And frankly, that's nothing to be ashamed of.

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