Pamela's Reviews > The Path to the Spiders' Nests

The Path to the Spiders' Nests by Italo Calvino
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's review
Nov 18, 09

Read in November, 2009

Calvino's first novel written at the age of twenty three is set during Italy's struggle for Liberation during WWII. Calvino was a member of a partisan group based in the mountains and drew on his own experiences to write this novel of the Resistance. However, not content with a fictional memoir, he wanted to create a polemic. As he says in his preface: "I wanted to conduct a campaign on two fronts simultaneously: to launch an attack both against the detractors of the Resistance and against the high-priests of a hagiographic Resistance that was all sweetness and light." He also wanted to create a revolutionary work that would be a "story about partisans in which nobody is a hero, nobody has any class consciousness."
What he came up with, essentially, is a story mostly narrated through the consciousness of a pre-pubescent boy who is alienated from children his own age and spends all his time in the company of adult men whom he does not fully understand. The boy, Pin, grows up motherless in the slums and is swept by circumstance into a band of partisans made up of losers - men who have been rejected by more effective, committed and successful groups.
Calvino's descriptive writing and character creation are superb. His narrative structure, however, is problematic. It reads like a boy's adventure tale - not surprising given that his main character is a child - and his overwhelming, and youthful, desire to make sure we get his "message" leads him to create a chapter (9) that departs from the main story to spell out his political dialectic.
Possibly the best reason to pick up this novella is for Calvino's preface to the revised (1988) version.

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