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The Path to the Spiders' Nests

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  8,159 ratings  ·  374 reviews
Italo Calvino was only twenty-three when he first published this bold and imaginative novel. It tells the story of Pin, a cobbler's apprentice in a town on the Ligurian coast during World War II. He lives with his sister, a prostitute, and spends as much time as he can at a seedy bar where he amuses the adult patrons. After a mishap with a Nazi soldier, Pin becomes ...more
Paperback, 185 pages
Published May 30th 2000 by Ecco (first published October 1947)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Jim Fonseca
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was the author’s first book. He intended it to be a novel about the Italian resistance fighting the fascists and the German occupiers during WW II, but it ended up as more of a story about lost youth – a boy who grew up in the streets during the war and never had a childhood. (The author fought as a member of the resistance.)


In the preface we get a 24-page analysis of the author’s thinking about the novel over the years. He published the book in 1947 and at times regretted writing it, going
Violet wells
Nov 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Calvino’s first novel written shortly after his wartime experiences as a partisan. His prevailing priority seems to be to debunk the myth of the noble heroic freedom fighter. I can imagine its somewhat cynical tone would have caused a rumpus when first published in 1947. He states in the preface that his aim was twofold – to launch an attack at both the detractors of the resistance and against the “high priests of a hagiographic Resistance that was all sweetness and light.” Personally I saw a ...more
What you read and what you experience in life are not two separate worlds, but one single cosmos.

Here I go again! Another review and my Dearest Calvino.

It’s been a spectacular reading year for me. I got to know some great people, got some great book recommendations and of course read some great books written by great authors. Of them I read the following writers for the first time (No Kidding!) : Vladimir Nabokov, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Rohinton
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
"You're only a child interested in spiders' nests, what can you do with a pistol?" (78)

This little rascal, this wee imp, will make you laugh and cry. A true pariah, Pin mostly hangs out with adults & is treated like one. So when a German's gun goes missing, who goes to jail?

I cannot help but compare this to American Huckleberry Finn. The Everyboy is a figure that we both love and hate, it's emblematic though, yes, immature. Here, because there is a war going on, our wee one has to get his
Ronald Morton
Something irreparable has happened to Pin now — as irreparable as when he [redacted due to spoilers]. Never again will he be able to return to the detachment, never will he be able to go into action with them now. It is sad to be like him, a child in a world of grown-ups, always treated as an amusement or a nuisance; and never to be able to use those exciting and mysterious things, weapons and women, never to be able to take part in their games. But one day Pin will be grown-up too, and be able
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels-italian
Garima's "It’s not his best novel but it was definitely his first..." sums it up pretty well. Maybe it sounds better in Italian. But as is, meh.
Mattia Ravasi
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Featured in my Top 5 Italo Calvino Books:

Although not quite as elegant as Calvino's later efforts, The Path remains a heartbreaking work about one of Italy's most painful historical moments, and a novel where misery (although abundant) never manages to dispel hope.
J.M. Hushour
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was Calvino's first novel, and he was only in his 20s when he wrote it, so don't expect to be anything like his later irreverent, wacky works that push the envelope as far as fiction. Calvino disparages the work somewhat in a nice little preface, but gives some insights into why it came about when and how it did. Some critics, apparently, disdain it as a juvenile work.
They are all wrong. It is a fine novel and yes, completely separate from Calvino's signature works, but on its own it stands
Tyler Jones
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the last year or so I have been dipping now and again into the big collection of Calvino's letters that was published in English a couple years back. Today I read something that shocked me at first, but then made total sense when I thought about it - in a 1964 letter (March 20, to Franco Lucentini) Calvino writes: I continue to maintain that I have never loved any writer as much as Hemingway, even though his character can be vulgarized. This seems astonishing on the surface of it. It is hard ...more
James Tingle
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

My favourite Calvino work so far, no doubt about it! The story of the young lad Pin, living in a small Italian village with his prostitute sister and spending his days hanging around the local bar with the men-folk, making them laugh and winding them up. Everything changes however, when he joins the resistance movement and ends up hiding in the hills with a small band of local revolutionary soldiers, determined to be taken seriously as one of them. Its one of those novels that flows really well
Sidharth Vardhan
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reads like work of a great writer still learning his craft and that makes sense it was Calvin's first novel. The theme of a child exposed to world of adults - of sex and war, without being able to understand it fully and without an adult to make him feel safe is awesome but never achieves its full potential. The story just never spoke to me.
A bit of juvenilia from Master Italo. Turns out before Calvino wrote the gloriously weird novels of his later life, he was more interested in describing the adventures of a young, left-leaning partisan (not unlike himself, really) fighting the fascists, and the ragtag band of resistance fighters he cliques up with. You can see the later Calvino in the younger, you really can, but it's more interesting for me as a Calvino completist to see what his earliest visions looked like.
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
Glo Aleotti
I had to read it for school. It isn't a good book, of those I would choose to read. But it isn't that bad either.
3.5 stars
I am a huge fan of Calvino's works but sat on this particular book for a long time. I had started reading this book multiple times, never reading beyond thirty pages. However, this time, I decided to stick through it.
Being Calvino's very first published novel, The Path to the Spiders' Nests is vastly different from the rest of his works, even though each of his books are deviant from each other. No wonder it took me a while to hang on to the hook of the narration considering there is a
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Before Calvino was a eminence of world literature (particularly for his experimental 1970s novels Invisible Cities and If On a Winter's Night A Traveller), he spent almost two years fighting in the Alps with the Italian resistance movement during World War 2. Immediately after the war, he turned to writing, and this slim first novel of his attempts to capture aspects of wartime and life in the resistance.

Set along the coast near the French border, where Calvino grew up, it features an
Moonquake Abbott
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book for it's depiction of the ambiguities underlying the world of adults/children, men/women, partisans/fascists, Germany/Italy, etc. Perhaps the most intriguing duality, at least from Pin's perspective, is the one between war/games which he never seems to distinguish throughout the novel.

However, one criticism of Calvino as a critic of his own work is needed for any review of this book considering the addition of a very revealing preface by the author. The preface was added later
Paul Chan Htoo Sang
Whatever you do, read the Preface of this book! It has one of the best literary analysis for post World-War 2 Italian literature (usually known as the new-realism movement).

The book itself isn't brilliant. It shed some light on the political situation in Italy during World-War 2, but apart from that the plot and the characters aren't unique (in a sense). But the dry humor of main character who is really irritating is something new. I think "Pin" and "Cousin" captured the sense of neo-realist
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
I don't really understand why I liked this book so much. But I did. I couldd finish neither invisible cities nor difficult loves, but this book, calvino's first, at 23(!), i picked up at 11 am last friday morning and was 10 pages from the end by the end of the work day. every free moment i was inside those pages.

so apparently i'm not a fan of later calvino.

published in 1947, this is a coming of age tale of a young urchin, abused by his older sister who is a prostitute for the SS, that runs
Jan 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Calvino's first book, a 'neo-realist' novel about the partisan struggle against the Nazis and the Fascists in the closing years of World War II in northern Italy. The story follows the resourceful child Pin as he steals a pistol from a German soldier and is forced to escape to the mountains, where he joins a ragged band of partisans -- volunteers in 'Dritto's Detachment', which is made up entirely of misfits who aren't really trusted by the more competent soldiers in the other detachments.

Valerio Finizio
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first approach with Italo Calvino was "If on a winter's night a traveler", which left me somewhat perplexed. My fault: it was not a great choice for breaking the ice. Then I thought: "let's start from the beginning", and I bought "The Path to the Spiders' Nests": his first work.
A very great choice.
Calvino has a flowing prose, pleasant and evocative. His characters (especially the little Pin), are people in flesh and blood, with that comic touch that makes them exaggerated, in certain traits.
Nov 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, translation
italo calvino joined the italian resistance in 1943, and his experiences as a partisan during the final years of world war ii helped shape the ideas he would use for his first novel, written four years later at the age of twenty-four. set in italy during the war, the path to the spiders' nests is a coming-of-age tale about pin, an orphaned apprentice who spends his days hanging out at the bar frequented by his prostitute sister. after stealing a pistol from one of his sister's nazi clientele, ...more
Karen Michele
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a real sucker for coming of age novels, so this first work by Italo Calvino was quite enjoyable reading for me even though it was set in wartime. Calvino fought as a partisan, so the book felt accurate, although the main character, Pin, also seemed exaggerated at times. I found him endearing, even when he was being obnoxious, and he made a good catalyst for the story. The conflict between the worlds of childhood and adulthood, especially through the lens of war, was the greatest strength of ...more
Wahyu Novian
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This first Calvino’s novel is more conventional than two previous books I read. It has a clear story and characters. But the way Calvino told the story is enticing as always.

It follows a heart breaking story of an orphaned boy, named Pin, in the middle of war. He was a lost boy who couldn’t fit in with boys of his age for his foul mouth and demeanor, nor in the world of grownups for he was too young to be taken seriously. Yet he always prefer around grownups for his foul mouth and demeanor can
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
The first time Calvino has crossed my path and there is enough in this, his brief first novel to suggest that his path is worth following: at the end there may be something more positive and uplifting than a German Army Pistol. Or a nest of spiders. This is Italy in WWII: resistance, Partisans, Fascists, a time without grace and lacking heroes. Pin tries to be a grown up - his prostitute elder sister means he knows more than most boys his age - but telling jokes and making fun of adults only ...more
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Calvino lite (to be expected, it was written when he was 23 to some, 24 to Harold Bloom). Imagine a bowl in which you mix Hemingway's dry narrative with Fellini's childish sense of wonder and playfulness (the latter becoming the key, defining elements of his later work). Ivan's childhood.

A very fun concoction, however forgettable. With 'Invisible Cities' Calvino lands on Mars, while in 'Path to the spiders' nests' he has his lift-off. The latter book, As Faulkner would say, 'has the germ of my
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing, although with a nice twist at the end. It's written in a realistic style completely different from his later, famous works, so don't expect any of the greatness found in If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, for example. In this "restored" edition, there is also too much detail covering the political beliefs of the Italian resistance—few care anymore—which distracts from the quite simple story. I would recommend an earlier, shorter edition, where Calvino himself wisely had removed ...more
Tuğrulcan Elmas
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
What makes story significant is that it is a book that tells the story of the Partisan war from the perspective of a child, so do not expect a super complicated and in-depth plot with surprises. To me, what makes it more interesting was the phrases used in conveying the story. For example, author was describing how hungry the partisans was and he did it by telling us that they were having dreams full of morcels of bread and that would be a dream that street dogs would see.
An easy reading, and it
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Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).

His style is not easy to classify; much of his writing has an air reminiscent to
“Memory, or rather experience -- which is the memory of the event plus the wound it has inflicted on you, plus the change which it has wrought in you and which has made you different-- experience is the basic nutrition also for a work of literature (but not only for that), the true source of wealth for every writer (but not only for the writer), and yet the minute it gives shape to a work of literature it withers and dies. The writer, after writing, finds that he is the poorest of men.” 8 likes
“We all have a secret wound which we are fighting to avenge.” 8 likes
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