If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

4.2 31
by Italo Calvino

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Italo Calvino imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers.


If on a Winter's Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth


Italo Calvino imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers.


If on a Winter's Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive and extinct, through which two readers, a male and a female, pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.

Editorial Reviews

John Updike
Manages to charm and entertain the reader in the heat of a scheme designed to frustrate all leaderly expectations. -- The New Yorker
Mary McCarthy
Calvino is a wizard. -- New York Review of Books

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Meet the Author

ITALO CALVINO (1923–1985) attained worldwide renown as one of the twentieth century's greatest storytellers. Born in Cuba, he was raised in San Remo, Italy, and later lived in Turin, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. Among his many works are Invisible Cities, If on a winter's night a traveler, The Baron in the Trees, and other novels, as well as numerous collections of fiction, folktales, criticism, and essays. His works have been translated into dozens of languages.

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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
I have been on an experimental kick, which has been fun, I must say, and this one is the latest addition to it. Having read books like House of Leaves and Naked Lunch has really stretched my literary muscles. This book achieves the same in a slightly different way and though it will test most readers comfort level, it will not be so much in the content as in the format.

For starters, you are one of the man characters of the book. Yes, you, the reader, with the other character being `the other reader¿ who is a girl that has also picked up a copy of Italo Calvino¿s new book ¿If On a Winter¿s Night a Traveler¿ at just about the same time. In fact, as you start this novel, you are literally starting this novel. The author refers to you in second person, and pulls you into this book in a way that is quite impressive. There is only one problem¿the book you buy is flawed. Pages are missing, which means you have to go an get another one, and a second one is given to you which is supposed to be the correct one, and¿so you and the other reader begin to read this new book and once again, during a climactic moment, your story is stopped. This continues ten times, and you read the beginning of ten different stories, all different in content and style, and all of them incomplete¿and it is through these incomplete books that this book is¿well, completed.

Though it takes a while for you as the reader to settle into this new form of storytelling, I have to say that this was a very engrossing read. Rarely before has an author managed to truly place me in a story as this one has. And in the process he gives a tour of a number of worlds which I am unfortunately left wanting more of just as the characters in the book. Though there are a pair of stories which I could have done without, I found that the majority of them would have made pretty damned good books, and there were a handful that really had me wishing that they were real books, because I would have immediately added them to my list.

A fun read, that is for certain, though beware that the author uses an arsenal of words which can be rather intimidating. More than once I had to find my way to the dictionary, which in a good story can be slightly problematic, because you are left with two options 1) cut the flow of your reading to find out what the word means or 2) skip it and look it up later at which time you may have forgotten the context. Though, with this slight flaw set aside and the fact that in some occasions the details can be daunting, this book is certainly a breath of fresh air for anybody tired of reading the same old stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wrote my last research paper about this book - it was that interesting to me. The novel is written in second person, making you the main character. This point of view is notoriously difficult to pull off, but Calvino manages to do just that, without seeming phony or conceited (which is rare). The novel is broken up into several different stories, all of which are begun but none of which are finished (curious, aren't you?). Various adventures unravel as you (the protagonist) search for the endings to these stories, which in turn lead you to other stories, etc. Within the novel are various examinations of what roles the reader and author play and what an ideal story should be like (this is the most intriguing aspect of the book). Although the premise might sound silly or contrived, it works beautifully due to Calvino's great storytelling ability. This story (the ideal story?) is captivating and intelligent; you won't be disappinted.
Columbian More than 1 year ago
Read this book several times, and always get something different from it.  When someone asks what it is "about" I still cannot give a clear answer, which is a good thing.
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
This was a strange read for me. I loved the idea of the novel, and I really enjoyed the first half. It was very interesting to read these small snippets of different books, and I liked the absurd way the search for the rest of one book lead to the beginning of another. The problem for me was the second half, and the introduction of a weird semi-plot. It was completely uninteresting to me, and served to bog down the novel. I really wish Calvino had stuck to what seemed to be the original premise; a kind of post-modern anti-novel, with no plot, exploring vastly different styles and themes, delighting readers with the very things which should frustrate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I may not be a literary genius but I do read a lot and this book was horrible. The first chapter pulled me in, the second made me feel all would be well, but by the third I was completely lost! Avant- guarde? It just isn't my cup of tea.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino's inventive discourse, is a genuine masterpiece of convolution, evolution and conversation; a work of synthesis that draws upon traditional narrative and then revises, creating and recreating images and perspectives on reading, writing, perception and reflection in the postmodern world. Particularly insightful is Chapter Eight which contains the diaries of a writer in doubt and poised on the brink of a novel; the entire work, however, explodes readership in a fresh and fascinating way. An immensely tantalizing read, this book can be as irksome as a fly behind your ear or as softly appealing as a lover's kiss. It is, above all a deeply satisfying and brilliantly original book and one that cuts through the excesses of fiction like a lawn mower cutting through new spring grass. Calvino reels off ideas like fireworks on the Fourth of July and he provides us with an ending that is sharper and sweeter than pink lemonade on a hot summer's day. This book is a perfect literary vacation: refreshing, rejuvenating and simply delicious with new twists and turns around every bend. It definitely takes us places we have never been before, but absolutely hope to see again. The prose is alternately dreamy, sensual, crystaline and precise, but always perfect. With levels of organization as complex as a molecule of DNA, the ten stories that make up If On a Winter's Night a Traveler are a true joie de vivre and is unique among modern novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Calvino captures you in a world that you become a part of. You are the main character. This book is an amazing philosophy on reading. Recommended for those who are looking for something a little different.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got it from a library but am considering buying a copy. It's a must-read for anyone considering writing a novel as Calvino makes the reader a charactor (assuming the reader is male) and discusses various writing techniques while using them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author divides the novel into several separate, unfinished stories which are connected to the two main characters' own story in this way: the two characters (one of which is supposed to be YOU, which creates a weird situation for a female reader, *wink*) are in search of first one novel's ending, which leads them to a new novel entirely, the ending of which is also lost, leading them to the next story, and so on... All in all, I recommend this book to those who are tired of the 'same old' format.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Calvino is a master story teller and once you read this thoroughly interesting book, you'll also agree. The story dynamics are incredible, what he's done in one book, in one chapter, alot of postmodern writers would have a hard time writing. A wonderful wonderful book.
MrZaphodBeeblebrox More than 1 year ago
This is both a novel, a compendium of two dozen novels, an instruction guide for readers, and instruction guide for writers, a love story and much more. I don't need to tell you how to read it, since it begins with this important information. "Congratulations"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What genre sub genre is this book
MirameInc More than 1 year ago
When I was two years old I received a custom children's book for Christmas, in which my name was summarily inserted in numerous "blanks" in order that I might be the main character, and help Santa save Christmas. What "Santa's Secret Helper" did for my 5 year old self, Italo Calvino's "If On a Winter's Night a Traveler" did for my 20something, literature-loving, bookworm self, in a much more profound and gripping way.  Calvino has written a book for those who love literature, in which the book is about reading the book.  
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I read and enjoyed this years ago; I wanted it in my library for future re-reading. It is a lovely book.
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goalman More than 1 year ago
Stringing words together does not a book make. Agreed,the style is novel but the content produced a headache. Won't be reading any further works of Mr. Calvino
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