If on a winter's night a traveler
An experimental novel. The main character is a reader who can’t finish a book because the print copies are mixed up and he ends up reading first chapters of various novels over and over again. He meets up with a woman who has the same problem and he goes on a search to find the rest of the book for both of them. Actually there are two women, sisters, who have different ideas about books and what the purpose of reading is. They appear in different guises throughout the story. The narrative is labyrinth-like, as if Borges had written it. The book is made up of ten stories; think of them as chapters. A recurring theme is messages that he sees around him. It’s focused on how we relate to books. “Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be.” There is discussion of “someone who has learned not to read.” He touches on issues with translated books. There’s a chapter on ways of reading a book. While reading, “something must always remain that eludes us,” which, of course, has often been said of poetry.
Italo Calvino (1923-1985), one of Europe's greatest and most popular writers, was born in Cuba and grew up in San Remo, Italy. He was a member of the partisan movement during the German occupation of northern Italy in World War II. The novel that resulted from that experience, published in English as The Path to the Nest of Spiders (1947 Italy/1957 USA), won popular and critical acclaim. Other works include, The Watcher and other stories (1952,1958,1963/1971), The Baron in the Trees, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Invisible Cities, If on a winter's night a traveler.