Italo Calvino


If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller


Well, that was quite a ride.


This is a pretty wonderful mix of the opening chapters of something like a dozen books plus all sorts of self-aware commentary on the process and interaction between reader, author and story. But there’s more as there is something like a plot weaving its way through the Arabian Nights maze. This isn’t an essay on postmodernism or deconstruction, but there’s reams of relevant material, often far more readable and cleverly illustrated. Calvino still enjoys and indulges his audience in traditional narrative, but he’s also quite aware of critical responses and has as much fun playing with them. He keeps his sense of humour throughout, and never lets himself get bogged down in comment (or, for that matter, in any particular story).


Although I’ve read several books that use some of these techniques (and, I suspect, trace their influence somewhere back to Calvino), this was the most satisfying trip playing with the ‘author’ popping in and out (Umberto Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ became so tiresome in making the same point Pynchon did far more effectively (and succinctly) in ‘The Crying of Lot 49’, but ‘Winter’s Night’ trumps them both in still sharing a love of story with it’s audience). I loved the way he also kept moving around the perspective, so the ‘I’ was a whole range of folks.


It deserves more in response (and I dare say has been discussed and written about exhaustively), but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to this review while the book was fresher in my mind. At this distance though my thoughts are all positive – I really enjoyed it.


February 2011