If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
Back in college, my literary theory professor talked my class through a whole bunch of theoretical approaches to texts, including historical criticism, formalism/New Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, etc., etc. You get the idea. At one point, he mentioned that Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller would make an excellent companion to our semester. I bought the book and promptly didn’t read it. But now that I have, I really wonder why we weren’t required to read it in his class. This is exactly the kind of book ripe for beginning literary critics to examine.
This is a book with many threads. The overall story is that of the Reader and the Second Reader (Ludmilla) who pick up If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, only to discover that their copies are corrupted. This leads us down a major rabbit hole of book-within-a-book threads that reminded me a lot of the twists in Inception.
BRAAAAAAM, bee-yotches. You think that you have a grasp on the story, but Calvino continually rewrites and revises the novel, so that you end up with different books and different authors with each twist. Only the readers remain the same…or do they?
Anyway, the book was an interesting premise that occasionally got bogged down in the conceit of the changing-of-the-books one too many times. Sort of like the van falling in Inception (amirite, that part took FOREVER).
But even so, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller is well worth the experience, particularly if you are willing to be patient and let some of your expectations regarding literature and the reading experience be broken down just a little.