Thursday August 6th, 2009

If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

wintersnighttravelerRecommended by Patricia in New York.
Funny and masterful, Calvino almost literally mesmerizes you in the first paragraph: “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room.” And what follows is a sort of interpretative dance of a novel dramatizing every hot-button issue in literary theory: the integrity of the text; the existence of the author; the knowability of the Other; yadda, yadda, yadda. Two plots are interlaced. One is the story of you, the Reader, pursuing a true copy of Italo Calvino’s new novel, which you’ve discovered is defective; this pursuit is itself a twisting tale of mysterious strangers in train stations, ersatz translations, subversive political movements, and “your” love interest – another reader of the new Italo Calvino novel whose sister is a militant student of “Bothno-Ugaric literatures and languages.” The other plot is the text of the novel in question, and that is where the most beautiful narrative passages occur, although it’s never certain exactly what novel it is, and the stories it tells are never resolved. It’s as if he’s doing a dance on a tightrope; he makes you forget he’s defying gravity as he captivates you with the dance.