Clare Hall Book Club
Join the College’s Book Club as they discuss If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver (Penguin Vintage Classics, 2023).
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller is an avant-garde novel by Italo Calvino, published in 1979 as Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore. Using shifting structures, a succession of tales, and different points of view, the book probes the nature of change, coincidence, and chance and the interdependence of fiction and reality. It examines living and reading as interchangeable metaphors for each other. Also investigated are the expectations of the reader, the intentions of the author, and the tension between the two.
The novel, which is nonlinear, begins with a man discovering that the copy of a novel he has recently purchased and is about to begin reading is defective, a Polish novel having been bound within its pages. He returns to the bookshop the following day and meets a young woman who is on an identical mission. They both profess a preference for the Polish novel. The act of reading has brought these two strangers together; the balance of the novel juxtaposes scenes from their lives with the fiction that they read. Interposed between the chapters in which the two strangers attempt to authenticate their texts are 10 excerpts that parody genres of contemporary world fiction, such as the Latin American novel and the political novel of eastern Europe.
‘A writer of dizzying ambition and variety, each of his stories is a fresh adventure into the possibilities of fiction’ the Guardian
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