If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

A literary review of Italo Calvino’s book `If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

This paper presents an overview of the book If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler` by Italo Calvino. The paper outlines the three ways that Calvino tries to emancipate and liberate the slaves of reading. Calvino starts off by challenging the reader’s expectations about a book so in the future readers will begin other books without any prejudices, especially in regards to the author or the genre. Secondly, he attempts to show the readers how reading too deeply into a story as well as reading books superficially, is not the way of approaching any book. Lastly, Calvino informs the readers about how different perspectives to the same book are legitimate, and that they can also add to the experience of a book.
Calvino is trying to liberate the slaves of reading by defying their expectations. Calvino first does this when he lets the reader be a character in the story, consistently throughout the story referring to the reader in the second person. It is quite unusual that the author is talking to the reader as if they are right next to each other: Well, what are you waiting for? Stretch your legs, go ahead, put your feet on a cushion?(pp.3). The narrative is set up in a way that sounds as if a mother is reading a fairy-tale to her child. In this way, the author is making the reader feel comfortable when reading and hence trying to emancipate the reader. This fairy-tale motif is used throughout the book, especially in terms of structure. Calvino echoes the structure of the Arabian Nights story of Shahrazad, who, in order to save her life, told one story after another, linking the climax of the story to another story, which once reaching the climax, was linked once again to a brand new story. However, Calvino appropriates the story with a postmodern twist, than defies the expectation of the reader.