About Cristina Beretta
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Name: Cristina Beretta
[ book tip by Cristina Beretta ] 'You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.'
This is the beginning of a novel that Calvino himself described as: '...a novel about the pleasure of reading; the protagonist is the Reader who begins reading a book ten times, but due to vicissitudes beyond his will, never succeeds in finishing it. I was thus forced to write the beginning of ten novels by imaginary authors, all of them differing in style from my own and each other’s.'
And so the Reader goes to a bookshop to buy Italo Calvino’s latest novel. In eager anticipation, he returns home with it. He begins to read, but is interrupted, as if he were directly part of the story, by a mistake in the printing. He does not get further than the first few pages. He goes back to the bookshop to exchange his flawed copy and encounters there a woman reader who has the same problem. Together they begin reading the volume they receive as a replacement, only to discover that this book is incomplete too. They set out to look for the rest of the story. They find a third book, but it turns out to be entirely different as well. So they begin their quest to find the conclusion of the novel, a quest that leads them on a circuitous journey to imaginary places that are extremely realistic. All the people in the book are imaginary and extremely realistic too. There are readers who are only interested in categorising authors by trends in contemporary thought. They judge a book or an author based on the names of the Grand Masters. There are also those who just read for their jobs: professors at universities, for example, with all their rivalries and literary polemics. But the two Readers continue their search, having put the ‘pages lacerated by intellectual analyses’ behind them. Their search also takes them to a publishing house. The books they find there are raw material, spare parts, cogs. They can be used as desired and replaced again.
And then there are people who never read books at all, but merely use them to erect sculptures. Or writers who are unable to relax and just read. Those who don’t read themselves but, to save time, use an elaborate electronic programme to register the words of the text and produce a critique without having had to read the book. Then there is Marana, a crazy translator, a literary terrorist, the author of this utter mess. He tries to dissuade the woman Reader of her belief that: '...reading means stripping herself of every purpose, every foregone conclusion, to be ready to catch a voice that makes itself heard when you least expect it, a voice that comes from an unknown source.' According to Marana, there is nothing behind the written page – the world exists only as an artwork.
This work is a meta-novel, a succession of worlds, an ironic literary game, adventurous and intelligent, in which Calvino presents and applies the mechanisms and tricks of reading and writing. It is a labyrinth, but the reader (no, not the protagonist of the book, this time I mean the real reader) knows that he has nothing to fear - for he is safe in the skilled hands of an author who pens whatever he desires. All the reader has to do is let go and read.
[ book info ] Calvino, Italo: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller.
(Book language: Italian) Transl. by William Weaver.
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