Contemporary Literature: Italo Calvino’s” If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” Book Review

Contemporary Literature: Italo Calvino’s” If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” Book Review

Chapter One

From this chapter, the author highlights crucial aspects of the novel such as the story setup and the person bringing the story to the readers. He addresses the reader directly but keeps his name anonymous. This can be seen in the line “If you, reader, couldn’t help picking me out among the people getting off the train and continued following me in my to-and-fro-ing between bar and telephone, this is simply because I am called “I” and this is the only thing you know about me, but this alone is reason enough for you to invest a part of yourself in the stranger “I.”” (Salvatori & Calvino, 1986). This shows that the author has no intentions of revealing his identity in this first chapter.

From this note, the author is making sure that the person reading the novel understands it from the beginning. The reader must know the setting where the play is being carried out. By making the identity anonymous, I think that the author wants the reader to focus more on the story and not on who wrote it.

I think that the chapter as a whole is essential in addressing some of the crucial aspects of reading while utilizing first-person narrative. Through first-person voice, the author makes direct contact with the reader. This style of telling a story gives the reader a chance to get acquainted with the feelings and concerns raised by the writer. It is mostly employed when one has to bring out certain events as they transpire to meet a specific goal such as appealing to the emotions of the audience.

Chapter Two and Three

From these chapters, the author talks about the process of preparing food in the kitchen, especially the onions and the meat. The novel shows some people working hand in hand on different chores in the kitchen to help in the food preparation process. It is noted when the author says: “But what counts are the physical details that the novel underlines—Bronko’s gnawed nails, the down on Brigd’s cheeks—and also the gestures, the utensils that this person or that is handling—the meat pounder, the colander for the cress, the butter curler— so that each character already receives a first definition through this action or attribute.” This line shows that everyone has a specific role. The organization of the book has made it easier for the reader to navigate through the pages. The author uses this novel to present to his readers a world that is corporeal and detailed. From these two chapters, the author emphasizes the importance of punctuality and accuracy. The reader must ensure that it is the actual novel they are reading and can confirm with their friends or from the library. The chapters demonstrate the importance of reading novels as it equips the audience with general knowledge concerning different things in their lives. Many people who visit the university do not show any interest in reading literature which has been recorded in the books (Salvatori & Calvino, 1986). This can be shown in this line of chapter three, “They come here to do what they do, but they don’t sign up for the course, they don’t attend classes, nobody ever takes an interest in the literature of the Cimmerians, buried in the books on these shelves as if in the graves of a cemetery….”

According to the above lines, I believe that the author wants to show the importance of reading to the audience. A lot of information is hidden in the books which can only be accessed through reading. The line also demonstrates the importance of teamwork when undertaking any activity for it to be a success. Many people working in the kitchen make the cooking process easy and straightforward.

In general, I believe the two chapters are essential in enhancing the reading skills of the audience. They convince the reader that a lot of information is recorded in the books and they need to read them even after joining universities.

Chapter Four and Five

The author tries to explain to the reader that there are signals that the world uses to communicate with its people. Everything that occurs has its meaning and importance. The note is “Today I saw a hand thrust out of a window of the prison, toward the sea. I was walking on the seawall of the port, as is my habit until I was just below the old fortress. Its oblique walls entirely enclose the fortress; the windows, protected by double or triple grilles, seem blind.” The hand, according to the author, is a sign that both the prisoners and the free person have many things in common and, therefore, they should not be overlooked. Weather is an important factor to human beings, for example, when one is planning for a long trip to a place that they have never been to before. To avoid going through tough times and, therefore, be prepared, a person has to know the conditions of the place. From chapter five, the author shows that one of his friend, Jojo, has passed away and he tries to fit him in a sac and throw him into the river. The sac proves too small for the corpse and thus the officers catch up with him trying to fit the corpse in it. Being in a big city of Paris, it becomes difficult for the murderer to find a place to bury the corpse secretly. This can be seen in the line: “It seems impossible, in a big city like Paris, but you can waste hours looking for the right place to burn up a corpse.”

From the first line, I think that for an individual to be able to survive in a large city, they must first know how things are operated. Nonetheless, they may find themselves in awkward positions in which they are unable to help themselves. The author also uses the other line to urge readers not to neglect and look down on prisoners. All human beings have many things in common and, therefore, should embrace togetherness. As one goes somewhere or carries out an activity, it is vital for them always to know that there is someone who knows a little about their past.

I feel that these two chapters are essential in shaping the behavior of a person in general. They address how an individual has to conduct themselves when in a new place and how they should learn to treat others when they are in trouble.

Chapter Six and Seven

In chapter six, the author prefers telephone calls overwritten messages in conveying the information from one person to another. When a telephone is at a distance, and then it rings, a person may have a doubt whether they have to pick it since they may assume that it is a telephone of a neighbor that is ringing. “When the telephone rings in a house near mine, for a moment I wonder if it is ringing in my house—a suspicion that immediately proves unfounded but which still leaves a wake, since it is possible that the call might really be for me and through a wrong number or crossed wires it…” (Salvatori & Calvino, 1986). This line shows that a person always has doubts before receiving a call. In chapter seven, the house of an individual is still ready to give them comfort and shelter during the times when they are in deep depressions. When going through the novel, the reader has to find a quiet place where they would read and understand easily. People can adjust their rules in their houses willingly so as to fit their conditions, and this makes it a comfortable place. Furthermore, the flowers outside the house have to be watered every day to keep them healthy and lively. The rooms must always be in order and the reader has to concentrate only on important things.

I think that from these chapters, it is crucial to always conduct a person through telephone calls rather than through texts. Calls ensure that the information is delivered, and through the voice expressions, the person can be able to understand the message better. Written texts do not guarantee if the receiver has read the text and understood it.

In my opinion, I think that chapters are important is expressing the importance of phone calls over written messages. The information contained in them proves this right by offering various examples. To avoid missing calls, individuals have to set unique ringtones which differentiate their calls from those of nearby friends and loved ones.

Chapter Eight and Nine

In chapter eight of the novel, the author tries to follow the process by which the ginkgo leaves fall from the tree to the grass where they rest for some time. He tries to identify all ginkgo leaves that have already fallen on the ground, which proves to be a difficult task. As several different leaves fall from the trees, the author is clearly interested in following only the ginkgo leaves. This is shown in line, “Now, without losing anything of these pleasant general sensations, I would like to maintain distinct, not confusing it with the others, the individual image of each leaf from the moment it enters the visual field, and follow it in its aerial dance until it comes to rest on the blades of grass.” The author presents himself as a stubborn person who pursues what they want no matter the difficult barriers ahead of him. From chapter nine, the author argues that vultures are the first creatures to wake up so that they can exploit the early opportunities of getting food. This is the advice he received from his father who loses his life in this chapter. His father, however, delivers his promise of letting the author know his mother before his last breath. The speech from his father did not, however, end as he lost his life in the process. This leaves the author riding in the darkness alone. The author describes the appearance of his father in this chapter.

From this line, I think the author is telling the story of his life. It is clear that his father and mother got separated from each other when he was still young. Therefore, he does not know who his real mother is and where she is until his father decides to tell him. The line also shows the author describing the environment they live in which contains a lot of ginkgo leaves. From the line, the leaves turn yellow before falling down the tree, which makes them distinct from others lying on the grass.

I think these chapters teach the importance of family unity. When the parents separate, the children suffer more. They go through a lot of difficulties during their lives when the family is not organized to give them support.

Chapter Ten, Eleven, and Twelve

From these chapters, the author views the world as complicated; hence, an individual has to be prune to see it clearly and understandably. A person may meet many different people across the world, some of whom are pleasant and some are unfriendly. The reasons for them being unpleasant may vary from one group to another. Each group of people that the author interacts with reminds him about his different characters. He only has strangers in his life, as it seems that his friends and loved ones have separated from him, as seen in “But when a crowd of strangers is all that remains from the world surrounding me, I suddenly feel lonely and disoriented, so better to erase them as well, the whole lot, and forget it.” (Salvatori & Calvino, 1986). People have to create a way in which they are distinguished from each other easily. This way, it will be challenging to cross each other’s habits. Economic structure, according to the novel, has for an extended period been controlling and determining the lives of many people. Also, other structures such as hospitals, schools, and courts have played a key role, and the author wants to make changes in these institutions. Finally, after a search for the book in the library, the reader finally locates it with joy. As the library staff continues to search the book for the reader, they are required to wait on a specific bench set aside for them. Due to the popularity of the book, the reader may at this point spot an individual or two already reading it.

From this line, I think that the author is ensuring that the reader understands the importance of a company. He argues that he does not feel in safe hands when surrounded by strangers, and therefore he decides to kick them out too. It is the distance from home that is making the author lack company. This causes disorientation and loneliness, making it difficult for the author to concentrate on reading the book.

I believe that as the author finalizes his novel, he shows the reader the process of getting access to books in the library. The last chapters are essential in addressing this process and how the readers behave while in the library. Many readers do not have the ability to read many pages per session. This, I think, is primarily caused by lack of concentration during reading sessions.




Salvatori, M., & Calvino, I. (1986). Contemporary Literature: Italo Calvino’s” If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.” Writer’s Authority, Reader’s Autonomy. 27(2), 182-212.