“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. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice – they won’t hear you otherwise – “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.”
That’s how Calvino’s novel starts, addressing you, the reader. The first chapter describes the preparation before starting the book and describes the reader’s anticipation at reading it. It’s not until the end of the first chapter that you, and ‘you’, actually start reading If on a winter’s night a traveller. However, after a few pages, your reading of the novel is interrupted because of defective printing. You are then back to the original narrative to see ‘you’ going to the bookshop to get a replacement copy. There, ‘you’ meets Ludmilla, another reader to whom the same problem has happened. The whole novel keeps alternating between the original narrative and books-within-the-book, which are interrupted for one reason or another. There are a multitude of plots, but the central one is a love story between the two readers, and between them and books. It is a self-reflexive narrative that considers the process of reading, writing, and translating. It is confusing, but certainly most enjoyable. I loved it and would definitely recommend it!