Wednesday, May 1, 2013

If one a winter’s night a traveler - by Italo Calvino, translated from Italian by William Weaver

If one a winter’s night a traveler - by Italo Calvino, translated from Italian by William Weaver

Latin American writers have always had this tremendous flair and gift of surreal storytelling. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, to name a few – all of them possessed this uncanny ability to paint a vivid canvas of emotions, psychological subtleties and a deep sense of existentialism into a story; without the demanding rigor and structure of methodical and linear narration.

This book by Calvino is a pure experiment in the art of magical fiction. The impetus for this work lies in the author’s need to understand the synergetic link between “I” the reader and the mysterious process of understanding the written word, and weaving an imaginary world of causes and probabilities that could arise from  an impromptu trigger of common place incidents. Every beginning in a story could have a million different endings. Like the prince in “Arabian nights” who needs to be fed with stories that feed on the incompleteness of the one narrated before, Calvino presents the reader with Nine contiguous ,yet utterly unrelated stories, that result from a bizarre flaw in printing of books; which leads the protagonist into a labyrinth of situations and falsities that keep pushing the edges of imagination ever so slightly from our comprehension.

 Calvino wishes to demonstrate that the pure pleasure of reading comes from a deep seated ignorance of the author’s motives and goals; and the written word starts taking a life of its own when it is not contaminated by the emotional intrusions of the self and bated expectations of a specific end. The medium of words is at most a conduit, through which the author pours his story. The shape and form that the molten liquid of language would eventually take in the minds of the reader is as subjective an experience as there can ever be.

The narrative style of Calvino is breathtakingly inventive as well. The novel keeps making quantum jumps in consciousness. Through the many characters and pithy dialogues that embellish the story, Calvino projects a substratum of unity in the outward resemblance of forms and names amidst shifting contexts and perceptions.  The reader is led through various layers of introspection to arrive at a unified sense of understanding and purpose that the power of words can evoke.

This is not an easy book to read, but can be one of the most rewarding experiences, if one can get through it slowly. It is like a long drawn act of lovemaking with a lot of foreplay before the final orgasmic consummation. In Calvino’s own words -  “What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.”

This book is to be read for the pure of joy of reading and nothing else. A brilliant work of Literature..........................

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