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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

by Italo Calvino

Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literary and Philosophical References

  • While If on a winter's night a traveler draws from many of the philosophical trends that were popular during the time of his writing, the book itself is pretty insular, meaning that its references deal mostly with things Calvino has made up from scratch.
  • There is one particular literary reference, though, that sneaks into the diary of Silas Flannery (15.41-15.45): the opening lines of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.
  • The narrator of In a network of lines that intersect gives shout-outs to a couple of obscure historical thinkers (14.3): Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), inventor of the kaleidoscope; and Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680), a Jesuit priest and scholar.

Literary and Philosophical References

  • Cimmerian. Cimmeria (mentioned mostly in the chapter labeled [4]) is a language that once existed, although the attributes that Calvino gives to the country of Cimmeria don't seem to have any basis in historical reality. The Cimmerians were a tribal group that lived in southern Ukraine around 500 BCE, while Calvino has their culture existing well into the modern era. Go figure.
  • Cimbria. As with Cimmeria, Calvino draws on a culture and language called Cimbrian that once existed, but which has few to none of the attributes he gives to it. But believe it or not, the Cimbrian language is still spoken today, with fewer than 2,300 speakers remaining in northern Italy.

Pop Culture References

  • The Snoopy Poster on Silas Flannery's Wall

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