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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

by Italo Calvino

Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new book, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. (1.1)

Calvino wastes no time in telling you that he's dictating your life for the time being. That right, you are the "You" whom this book addresses from the opening line. It all makes it seem as though the book has some higher knowledge of your life and what you're doing. This feeling will only grow stronger for you as the story unfolds. After all, the book says so.

Quote #2

The sentences continue to move in vagueness, grayness, in a kind of no man's land of experience reduced to the lowest common denominator. Watch out: it is surely a method of involving you gradually, capturing you in the story before you realize it—a trap. (2.5)

When you read a book, you're in charge, right? Wrong. (According to Calvino, at least.) The speaker even warns you against getting too involved in the story and allowing yourself to be manipulated by it. There's a fatefulness to this statement: a sense that the book might always be one step ahead of you, the way that Ermes Marana always seems to be a step ahead of you. But the book doesn't go so far as to say you're totally out to lunch. Rather, you have the ability to make choices in the way you navigate this book, but you need to be careful and attentive about it.

Quote #3

Your attention, as reader, is now completely concentrated on the woman, already for several pages you have been circling around her, I have—no, the author has—been circling around the feminine presence" (2.25)

Once again, you, as a Reader, have been guided along by the author of the book without even knowing it. Every time your reading starts to settle into a comfortable pattern, every time you try to "lose" yourself in the book, some voice like this pops out and reminds you not to get too comfortable. At this point, part of you might want to just shout, "Stop playing God, Calvino! Let me read in peace!" Just saying.

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