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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler

by Italo Calvino

Lies and Deceit Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

[Y]ou, who unearthed that title because you know the title and nothing more, and you liked letting her believe you had read it, now have to extricate yourself with generic comments, like "It moves a bit slowly for me," or else "I like it because it's ironic," and she answers, "Really? You find it ironic? I wouldn't have said…" and you are upset (3.26)

Oh, Calvino. Always the jokester. Here, Calvino establishes that you—like many people—can be a bit of a poser at times, especially when you're trying to show Ludmilla how much you like to read. You've tried to make her believe that you've read a lot of books, but in reality you're just pulling titles out of the air. When it turns out Ludmilla actually has read most of the books you mention, you have to backpedal pretty hard to keep from getting found out for lying. This moment of observational humor is one of the more recognizably "normal" scenes in the beginning of the book. By using it, Calvino is able to make your character more likeably awkward (Michael Cera, anyone?). Also, the scene hints toward the later moments in the text when you realize that Ludmilla really is a better reader than you.

Quote #2

"And then, in correcting the proofs, we notice some misconstructions, some oddities... We send for Marana, we ask him some questions, he becomes confused, contradicts himself.... We press him, we open the original text in front of him and request him to translate a bit orally.... He confesses he doesn't know a single word of Cimbrian!" (9.64)

Care of Mr. Cavedagna, our first impression of Ermes Marana, the fraudulent translator whose lies and deceit will basically fuel the action for the rest of this novel. Marana poses as a false translator, but not just to pocket some extra money. No, he believes that the names and titles of books don't matter as long as the stories survive, and that in thousands of years, the names on books won't matter anyway, since people will forget who the authors were.

Quote #3

"We calculated that all this to-ing and fro-ing with the print shop, the bindery, the replacement of all the first signatures with the wrong title page—in other words, it created a confusion that spread to all the new books we had in stock, whole runs had to be scrapped, volumes already distributed had to be recalled from the booksellers...." (9.70)

Ermes Marana's lies and deceit entered the publishing house like a virus and spread out in all directions. No book had the right title or author, and the mistakes produced new errors in an exponential way. In this passage, we start to think about how lies and deceit just can't be undone once the lies start looking so much like reality it's impossible to tell the difference. Have you ever started a rumor, then tried to stop it from spreading? Yeah, good luck.

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