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If on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter's night a traveler


by Italo Calvino

You, The Reader Timeline and Summary

  • You begin to read If on a winter's night a traveler. But due to a printing error, the book breaks off at its most interesting point.
  • So you return to the bookstore and meet an attractive young woman named Ludmilla, who has the same problem.
  • You get another book to replace the one you've begun reading.
  • This one is also interesting, but it also breaks off at its most interesting point. Fool me once, shame on fake books. Fool me twice, shame on me.
  • You arrange to meet up with Ludmilla at the local university.
  • When you get there, a young man named Irnerio directs you to an obscure department of dead languages, where you meet the strange Professor Uzzi-Tuzii. Ludmilla shows up a bit later.
  • Ludmilla's sister Lotaria waltzes in and invites you to discuss a story, but it's not the same story as the last one; but again, you're very interested in it.
  • Fed up with all this nonsense, you decide to go straight to the books' source: the publisher.
  • When you get to the publisher's, you meet a small man named Mr. Cavedagna, who informs you that the entire publishing company has been in disarray ever since it was defrauded by a sinister translator named Ermes Marana.
  • You demand to read the letters that Marana has sent to the publishing house.
  • After finishing the letters, Mr. Cavedagna shows you a manuscript of what he thinks is the book you're looking for.
  • You go to Ludmilla's place when she's not home.
  • Inside, you glance about her apartment and try to learn more about her (yes, you can be creepy at times).
  • As you're doing this, Irnerio from the university walks in and says hi.
  • While at Ludmilla's, you learn that she has an existing relationship with Ermes Marana. Irnerio tells you that Marana has been abusive to Ludmilla in the past, and that she tends to run away to Silas Flannery whenever Marana comes around.
  • You're about to go after her when Ludmilla walks through the apartment door.
  • Irnerio leaves, and after you show Ludmilla how jealous you are about the other men in her life, you find yourself sleeping with her. Yup, just like that.
  • When you're done, you go to grab the new book you've been reading so you can show it to her; but when you open it, you realize that it actually isn't the same one you've been reading.
  • You decide to go find Flannery himself and ask him about which book is the real one.
  • Meeting Flannery turns up no new answers, so he directs you to look for the true source of all the problems, Ermes Marana, in South America.
  • You board a plane and fly into a country called Ataguitania.
  • Shortly after landing, you are accosted by police, but are promptly freed by a female revolutionary who calls herself by a number of different names.
  • You go to a library where you think you can find all of the books you've begun reading. But for one reason or another, the library can't locate any of them.
  • You turn around and face eight men who are reading. Each of them says something philosophical about the nature of reading, but you plead that you just want to read interesting plots that have a clear ending.
  • One reader takes the list of books you're looking for and reads it out aloud. Put together, the titles all form a beautiful sentence.
  • Then one of the others tells you that there are only two ways stories used to end: with marriage or with death, and at this moment you decide to marry Ludmilla.
  • In the book's final scene, you are lying next to Ludmilla in your marriage bed, reading.
  • She turns out her light and asks if you're ready to do the same, but you tell her to wait a minute more, since you're just about to finish reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. So meta.