Study Guide

If on a winter's night a traveler Chapter 10

By Italo Calvino

Chapter 10

Looks down in the gathering shadow

  • The book opens with a man trying to stuff the corpse of someone named Jojo into a plastic sack.
  • A girl named Bernadette explains to him that he needs a second sack for the head.
  • You learn that the two of them have been carting this body around for some time now, dressing it up and sitting it upright in the back seat of their car to make Jojo appear alive. (Weekend at Bernie's, anyone?)
  • They drive around looking for a place to burn the body. But when the car runs out of gas, they need to fuel their car with the gasoline they'd intended for burning Jojo.
  • As they regroup, the narrator mentions that he's always been known as Ruedi the Swiss. Everywhere he goes, it seems, there's someone who knows him and what he's done in his past.
  • We learn that Bernadette was originally on Jojo's side, trailing Ruedi and trying to kill him. But she eventually switched sides and helped Ruedi kill Jojo by distracting Jojo with sex.
  • Ruedi mentions that prior to the murder, he'd had a long history of conflict with Jojo. Jojo had always been able to find ways to cheat him out of money and ruin him. The more Ruedi tried to get back at Jojo, the more he seemed to ruin himself.
  • As they are about to start back toward town, Bernadette flings her leg over the gearshift and tells Ruedi that he interrupted her with Jojo when she was on the verge of climax. (Sound familiar?) She finishes her orgasm with him while Jojo is nearly falling on top of them from the back seat, his eyes wide open.
  • Eventually, they decide to throw Jojo off a roof to make his death look like a suicide. After chucking him off a tall building, they head back to the elevators.
  • Before they reach the elevators, three men step out in front of them. Ruedi is certain that they bear a family resemblance to Bernadette.
  • The men ask what's in the bag, and Ruedi hands it to them, confident that it's empty. One of them, however, pulls out one of Jojo's shoes.