Study Guide

If on a winter's night a traveler Chapter 13

By Italo Calvino

Chapter 13


  • The story breaks off!
  • You try to continue reading, but a waiter comes around asking for you, saying that you're wanted on the telephone. It's Ludmilla, and she says she can't make your meeting. You want to tell her about this new book you've begun, but she doesn't have time to hear you.
  • She tells you to meet her at her apartment.
  • When you arrive at the apartment, the story suddenly addresses you as though you were Ludmilla, and goes through the apartment as though it were "yours" and it could say something about you as a person. The Reader you've been identified with throughout the book is now "him."
  • As if things weren't confusing enough already.
  • After a lengthy probing of "you" as Ludmilla, the perspective shifts back to you, the male Reader.
  • By looking at her books, you realize that Ludmilla tends to read several stories at once to help lessen the disappointment that any one book might give her. Does she do this with her love life too, you wonder? The thought of it makes you terribly jealous.
  • Someone comes to the door, but it's not Ludmilla. It's Irnerio, that strange young man from the university hallway who taught himself how not to read.
  • Seeing him enter Ludmilla's apartment so casually, you don't know what attitude to take toward him. Frosty seems to be what works best for you, though.
  • Irnerio seems to have expected to meet you. He says he is looking for a book, even though he doesn't read. Rather, he likes to make things out of books, like sculptures. Hey, what did you expect by this point? A character with a normal hobby?
  • Moving about the apartment, Irnerio picks up the copy of In a network of lines that enlace, and you tell him not to take that book.
  • You try to offer another from the shelves, but are shocked to discover that the one you've chosen is another copy of the same book! So Ludmilla had one all along! The coincidences are just piling up.
  • Irnerio says he wants nothing to do with this book you're holding, so he throws it into a little room. He tells you that this book is not Ludmilla's, but you don't understand him.
  • You peek into the little room beside him and find a typewriter and scattered pages. You pick up a page and find "Translation by Ermes Marana" written on it.
  • Plot twist!
  • You always felt there was a trace of Ludmilla in Marana's letters. Now you need to know what the connection between them is, jealous guy that you are.
  • Irnerio says that Marana has been to the apartment before, but that he may or may not come around anymore. He might come just to leave counterfeit books lying around, filling everything he touches with falseness.
  • Irnerio further tells you that Marana has been abusive to Ludmilla in the past. Whenever Marana shows up, he drives Ludmilla to run away and visit Silas Flannery in Switzerland.
  • You resolve to follow Ludmilla to Switzerland, but at this moment she walks into the apartment.
  • All of the sudden you're having tea with her, and Irnerio has disappeared. You show your jealousy by asking her if men are always coming and going from her apartment like this. She tells you not to bother getting jealous, and you move to join her on the couch.
  • The narrative flashes to a scene of you and Ludmilla in bed together, sexually exploring each other's bodies. Yeah, just in case you thought the book was saving this part for a moment that wasn't completely random…
  • Already, you entertain thoughts of living together with Ludmilla. You imagine the typical domestic stuff, lying next to each other in bed and reading, shutting off each of your lamps and finding each other in the dark.
  • You start to tell her about the new book you've begun reading (the one about telephones ringing), and she says not to tell her anything more about it because she wants to read it herself.
  • You go to the next room to get it for her, but it turns out that Irnerio has already taken your copy. No matter. You go into the little cupboard and grab the other copy, finding that Silas Flannery has personally addressed it to Ludmilla. Just more gasoline on the flames of your jealousy.
  • Ludmilla tells you that the book you're holding probably isn't even real, but one that Marana has switched with a counterfeit. It turns out that Marana has always been jealous of Ludmilla's reading, and of the pleasure that books can give her.
  • You realize that this new book is indeed different, and that either it, or the one you used to have must be a fake. You decide to go to the author himself to find out.
  • Looking more closely, you realize that this new book has a slightly different title than the old one. It's not called In a network of lines that enlace, but In a network of lines that intersect.
  • And so you read…