Study Guide

If on a winter's night a traveler Chapter 17

By Italo Calvino

Chapter 17


  • You're back to being the Reader, sitting on a plane that's landing in South America.
  • You are still reading On a carpet of leaves when you go inside the airport, but a cop takes the book from you and you look up to find yourself surrounded. It turns out your novel is a banned book in Ataguitania, the country you are now in.
  • A woman who calls herself Corinna tells you to follow her into a car. She eventually draws out another book and gives it to you, although it's not the one you've been reading. This one is called Around an empty grave by Calixto Bandera.
  • Just as you are about to take a look at it, some goons stop your car and grab you, calling themselves police. Corinna, however, assures you that they're actually fake police, and she greets them as a friend, calling herself Gertrude.
  • The exact same scene happens once more, with more people calling themselves police. Corinna-Gertrude refers to herself as Ingrid with this second group.
  • You are becoming very, very confused. This second group seems to be taking you hostage, although Corinna-Gertrude-Ingrid tells you this isn't the case. She explains the she holds an important position among the country's revolutionaries, who protect themselves by employing false revolutionaries, real and fake cops, and real and fake prisons.
  • Basically, it's impossible to know if anything in the world is real anymore, never mind the books you're trying to read.
  • The more you look at Corinna-Gertrude-Ingrid, the more convinced you become that she is Ludmilla's sister Lotaria in disguise.
  • She takes you into a room housing a giant machine that can read and analyze books.
  • You become fed up with all the real and fake stuff, and accuse this woman of being Lotaria. She offers to let you tear off her disguise, and you do so, layer after layer, until she's naked.
  • At this point, she throws herself on you and tears off your clothes, too.
  • Did we mention that the sex gets pretty out of control toward the end of this book? Well the narrator of the novel seems to anticipate this, since he steps in at this moment and asks what is wrong with you, dear Reader. Why can't you be satisfied with just having sex with one woman in this book. Why so much sex?
  • Suddenly, someone pokes his head in the door and snaps a photo of you having sex, probably for the purpose of blackmailing Corinna-Gertrude-Ingrid.
  • Once the two of you have gotten up from the floor and dusted yourselves off, the computer spits out a copy of a book called Around an empty grave.
  • And so you begin to read.