Study Guide

If on a winter's night a traveler Chapter 4

By Italo Calvino

Chapter 4

Outside the town of Malbork

  • You are instantly plunged into some sort of kitchen, with the smell of onions wafting about the room. A woman named Brigid kneads meat into flour and eggs.
  • You quickly lose track of how many people are in this kitchen, which seems to be filled to the brim with cooking relatives.
  • A man named Mr. Kauderer has apparently come to this house to leave his son, Ponko, to live with the family. In exchange, Kauderer is taking the narrator (also a young boy) in his son's place. It will be the first time the narrator has ever left home.
  • It turns out that the young narrator is going to learn the workings of the rye drying machines that the Kauderer family has imported from Belgium.
  • The son whom Kauderer has left behind, on the other hand, is staying to learn about "rowans" and to essentially take the main character's place in the household. It seems that the two families are doing an agricultural learning exchange with two of their sons.
  • The narrator goes to his bedroom, where Ponko is unpacking his things and preparing to take the narrator's place in the family. The narrator spots a photograph of a young girl peeking out of Ponko's things and reaches for it, wanting to know who the girl is.
  • When he gets a hold of it, he reads out the name Zwida, but before he can ask anything more, Ponko punches him square in the face.
  • They fight.
  • Mr. Kauderer shows up at the door and pries them apart. The narrator's relatives appear as well, and from the ensuing discussion, you learn that the narrator's family has a long history of feuding with Ponko's.
  • His mother asks whether he'll be safe among the Kauderers, and the answer to this seems unclear.
  • In the final moments of the story, you learn that the young protagonist's name is Gritzvi.