Study Guide

If on a winter's night a traveler Chapter 9

By Italo Calvino

Chapter 9


  • The narrative breaks off again, and the university students in Lotaria's study group discuss the book in terms of general concepts and themes, rather than what they enjoyed about it. You and Ludmilla, however, think only about continuing the reading.
  • You try to peek at the manuscript, but Lotaria informs you that the full story has been torn apart to share between different departments at the university.
  • You take Ludmilla aside and look back on the books you've started so far: moving backwards, you know that Without fear of wind or vertigo is not the same story as Leaning from the steep slope, which is not Outside the town of Malbork, which is not If on a winter's night a traveler.
  • This whole thing is getting a little too much like Inception, so you decide to go to the source of your frustration, the books' publisher, to demand full copies of the books you've begun to read.
  • Ludmilla says this is a good idea, but refuses to accompany you to the publishing house. You're hurt that she doesn't want to do it together.
  • When you press her for an explanation, she tells you that she doesn't want to go because she doesn't want to involve herself with people who produce books. She'd prefer not to know how books are made; she wants them to come to her as finished products intended only for reading and pleasure. She wants to preserve a certain amount of innocence in her reading. This is weird, but you shrug it off.
  • At the publisher's house, you speak to a tiny man named Mr. Cavedagna, who seems to think you are an author who has returned to claim his manuscript. A large group of people want to speak to him, but as soon as he discovers you're not a writer, he welcomes you with enthusiasm.
  • When you question him about the books you've been reading, he pulls out a bunch of pages and explains that the whole publishing house is in disorder.
  • The trouble all started with a man named Ermes Marana, who approached the publisher and claimed to be a great translator. Yet it turns out that Marana was a fraud who didn't actually translate the proper books, but simply borrowed entire books from various languages and passed them off as full translations of other books.
  • You have trouble following what Mr. Cavedagna is saying, but he sums everything up by claiming that Marana's fraud created a web of deceit that spread exponentially in all directions, in which the publisher was left with dozens of stories, but did not know who their proper authors or what their proper titles were.
  • You are not interested in authors or titles, but only the stories you've started to read. You try to describe the various stories you've started to Cavedagna, but he doesn't listen. He goes on to say that the book Marana actually stole from was called Looks down in the gathering shadow by a Belgian author named Bertrand Vandervelde.
  • You glance at the story he hands you, and realize that it's got nothing to do with the four novels you've already started reading.
  • Cavedagna leaves this newest manuscript with you and tells you not to take it out of the publishing house, since it might be used as evidence in a plagiarism case.
  • You want to tell him it doesn't matter, since you've never seen this book before. But before you say anything, the words on the page catch your eye, and you can't help but start reading.