Saturday, 4 August 2012

Calvino And The Author/Reader Relationship

I'm on holiday again, and I'm trying to get through a certain book which has been troubling me all summer.

I'm currently attempting to read 'If On A Winter's Night A Traveller' by Italo Calvino. It was strongly recommended to me, but I have to say I'm finding it quite a struggle.

Considering I did a post not so long ago about What Keeps You Reading, you would think if I'm struggling so much I would have given up by now. But I'm determined to finish, and I have to admit this book is like nothing I've ever come across before.

I'm only seventy seven pages through, but Calvino's style of writing is really striking. He deliberately breaks you out of the narrative but referring to you directly as 'Reader'. The novel goes between one continuing narrative and individual unrelated stories. In short, it is a novel which seeks to confuse at every turn.

Calvino challenges the author/reader relationship in a way I've never see before. His writing makes you realise how much you depend on an authors' craft while reading - how we readers are simply pawns in their hands. So when Calvino so deliberately breaks all the rules we readers have come to expect from authors, it's very, very disorientating.

You might still be asking why I'm continuing to read 'If On A Winter's Night A Traveller' if it is so bewildering a novel. Well, I think the main reason is that I don't want Calvino to get the best of me. He may be doing everything he can to challenge me as a reader, but I want to prove that I am not simply subject to an author's whim. I want to say I've finished this book which confuses me so, and I'm curious to see where he takes this interwoven plot line.

I'm determined to finish this book, even if it takes me all summer. It's certainly one of a kind, and I want to be able to say I've finished this mysterious book, if only to retain my pride as a reader.

Have you ever come across Italo Calvino's 'If On A Winter's Night A Traveller'? Or, have you ever come across a book which has confused and unsettled you as a reader?


  1. I can't say I have come across such a book (though some online self-published stories are another story), but I've seen the technique of the narrator speaking directly to the reader or going off on tangents, at least to an extent, in the Series of Unfortunate Events books, which I loved as a child (though I only read the first three after seeing the movie because I hated reading as a kid...).

    Keep it up! You can read that book through! Go Fiona!!!! :D

    1. Hey hey, I gave you an award over on my blog :)