Friday, 19 August 2011

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller or one more victory

“Reading is a discontinuous and fragmentary operation. Or, rather, the object of reading is a punctiform and pulviscular material. In the spreading expanse of the writing, the reader’s attention isolates some minimal segments, juxtapositions of words, metaphors, syntactic nexuses, logical passages, lexical peculiarities that prove to possess an extremely concentrated density of meaning.”

I am not easily scared of heavy reading. I’ve read The Foundation Pit, The Tin Drum and The Elementary Particles with great pleasure. But even I do have my limits.

I was struggling with Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller for two months! First I was hoping the book would get going and carry me away. Then I kept on reading because I promised the friend who recommended it to give it a chance. When that point passed I was persisting in the hope all the unfinished stories would miraculously come together at some point. At two thirds of the book it was clear that was not going to happen. I then started looking for a hidden meaning. At three quarters I understood that whatever meaning there is I will not be able to see or understand it. But then I was so far advanced I decided to finish and add the book to my list. Besides, I was on vacation and didn’t have any other book with me.

Even though I understand Calvino stands for high quality literature, I wouldn’t be able to recommend this book to anybody. And even though I’ve won the fight a couple of days ago, I still feel devastated and do not dare to start reading the next book. I am too afraid to feel simple and illiterate again.

I’m sure I’ll recover eventually. And if you decide to read If On a Winter’s Night a traveller – it’s at your own risk. I warned you!

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