Best 1979 Adventures (7)
December 11, 2019
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1979 adventure novels.
Italo Calvino‘s postmodernist adventure Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore (If on a winter’s night a traveler).
A reader — you, the reader — is trying to read a book called If on a winter’s night a traveler, but instead keeps finding himself reading the first chapter of other books… each of which ends on a cliff-hanger of sorts. Each chapter begins by describing the reader’s efforts to read the next chapter; and each ends by recounting the first part of a new book, each time from a completely different genre. He (you) meets a woman, Ludmilla, who’s experiencing the same problem; she has a sister, who has her own ideas about the purpose of reading. There is an adventure, of sorts, here, the telling of which is influenced by the various literary genres encountered: Our protagonists are on the track of an international book-fraud conspiracy; they encounter reclusive novelist Silas Flannery, a translation scammer; there’s a political angle, too. Calvino would later explain that the book’s structure was inspired by linguist and semiotician A.J. Greimas’s “semiotic square,” which explores three types of relationship — contrary, contradiction, implication — between opposed concepts.
Fun facts: Published in an English translation (by William Weaver) in 1981. Calvino’s decision to write an experimental book based on Greimas’s semiotic-square model was influenced by his membership in Oulipo.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.