In the realm of experimental fiction, there are two kinds of books: Clever Books and Books That Are Too Clever For Their Own Good. And Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller comes very close to being a Book That Is Too Clever For Its Own Good.
I first decided I wanted to read this book when I read a quote from the novel in Umberto Eco’s The Infinity of Lists. It’s a fabulous description of a character entering a bookshop. In Calvino’s hands this simple action is transformed into a kind of military assault: