In Chapters 4-6 of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, the narrator decides that enough is enough and visits the publishing firm. I found some of the most thought-provoking sequences came when the narrator visited the Mr. Cavedagna, who worked at the publishing firm. One example was when Mr. Cavedagna commented about reading:
“‘I’ve been working for years and years for this publisher…so many books pass through my hands…but can I say that I read? This isn’t what I call reading…'” (97)
Before visiting Mr. Cavedagna, Ludmilla tells the narrator that she doesn’t want to go to the publisher because “the unsullied pleasure of reading ends” (93) if she crosses that boundary. It’s interesting to consider the idea that being involved with publishing can ruin the enjoyment of reading. However, the narrator finds even more intriguing stories and backstories by visiting the publishing firm, so it’s possible that the “boundary” Ludmilla talked about depends on the person.
Another interesting phrase that stuck out to me was one that the translator Marana wrote:
“‘What does the name of an author on the jacket matter? Let us move forward in thought to three thousand years from now. Who knows which books from our period will be saved, and who knows which authors’ names will be remembered?'” (101)
It really is intriguing to think about the legacy that books and authors leave behind. Even though we have technology to keep inventory of who writes what, whose names will truly be remembered in the human tradition? Which stories will be remembered, especially when Calvino seems to imply that many stories are essentially the same?
Aside from the commentary on books themselves, I found a lot of similarities with gender issues among the three stories in this section, which is something that Danisha wrote about in her blog post as well. In each of the stories, a man is entranced by a woman: Alex by Irina, Ruedi by Bernadette, and the professor by Marjorie. However, despite acknowledging that the women are smarter, they’re still portrayed in a very sexual way, especially in the first two stories. The stories from the first section of the novel are also similar, with a man as the narrator who is drawn to a woman.
Since all of the stories have been similar, I wonder if Calvino is trying to point out how men objectifying women is a common theme across literature. There definitely is some significance to this idea, so it will be interesting to see the similarities among the remaining stories in the novel.
Source: Calvino, through Ch 6