In the past, fairy-tales have been a major form of writing for the great minds of the imaginative authors of the world. In search of cultural roots, much of Europe focused on its folktale and fairy-tales. However, Early Modern and Contemporary Italy took its tales and changed, manipulated, and combined them, having dissimilar concerns as the other societies of Europe. Influenced by his nation's overall approach to its heritage, Italo Calvino, in his novel If on a winter's night a traveler, is blatantly provided with a fundamental structure, plot, and theme through his use of the fairy-tale.
"You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade." (Calvino 3). Calvino's opening sentences, even the first couple pages, exemplify what the reader would be told by a storyteller, as a young child would hear, cuddling within his or her warm, blanket-covered utopia, while mother's contiguous body not only provides comfort and security, but a fairy-tale incipit; the child's ear drums focus in on a lulling frequency incessantly flowing from the mother's fatigued mouth. The didactic beginning of this novel is a mechanism Calvino utilizes to ensure the reader that a fantastic, adventurous story is about to begin.
The "Once upon a time" cliche that has dominated the first sentence of fairy-tales in the past is replaced with "So, then, you..." where the actual plot then begins (Calvino 4). The Reader takes the first steps on his quest for a final, complete text. Within those few initial steps, he begins his double quest for his princess, the female reader, ...
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"Calvino's collection stands with the best folktale collections anywhere." (Guton 91). Many attributes of the novel If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino bare a striking resemblance to the fairy-tale. The structure, plot, themes, and even characterization of the novel exemplify its similarities to a tale. Regardless of how the book is critically approached, the fact that Calvino, influenced by his national culture, wrote the novel as a fantastic tale will always remain firmly planted in his readers' view.
Calvino, Italo. If on a winter's night a traveler. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1981.
Guton, Sharon and Sline, Jean. Contemporary Literary Criticism.Volume 22. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982.
Votteler, Thomas. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Volume 73. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1993.
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