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Character in If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Character in If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

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Published by danilo lopez-roman
How Italo Calvino plays with readers in his famous metafictional novel.
How Italo Calvino plays with readers in his famous metafictional novel.

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Published by: danilo lopez-roman on Aug 30, 2011
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07/22/2014

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April 27, 2011 1 Danilo Lopez
Faith in Literature Can make up Their Own Laws
1
“…-so that each character already receives a first definition through this action or attribute;…” 
Italo Calvino,
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler 
, p.36
 
Italo Calvino’s
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler 
is meta-fictional work that underscoresthe importance of the reader as active participant in literature while showing the mutability of the writer and highlighting the text as a meeting ground of author(s) and reader(s). While thisnovel can be approached through many angles, we will concentrate of the readers as charactersin it and answer the questions, which are the main characters? What is he/she like? What areher/his needs or concerns? Are there similar characters in other works of literature? Do peoplelike these really exist?
What is metafiction?
Metafiction “explores the theory of writing fiction through the practice of writingfiction”
2
Techniques of metafiction
and tries to draw the reader out of the story at hand to discuss the act of writing.Metafiction stipulates that “reality or history is provisional: no longer a world of externalverities (truths) but a series of constructions, artifices, impermanent structures” (Waugh, opcit).Metafiction makes up its own laws of writing in order to analyze the act of writing.Metafictional works have a structure that may be strong in plot, in character, or in narratorpoint of view
3
A) “History is fiction” and recurs to over- or under-plotting and extreme coincidences inthe narrative to move the plot (when there is a plot).and uses a series of techniques to make points about literature. Three main onesdelineated by Waugh are:
1
 
The Diaries of Franz Kafka
, 25 December 1911, Edited by Max Brod, Penguin Classics.
2
Patricia Waugh,
Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Conscious Fiction
, New Accents.
3
Victoria Lynn Schmidt,
Story Structure Architect 
. Writer’s Digest Books.
 
April 27, 2011 2 Danilo Lopez
B) “Language is an arbitrary system” and includes blank pages or other unconventionaldiscourses or pictures in the narrative.C) “The author is a paradox” who may or may not have any power on the narrative, andshows the author as part of the narrative (character) or a conflict between the reader and theauthor or uses a character that is “out of the control” of the author.D) “Fiction and reality are interchangeable” and recurs to foregrounding by juxtaposingfictional and historical characters or discussing writing techniques as part of the narrative.
Why
If on a winter’s Night a Traveler 
(IWNT) is a work of metafiction?
IWNT follows the structure of metafiction and Calvino uses one or more of thetechniques explained above, some with slight variations:A)
“History is fiction” and recurs to over- or under-plotting and extreme coincidences inthe narrative to move the plot (when there is a plot).
Like the nerves of a pinnate leaf, we find inthis novel a central, very simple plot out of which branch, in a series of ten interrupted stories,several other insinuated plots. These are plots within the plot, like dreams within dreams, likefractals populating the book with countless characters, central to the sub-plot at hand, butsecondary to the central plot of Reader (he) and Other Reader (she, Ludmilla). Reader andLudmilla go through many adventures in their search for Ermes Marana and his last manuscript(Chapter nine). Marana himself (Chapter 6) undergoes incredible, exaggerated obstacles andsituations in several parts of the world.
 
April 27, 2011 3 Danilo Lopez
B)
“Language is an arbitrary system” and includes blank pages or other unconventional discourses or pictures in the narrative
. IWNT does not include such technique, but it has apinnate venation structure, with unfinished stories. It uses different voices and changing pointof view in each story by the same author, Calvino. Calvino assumes the personas of tendifferent writers who are one and the same Flanagan-Marana-Calvino and it praises apocryphawriting (Chapter 8, p. 193) as a legitimate way of creating fiction and manipulating narration.Calvino, like Marana-Flanagan, becomes a counterfeiter, a “wizard” of language.C)
“The author is a paradox” who may or may not have any power on the narrative, and shows the author as part of the narrative (character) or a conflict between the reader and theauthor or uses a character that is “out of the control” of the author 
. In chapter 5 while talking toeditor Cavedagna, reader thinks that “The author was an invisible point from which the bookcame”. This, and Calvino’s ability to write ten different stories in ten different styles, settings,themes, and voices, supports the idea that the author is just a starting point that, once thenovel unleashed to the public, once in the hands and eyes and mind of the reader, makes theauthor irrelevant
4
D)
“Fiction and reality are interchangeable” and recurs to foregrounding by juxtaposing fictional and historical characters or discussing writing techniques as part of the narrative
.Calvino is a real figure. The other characters, Reader, Other Reader, Cavedagna, Lotaria, Prof.Uzzi-Tuzzi, etc., don’t they evoke and represent the real, archetypal characters of editors,readers, academics, writers, families, students, etc.? In that sense, they are as real as they canget, embedded in the cultural subconscious of society. In this regard, IWNT interchanges realityand fiction.. Yet, would IWNT be the same if Calvino did not permeate the novel frombeginning to end? I think not.
Readers and writers as characters
4
Structuralist theorist Roland Barthes argues that writers only have the power to mix already existing writings, toreassemble or redeploy them; writers cannot use writing to ‘express’ themselves, but only to draw upon thatimmense dictionary of language and culture which is ‘always already written’. See Raman Selden and PeterWiddowson,
Contemporary Literary Theory 
, University Press of Kentucky.

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