If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

A strange, compelling story about the pleasures of reading. ...more info on wikipedia

About the artist: Valentina Montagnafrom Italy

I spent half of my time in high school experimenting drawing techniques, and the other half reading books. For seven years I had been playing in a small theatre company, then I met typography and I chose the printed word as my companion. The immense creative potential of the human mind fascinates me; there comes my obsession for books and for the worlds they treasure in them. There’s no experience that changed the human mind so deeply as reading.

Why this work

“If on a winter’s night a traveller” is a masterpiece of literary postmodernism. But more than that, it is a spectacular book. A novel made of ten different “unfinished” novels, Calvino’s book it is a kaleidoscope, a house of mirrors, a sophisticated mechanism made of words. The story is centred around two main characters, two readers–a man and a woman–chasing a phantasmagoric book without success: every time they think they found it, they discover they found another book, from a different author. Twelve chapters are dedicated to the story of the Man and the Woman, and ten chapters consist of ten different incipits of the ten novels they encounter, each one written with a different style, as if they had been written by different authors. “If on a winter’s...” is a book about writing books and about reading them, but it’s not only a brilliant example of Calvino’s genius and ability as a writer. It is also a book about death, and the pointless attempt of mankind to find the meaning of life. When a friend told me that I would have loved this book, I didn’t know what to expect. But from the moment I’ve started reading it I was captivated. With my graphic work I wanted to represent at least some of the countless references the author put in this story. I started with a decagon, a geometric shape with ten sides, to represent the ten unfinished books; then I drew ten different decorations made of curves and circles to fill this first structure. I continued to fill the first shape with other decagons and interlaced patterns, to obtain something I would like to define as an “apocryphal arabesque”. I was keeping in mind the fact that Calvino quoted the structure of the “One Thousand and One Nights”, so I wanted to give my work a hint of Persian and Arabic patterns. I think the result is something between that, a kaleidoscope, a dreamy mechanism and a snowflake.