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A humorous yet sad tale

  • Feb 8, 2010
This is the first novel by the famed Italian writer Italo Calvino (1923-1985) who composed it at age 23. It tells about the Italian Resistance against the Nazis during World War II.
Calvino introduces the novel with a 1964 preface in which he attempts to explain what prompted him to write the novel: the emotions created by the end of the war, the desire to describe the resistance movement and a need to defend the resistance. Yet, Calvino admits that he has not succeeded. He does not state why. Instead he gives a montage of different reasons that leave the reader confused. In fact he admits that he himself is confused why he wrote this book as he did. "The pages," he writes, "stand there in their impudent permanence which I know to be deceptive, pages which even then (when they were written) were at variance with a memory which was still a living presence...these pages are no use to me."
What is wrong with the novel? It won a prize when it was written. It sold about ten times its expected sales. It is very readable and flows well, except for several pages in which Calvino sidesteps from his story and describes the motivations of the resistance fighters.
Readers will have to make up their own minds. But it seems that in hind sight, Calvino would have preferred to write a straight-forward tale about the resistance. Instead, he wrote a story about a very young boy, whose sister was a prostitute who slept with Germans, who found himself among a band of incompetent resistance fighters, who he can't really understand. It is humorous, but it was not the book he wanted to write.

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Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #64
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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The [newly translated] preface is a remarkable piece of writing, a long, revealing, unquiet essay in intellectual autobiography, which should prove as rewarding to new readers as the spirited tale of the novel itself....The story reads well in Archibald Colquhoun's 1956 translation, now aptly and discreetly updated by McLaughlin, particularly in respect of numerous words and turns of phrase which are now misleading or meaningless....Calvino now has the status of a contemporary classic, devotedly studied and comprehensively admired. --Times Literary Supplement

The coarse eroticism and the political idealism...were excised from the first English translation and are now reinstated....Time has treated The Path to the Spiders' Nests well. --Independent on Sunday--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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ISBN-10: 0060956585
ISBN-13: 978-0060956585
Author: Italo Calvino
Publisher: Harper Perennial

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"A humorous yet sad tale"
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