Second, the employment of second person reference, adds a whole new dynamic to the reading experience, making it more personal, interactive and involving. The work lucidly shows how a text can signify subjective experiences of the reader by immersing him/her in a “process of identification” (Fludernik, 1994, p.525). For example, the text addresses the reader directly as one of the characters in the plot. As a result, “it foregrounds, as conventional narrations do not, the extent to which your subjectivity as a reader depends upon identification with the signifier you. An effaced narrating agency makes itself apparent only indirectly in the form of imperatives and questions.” (Cohan & Shires, 1988, p.150)
Third, the novel is a detailed introspection on the process of writing itself, taking the reader through the complexities and challenges that the author himself faces. Put together, these aspects of the novel make it unique among 20th century works and place it outside recognized genres. Further,
“Metalepsis, the violation of ontological boundaries, is a model or mirror of love. Implicit in the postmodernist use of the second person, this analogy is actually made explicit in certain texts. Calvino ends If on a winter’s night a traveller by having his two Readers, male and female, go to bed together; there, no longer second person singulars but a joint second person plural, they “read” each other in an erotic analogy with the way they have been read as characters.” (McHale, 1987, p. 226)
It is for these aforementioned reasons that If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller can be said to question genres. If anything, this novel has spawned a new genre of its own, albeit whose reach and appeal is confined to esoteric literary circles.
Broderick, D. (2000). Transrealist Fiction: Writing in the Slipstream of Science. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Calvino, Italo, (1981) If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, Published by Everyman’s Library.
Cohan, S., & Shires, L. M. (1988). Telling Stories: A Theoretical Analysis of Narrative Fiction. London: Routledge.
Fludernik, M. (1994). Second-person Narrative: a Bibliography. Style, 28(4), 525+.
Francese, J. (2001). Italo Calvino: A Journey toward Postmodernism. 117.
McHale, B. (1987). Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge.
Mullan, J. (2006). How Novels Work. New York: Oxford University Press.
Tandello, E. (2007). Semiotics of Re-reading: Guido Gozzano, Aldo Palazzeschi, Italo Calvino. The Modern Language Review, 102(2), 536+.
Tinkler, A. (2002). Italo Calvino. The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 22(1), 59+.
Wood, M. (1998). Children of Silence: On Contemporary Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press.