sábado, 8 de marzo de 2008

The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees
(Il Barone Rampante)
by Italo Calvino
Italy, 1957

I didn't know where Calvino was going with this until about halfway into the novel, but it didn't really matter much since his prose is so effervescent even in translation. A shaggy-dog story about a 12-year old baron, Cosimo, who takes to the trees for the rest of his life after resisting his parents' orders to consume a nasty plate of snails, this half-farcical/half-profoundly astute "memoir" penned by the baron's infinitely more-grounded younger brother, Biagio, uses this unlikeliest of vantage points to cast a cockeyed glimpse at the role of self and society in "the age of Voltaire." If the eternal tug of war between idealism and compromise sounds like grim reading to anyone just out for a quick page-turner, rest assured that Calvino kind of follows in Cervantes' footsteps in sending his willfully-stubborn protagonist out on a series of highly-entertaining adventures that will take him out to sea to fight Turkish pirates and all the way into Spain to meet another "tribe" of tree-dwelling nobles in exile from their Granadan home. While this idiosyncratic approach may require more acquiescence than usual on the part of the reader, those who give in will be rewarded with cameos from Diderot, Napoleon, and Voltaire himself in this love letter to storytelling from one of its acknowledged 20th-century masters. Bravo!(http://www.harcourtbooks.com/)

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