Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno

by Italo Calvino

Paperback, 2016



Call number



Mondadori (2016)


Italo Calvino was only twenty-three when he first published this bold and imaginative novel. It tells the story of Pin, a cobbler's apprentice in a town on the Ligurian coast during World War II. He lives with his sister, a prostitute, and spends as much time as he can at a seedy bar where he amuses the adult patrons. After a mishap with a Nazi soldier, Pin becomes involved with a band of partisans. Calvino's portrayal of these characters, seen through the eyes of a child, is not only a revealing commentary on the Italian resistance but an insightful coming-of-age story. Updated to include changes from Calvino's definitive Italian edition, previously censored passages, and his newly translated, unabridged preface--in which Calvino brilliantly critiques and places into historical context his own youthful work--The Path to the Spiders' Nests is animated by the formidable imagination that has made Italo Calvino one of the most respected writers of our time.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member gbill
If you’re going to read this book, the preface Calvino wrote in 1964 is a must; well-written, honest in its assessment of his first novel’s shortcomings, and giving as much insight into the period of the Italian resistance as the novel itself does. What he cringes about are the places he knew
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he was too dark; few of the characters have any redeeming qualities, and there seems to be a preoccupation with sex. He did that because he didn’t want the resistance romanticized, but he tipped the scales a bit too far in the opposite direction, and there are times when the book gets bogged down. On the other hand, it does have an honesty about it, with characters not knowing whether to side with the fascists or the resistance, their fate often being arbitrarily decided in the chaos of war, and with observations about adults and humanity as seen through the eyes of a child. The book does have flashes of brilliance, and a place in Italian neorealism, and for that it’s worth reading.
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LibraryThing member nossis
This was Calvino’s first novel, by his account written hurriedly in the final months of 1946—though the available translation incorporates revisions the author made years after the book’s initial publication, as well as including Calvino’s apologetic and nostalgic preface, written in 1964,
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in which he laments the short lived era of postwar Italian literature where it seemed possible to recreate the novel from scratch. Calvino also muses (absurdly in his case, given the inventiveness of his later work) on the idea that an author’s first book is his only truly original one and that all subsequent books are imitations of himself and others. Calvino at one time had kept the book out of print, feeling that it was unrepresentative of his work.

It certainly shares more with the Italian neo-realist novels published alongside it than with the playful and abstract style of Invisible Cities or If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, but it does share some of the grace and nimbleness of Calvino’s best writing, employing the present tense to springheel jack the prose.

The novel focuses on the Italian partisan resistance to Fascist and Nazi rule during World War II, with a boy named Pin—whose sister is a prostitute: The Dark Lady of the Alley—drawn into the fight not by idealism or revenge, but simply out of the wish to belong. He likes to joke with the armchair partisans in the tavern, but is told that he will be shunned if he does not steal the pistol of a German soldier sleeping with his sister. The theft propels Pin into the partisan movement when he is arrested and then escapes from jail with a notorious teenaged fighter known as Red Wolf. Pin sees how quickly identities are created and shed in the chaos of guerilla war—some of the partisan fighter were once Fascists and others will later leave the resistance to join the enemy.

Pin joins up with a unit reminiscent of the Dirty Dozen, made up of thieves and rascals. The experience is unromantic: the leader spends most of each day scratching at the lice on his skin and the men argue about communism and women. This part of the book is the least effective as the focus moves off of Pin, who loves getting off a good insult more than dialectical debate, and onto the grown-up screw-ups of the unit.

The novel visits and revisits the place of spiders’ nests, a nearly mythical area where Pin hides the German’s gun. Pin’s childlike love for this spot and his dismay at its destruction, remind me most of Calvino’s later, more fanciful fictions, which came after the war had been dealt with directly and it was as exciting to stare into small crevices as at distant explosions.
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LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
This is Calvino's first novel, and is quite different in style to the later books of his that I have read. He deals with everything in a much more straightforward manner here, the characters are not endowed with anything other than human motives, and the plot is realistic in a way that will perhaps
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appeal to those not keen on the artistic license he often uses in his other works. The book gives a somewhat cynical view of humanity, but is told from the point of view of a boy, the main character, who is confused by the actions of grown ups, who disgust and fascinate him at the same time, who knows that he will understand everything better when he grows up. I would have liked the book to be a bit longer, but the way it ended was a lot more satisfying that many other books I have read. Calvino doesn't over use his clever devices here that make his other books so unique, instead this one gives the reader the feeling that it was written with more emotion, which makes the characters seem more real and less the mere devices of a brilliantly devised and intricate plot, or story concerned just with giving romantic and poetical descriptions, or presenting profound insights.
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LibraryThing member otterley
This is Calvino's first book - and worth reading as part of his development, but also as a fascinating story about the Italian resistance in the second world war. It's interesting to read alongside Primo Levi's writing about the Jewish resistance - messier, less visceral, more ambiguous - but yet,
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in Calvino's important foreword, this was a time of great significance and energising for the relatively new and still very localised Italian nation. Pin, the lead character, is an impossible urchin, brother to the village tart and - by accident - member of a resistance brigade. The spiders' nests are his secret place, a hiding place, apparently inviolable, but desecrated by war. By the end, Pin appears to have found some sort of human contact and relationship which, together with his wit and sense of place, may set him up to be part of a new Italy after the war. The translation is excellent and the book is an easy but thought provoking read
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LibraryThing member amerynth
I enjoyed reading Italo Calvino's "The Path to the Nest of Spiders" but I didn't think it was a particularly noteworthy book. As his debut novel, it lacks the utter brilliance of some of Calvino's later works, as you'd probably expect.

This novel is a coming of age story for Pin, an orphan growing
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up in the shadow of World War II. He steals a pistol from the German client of his prostitute sister and somehow ends up as part of the Italian resistance.

It's a nice little story and fairly entertaining but it isn't a book I'll probably remember much about a year or two from now.
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
1.5 stars.

Pin is a boy who is living with his prostitute sister. He wants to impress grown-ups, and he mostly tries to do this by insulting everyone. He steals a gun and, after a short stay in jail, ends up living with a political group.

I didn’t like Pin and I didn’t really care about any of
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the characters, or what happened to them. I thought Pin was a brat – between his insults and his enjoyment tormenting animals... I was bored by the political stuff going on in the book. I guess I just didn’t get it.
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Original language


Original publication date

1964 (rev.)

Physical description

7.8 inches


8804668032 / 9788804668039
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