The Baron In The Trees

by Italo Calvino

Paperback, 1977

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Mariner Books (1977)

Description

In Kublai Khan's garden, at sunset, the young Marco Polo diverts the aged emperor from his obsession with the impending end of his empire with tales of countless cities past, present, and future.

User reviews

LibraryThing member technodiabla
I really loved this story. The first half perfectly captured the imagination and spirit of youth. I can't imagine anyone could read it and not want to go live in the trees at least a little bit. I was thinking it would be the perfect book for a 10-14 year old, but the last half of the book was a bit more mature in both theme and style. (Interesting change in in Calvino's style as Cosimo matures and ages). The story is such an interesting depiction of life's stages and moods, and despite the fact that the premise is totally bizarre the reader can completely relate to Cosimo.… (more)
LibraryThing member clfisha
Cosimo (an 18th century Italian noble) climbs a tree out of teenage pique and decides never to come down. His life; his romances, battles, friendships and education are all carried out in the tree tops. So he woos the love of his life, hunts ravenous wolves, frights pirates, befriends the lowly bandits, takes tea with arboreal nobles and ponders his philosophy all high above the earth.

It is one of the more straighter stories of Calvino’s but doesn’t suffer from this. The book manages to encompass the whole sweeping events of his life with a deft touch taking judicious turns to be light hearted, then thoughtful or just tense. All humanity is covered and whilst elevating Cosimo Calvino manages to concentrate on all our everyday dramas as well on philosophy and society as a whole.

Simply enjoy its oddity or ponder its questions this is a delightful read and one I recommend to everyone.
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LibraryThing member iayork
Up in the trees: Italo Calvino was one of the most underrated maestros of magical realism, where atoms fall in love and empty suits of armor walk and talk. And one of his most polished, reader-friendly stories was "Baron in the Trees," a fable about a nobleman who lives his whole life in a tree. Yes, it sounds weird -- but the result is sweet, uplifting and full of childlike wonder.

A young nobleman, Cosimo, was enraged when his eccentric sister made dinner out of his pet snails. So when his father ordered him to eat, he ran up a tree and swore to stay there forever. And he did, from his adolescence up to old age, becoming famous as the Baron in the Trees. Even at the death of his parents, he remained in the trees nearby, watching and helping -- but not coming down. Even when the Baron dies, he finds a way to ascend even higher...

Without leaving the trees, he manages to hunt animals, educate himself with great philosophers, adopts an abandoned dog, lends bestselling books to a local bandito, battles pirates who are conspiring with his uncle, has an affair with a promiscuous Marchesa, and even lives with a band of tree-dwelling Spanish exiles.

"Baron in the Trees" is a whimsical little story on the surface, until you look deeper at the message of "living in trees." Cosimo removes himself from the ground, and also removes himself from the worries of ordinary people -- social position, power, material goods. He's happy just to have friends, books, and his own private kingdom.

But even if you take it at face value, "Baron in the Trees" is an enchanting little story. Calvino's lush, detailed writing is always full of a child's wonder, and he sounds like he's living his own fantasies as he describes how Cosimo manages to sleep (a sort of fur cocoon), store his possessions and fall in live... while never stepping out of the tree. But Calvino manages to convey the bittersweetness of Cosimo's life: While he loves his odd life, he also knows that it alienates him from the rest of the world and leaves him alone.

Cosimo himself is a relatively distant character, since the whole book is through the eyes of his otherwise-unimportant brother. But he is surrounded by equally quirky characters -- his Jesuit-phobic father, "general" mother, creepy disgraced sister, and an array of book-loving bandits, odd priests, and peasants who get used to the tree-dwelling Baron.

A sweet, quirky fable about a young man who just won't come down to earth, "The Baron in the Trees" is a truly enchanting read.
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LibraryThing member weeksj10
The amazing story of a young Baron who rebels, runs away to live in the trees and never comes down. Beautiful writing as all Calvino is and truly interesting and original story. Imagine trying to live in the trees for decades. Calvino shows us the growing of a boy into a young man into an old man in a creative and reflective way. Its great.… (more)
LibraryThing member timjones
This is a splendid book. On one level, there's not much to it: in the titular Baron, aged 12, has an argument with his parents and sister, is told to leave the table, and decamps to take up residence in the trees of the baronial estate. He never comes down, but still managed to live as full life, bringing his unique arboreal perspective to love, war, peace and politics.

Italo Calvino is a wonderful writer, and whether the Baron's adventures are funny, sad, thought-provoking or all three, they are beautifully told. I also liked the ways in which the baron changes, mostly for the better, the lives of those below him. Strongly recommended.
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LibraryThing member web20student
The Financial Times Life & Arts section often asks a featured author what book they'd give a child to introduce them to literature. This doesn't exactly fit that recipe, as it's decidedly not a children's book, but in sentiment and story--crafting a life, growing up and taking responsibility for one's free-will and obligation to self and others--I can't think of one that is more suitable as a read-aloud to young teens. A book parents should read to teens, lovers should read to each other and that everyone should read one way or another.… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
Described as a philosophical tale and a metaphor for independence, The Baron in the Trees tells the adventures of a boy who climbs up a tree to spend the rest of his life inhabiting an arboreal kingdom. The story of twelve-year-old Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò is narrated by his younger brother, Biagio. Set in Liguria near the French Riviera, the two brothers belong to a noble 18th century family whose estate is located in the vast forest landscapes of Ombrosa. The regions of Italy have not yet united and the Ligurian Coast is not ruled by a legitimate king. In a rebellious fit after refusing to eat a dinner of snails prepared by Battista, his sadistic sister, Cosimo climbs up a tree and decides never to come down again. He has literally had enough: enough of family and decorum, his proper role as a future Baron, and of everything on the ground. Initially helped and sometimes cared for by Biagio, the young Baron eventually becomes self-sufficient but finds that the more he distances himself from others in order to see them from a new point of view, the more he helps everyone on the earth. His love for a young woman named Viola changes the course of the lives of everyone: Cosimo, Viola, Biagio, and the community of Ombrosa.
The Baron in the Trees is the second volume in the fantasy trilogy, Our Ancestors with The Cloven Viscount (1952) and The Nonexistent Knight (1959) comprising the first and third volumes, respectively. On publication, various Italian critics complained of "the 'tired' feel of the plot in the second half of the novel" and noted other problems with the novel. Despite these perceived flaws, critic Martin McLaughlin argues that the novel "remains something of a tour de force in Calvino's oeuvre. It is an extraordinarly successful attempt to reproduce a utopian, philosophical conte for the 1950s, with a whole range of intertextual allusions and a sophisticated parody of the poetics of the early English moralising novel as practised by Richardson ad parodied by Fielding". Having read Fielding I agree, but also appreciate the relative brevity of Calvino's approach.
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LibraryThing member donato
Like all books that deserve a 5-star rating this book is about Life -- in all its aspects. Just beautiful. Escaping to obtain freedom is necessary, but so is coming back.
LibraryThing member gazzy
An imaginative adventure set in the age of enlightenment where a young baron redefines his life.
LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
Poised to be a great story but it never fully ripens into one. As a result, the life spent in the trees is more of a framing gimmick than a deep parable, fable, or metafiction, such as most of Calvino's wonderful later works are. I also found it strange that it is told from the brother's perspective rather than the baron's.… (more)
LibraryThing member blake.rosser
My introduction to Calvino. A story about a spoiled 12 year-old boy who decides to spite his father by vowing never to set foot back on the ground, and actually follows through with it. A pretty tale that is not otherwise outstanding.
LibraryThing member Miguelnunonave
Splendid, incredibly imaginative book. Disobeyance as a way of life, a philosophy. The story of a rebel, set during the Age of Enlightenment, but with whom you can completely relate to. Sounds like a childish book but is, in fact, a very mature one.
LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Cosimo, a young eighteenth-century Italian nobleman, rebels by climbing into the trees to remain there for the rest of his life. He adapts efficiently to an arboreal existence and even has love affairs.

My Review: This being a famous and well-studied book, I suppose the publisher didn't feel the need to do a sell-job on it. That little squib is barely a log-line!

I read this book first in ~1974, because it had a cool-looking jacket. It also had an Italian author, which was also cool. But the reading of it was a revelation because the titular Baron was the perfect rebel, firm of purpose and adamant of spirit. And all over what seems, at first anyway, such a ridiculous cause: Refusing to eat snails. I'd never had snails offered to me at that point, and I was in full agreement with the Baron. But as the pages flipped on, I could see what was really at stake was the right to set one's own boundaries, to establish a core identity by and for one's own self.

All adolescents resonate to that theme, I think, and that's why I'm surprised that this book isn't required reading until college. It would serve well in junior or senior year of high school. Anything that deals with the process and price of becoming and being an individual seems to me to be a good fit for that age. Plus it's beautifully translated, so it's easy to read.

And for the record, I ate snails the first time they were offered to me. They were delicious.… (more)
LibraryThing member lucasdwi
Interesting book about Italian social classes and of course the rebellious teen.

Language

Original language

English

Barcode

8407
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