Title: The Baron in the Trees
Author: Italo Calvino
Young Cosimo, the twelve year old son of a Baron is faced with an unpleasant prospect at dinner one day. His sister Battista has prepared a dish of snails. This circumstance is especially unpleasant since a few days back Cosimo and his younger brother Biagio had tried to help the snails escape from their captivity. The boys had been caught and punished. But as a result now it has become unacceptable to Cosimo to eat this dish. It is sheer disobedience to refuse food at his father’s table, but Cosimo has more will than what his family suspects. Not only does he refuse the dish but he also escapes the stone mansion of his father and takes up residence among the trees.
‘The Baron in the Trees’ tells the extraordinary story of this Cosimo. Once Cosimo entered the world of trees he decided never to set his foot on the ground again. In the trees he grew up to be a young man, a well-read man because he took an early liking to books and spent many a happy hour reading great works in the branches of an Oak or a Magnolia. He found the love of his life while sauntering about in the orchards of his neighbour, the willful Viola, and later assumed his Baronetcy while still living in the trees. He made many friends - unusual friends for a Baron - in the poorest of people of Ombrosa, helped these friends face their adversities and generally lived a good and satisfying life. All in the trees.
A singular story, narrated by a singular author. I will not talk about what a great writer Italo Calvino is because anyone who has read any of his work already knows that. Calvino’s easy and yet meaningful style makes this novel a great joy to read. The social observations, the commentaries on the human behaviour that form such a natural part of his writing make for rich reading.
In this novel he builds a perceptive picture of the social geography of Ombrosa. He writes about the lives of the common people – the labourers, the farmers, even the thieves and the pirates alongside the politics and aspirations of the noblemen. It is very interesting and entertaining to see these dynamics play out into the events of the novel. The character of Cosimo is of course pivotal to the novel. It is very easy to fall in love with this unusual Baron and his extraordinary pursuits. The generosity, the rebellion, the philosophical maturity that he carries in his bosom makes him one remarkable character.
In conclusion: Of course go read this book, while I go and read my next Calvino ‘If on a winter’s night a traveller’.
Book Source: Self
Book Source: Self