The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by Italo Calvino, Ann Goldstein

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A landmark new translation of a Calvino classic, a whimsical, spirited novel that imagines a life lived entirely on its own terms

Cosimo di Rondó, a young Italian nobleman of the eighteenth century, rebels against his parents by climbing into the trees and remaining there for the rest of his life. He adapts efficiently to an existence in the forest canopy—he hunts, sows crops, plays games with earth-bound friends, fights forest fires, solves engineering problems, and even manages to have love affairs. From his perch in the trees, Cosimo sees the Age of Enlightenment pass by and a new century dawn.
The Baron in the Trees exemplifies Calvino’s peerless ability to weave tales that sparkle with enchantment. This new English rendering by acclaimed translator Ann Goldstein breathes new life into one of Calvino’s most beloved works.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544959149
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 570,352
File size: 742 KB

About the Author

ITALO CALVINO’s superb storytelling gifts earned him international renown. At the time of his death, in 1985, he was the most-translated contemporary Italian writer.
ANN GOLDSTEIN has translated widely from the Italian, including works of Elena Ferrante and Primo Levi.
ITALO CALVINO (1923–1985) attained worldwide renown as one of the twentieth century’s greatest storytellers. Born in Cuba, he was raised in San Remo, Italy, and later lived in Turin, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. Among his many works are Invisible Cities, If on a winter's night a traveler, The Baron in the Trees, and other novels, as well as numerous collections of fiction, folktales, criticism, and essays. His works have been translated into dozens of languages.
ANN GOLDSTEIN is an editor at The New Yorker. She has translated the works of many of Italy’s most prominent writers, including Elena Ferrante, Primo Levi, Giacomo Leopardi, Aldo Buzzi, and Alessandro Piperno.

Read an Excerpt


It was the fifteenth of June in 1767 when Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, my brother, sat among us for the last time. I remember as if it were today. We were in the dining room of our villa in Ombrosa, the windows framing the thick branches of the great holm oak in the park. It was midday, and our family, following the old custom, sat down to dinner at that hour, even though among the nobility it was now the fashion, inspired by the late-rising court of France, to dine in the middle of the afternoon. The wind was blowing in from the sea, I remember, and the leaves were stirring. Cosimo said, “I told you I don’t want it and I don’t want it!” and he pushed away the plate of snails. Never had such grave disobedience been seen.

At the head of the table was the Baron Arminio Piovasco di Rondò, our father, wearing his wig long over his ears in the style of Louis XIV, out of fashion in this as in so many of his habits. Between me and my brother sat the Abbé Fauchelafleur, our family’s almoner and the tutor of us boys. Across from us was the Generalessa Corradina di Rondò, our mother, and our sister, Battista, the house nun. At the other end of the table, opposite our father, sat, dressed in the Turkish style, the Cavalier Avvocato Enea Silvio Carrega, the administrator and hydraulic engineer of our estates, and, as the illegitimate brother of our father, our natural uncle.

Several months earlier, when Cosimo turned twelve and I eight, we had been admitted to our parents’ table, or, rather, I had benefited prematurely from my brother’s promotion, so that I wouldn’t be left to eat alone. I say benefited only as a manner of speaking: in reality both for Cosimo and for me the happy times were over, and we felt regret for the meals in our little room, the two of us alone with the Abbé Fauchelafleur. The abbé was a withered, wrinkled old man, who had a reputation as a Jansenist and had in fact fled the Dauphiné, his native land, to avoid a trial by the Inquisition. But the strict character that was usually praised by everyone, the inward severity that he imposed on himself and others, constantly yielded to a fundamental inclination to apathy and indifference, as if his long meditations, eyes staring into emptiness, had led only to a great boredom and lethargy, and in even the least effort he saw the sign of a destiny that it was useless to oppose. Our meals in the company of the abbé began after long prayers, with orderly, decorous, silent movements of spoons, and woe to you if you raised your eyes from the plate or made even the slightest sucking sound as you sipped the broth. But by the end of the soup the abbé was tired, bored; he gazed into space and clicked his tongue at every sip of wine, as if only the most superficial and transient sensations could reach him. By the main course we had already started eating with our fingers, and we finished our meal throwing pear cores at each other while the abbé every so often let out a lazy “Ooo bien! . . . Ooo alors!”

Now, instead, as we dined with the family, childhood’s sad chapter of daily grievances took shape. Our father and our mother were always right in front of us; we had to use knives and forks for the chicken, and sit up straight, and keep elbows off the table ​— ​endless! ​— ​and then there was our odious sister Battista. A succession of scoldings, spiteful acts, punishments, obstinacies began, until the day Cosimo refused the snails and decided to separate his lot from ours.

I became aware of this accumulation of family resentments only later; I was just eight then, everything seemed to me a game, the battle of us children against the adults was the battle that all children fight, I didn’t understand that my brother’s determination concealed something deeper.

Our father, the baron, was a dull man certainly, although not a bad one: dull because his life was dominated by thoughts that were out of step, as often happens in eras of transition. In many people the unrest of the age instills a need to become restless as well, but in the wrong direction, on the wrong track; so our father, despite what was brewing at the time, laid claim to the title of Duke of Ombrosa and thought only of genealogies and successions and rivalries and alliances with potentates near and far.

So at our house we always lived as if at the dress rehearsal of an invitation to court, I don’t know whether the Empress of Austria’s or King Louis’s, or maybe that of the mountain nobles of Turin. A turkey was served, our father watching to see that we carved it and picked off the meat according to all the royal rules, while the abbé barely tasted it, in order not to be caught out, he who had to support our father’s reprimands. As for the Cavalier Avvocato Carrega, then, we had discovered the deceitful depths of his heart: into the folds of his Turkish robes entire thighs vanished, which he could take bites of later as he liked, hiding in the vineyard; and we would have sworn (although his movements were so swift that we never managed to catch him in the act) that he came to the table with a pocket full of bones already picked, to leave on his plate in place of the turkey quarters that had vanished whole. Our mother, the generalessa, didn’t count, because she had brusque military manners even when she helped herself at the table ​— ​“So, Noch ein wenig! Gut!” ​— ​and no one objected; but with us she insisted, if not on etiquette, on discipline, and backed up the baron with her parade-ground orders ​— ​“Sitz’ ruhig! And wipe your nose!” The only one who was at her ease was Battista, the house nun, who stripped the flesh off fowl with a minute persistence, fiber by fiber, using some sharp knives that only she had, something like a surgeon’s lancets. The baron, who should have held her up as an example, didn’t dare to look at her, because with those mad eyes under the wings of her starched cap, the teeth clenched in that yellow mouselike face, she frightened even him. So you can see how the table was the place where all the antagonisms emerged, the incompatibilities among us, along with all our follies and hypocrisies, and how it was at the table, precisely, that Cosimo’s rebellion was determined. That’s why I’m describing all this at length, since there will be no more elaborately laid tables in my brother’s life, you can be sure.

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The Baron in the Trees 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
weeksj10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
clfisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
gazzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An imaginative adventure set in the age of enlightenment where a young baron redefines his life.
Rapp_Connor More than 1 year ago
The Baron in the Trees written by the Italian author named Italo Calvino was published in 1957. It is an excellent read for high school students as well as adults. One major reason it is such a great read for teenagers is that they can relate to it. They can relate to the fact that the main character runs away from home to live in the trees. Everyone at some point has run away from home, whether that is actually leaving home for a long period of time or just going out in your front yard and hiding from your parents. The author uses this technique to intrigue kids to read his book because they can relate to it. This book, however, does start out very slow and makes the reader wait quite a bit for excitement to occur. Overall, this book is a great book to read for all ages, however starts out very slowly and could have been more exciting at the start of the novel.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The 'Baron In The Trees',written by Italo Calvino, is an excellent representation of a young boy's life on the trees. It exquisitely ventures deep down into the adventures Cosimo explores. Each aspect of Cosimo's life brings joy to others. This book is one of Calvino's best and should be read by everyone.