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Italo Calvino: Il barone rampante (The Baron in the Trees)

On 15 June 1767, the twelve-year old Baron Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo, who does not wish to eat the snails prepared for dinner by his sister, leaves the dinner table, climbs up a tree and announces that he is never going to come down again. He is as good as his word. The story is narrated by the Baron’s younger brother, who is full of admiration for the actions of his older brother. Even though he spends the rest of his life in the trees, dressed in animal fur, he manages to live a full life. He has love affairs. He keeps a dog. He hunts. He fights pirates. He corresponds with the likes of Diderot and Napoleon. He drafts a constitution. In short, he leads a full and rich life. In particular, from his perch on high, he is able to look down on ordinary mortals, remaining in touch with them but staying removed from them, keeping a human and humane perspective and, above all, remaining honest and true to himself. He is, as Calvino is suggesting, the artist observing his fellow man, without being part of that community.

Publishing history

First published 1957 by Einaudi
First published in English 1959 by Random House
Translated by Archibald Colquhoun