There are great ideas at the centre of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Italo Calvino's most famous work is a cornerstone of post-modernism, a rare novel written in the second person which consists mostly of the opening chapters of other novels. It's clever, it's quotable and it's definitely original.
Unfortunately while some of the novel sizzled with genius, some of it was just tedious. Some of the novel openings were electric and I would have loved to read on, but other parts were turgid. It's also a novel that feels dated and must even have done so when it was first published in 1979 - stylistically it's much more similar to authors such as Brecht and Beckett than other books of the same era such as early Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie.
Another problem with the novel, which is no fault of Calvino's, is the translation by William Weaver which I found to be clumsy in places. An excess of commas and clauses in unusual places made it frequently obvious that I was reading a book that hadn't been originally written in English.
However, I did enjoy reading the novel and found Calvino's imagination impressive which is what saved it from a lower score. But ultimately, although we're taught to think the original should be the best, If on a Winter's Night was nowhere near as good as its literary descendant Cloud Atlas or Calvino's own Invisible Cities.