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and even trains a goat to climb a short way up an olive tree so he can reach down to milk it. But C

Time:2019-12-05 10:32Shoes websites Click:

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In our series, Guide to the classics, experts explain key works of literature.

Many young children have flirted with the notion of escaping, once and for all, those stifling rules and obligations invoked at dinnertime: eat your greens, finish everything on your plate…

Few (thankfully) will have the kind of commitment required to take this rebellion to the extremes of Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, protagonist of Italo Calvino’s enchanting novel, The Baron in the Trees.

The meal in question is indeed stomach-turning: snail soup followed by a main course of snails.

 and even trains a goat to climb a short way up an olive tree so he can reach down to milk it. But Cosimo’s day-to-day existence is not focused solely on surviving in his new habitat. He engages in many intellectual pursuits

But when, one momentous day in 1767, the 12-year-old Cosimo pushes away his plate and refuses to touch his food, no admonitions from his appalled parents will change the boy’s mind. He runs from the family home and climbs a large holm oak on their estate, never again to come down to earth.

Calvino wrote the novel in 1957, and it remains one of his most loved. The story of Cosimo’s astonishing existence among the trees, where he lives through to adulthood and old age, during times of great turmoil, combines the bizarre imaginative flair of a folktale with a profound meditation on questions of isolation and human interaction.

The man behind the novel

Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923 to Italian parents who were working there as scientists, but the family moved back to Italy just two years later. His childhood was spent in the small coastal city of Sanremo (Liguria) on the Italian Riviera, very close to the French border.

The landscape of Liguria - in an imagined and idealised form that has since been lost to development - forms the luxuriant setting for Cosimo’s arboreal adventures.

 and even trains a goat to climb a short way up an olive tree so he can reach down to milk it. But Cosimo’s day-to-day existence is not focused solely on surviving in his new habitat. He engages in many intellectual pursuits

The Italian region of Liguria was Calvino’s home and the inspiration for his fictional town. Shutterstock

The baron’s (fictional) village of Ombrosa is rich in vegetation, and trees of every kind – oaks and mulberry trees, magnolias and Indian chestnuts, pines and olives – become Cosimo’s kingdom.

The important link to the environment

Life in the treetops is not without its challenges. Part of the charm of the novel lies in the way Calvino is able to use allegory to explore the human condition, without sidestepping a depiction of how Cosimo manages the practicalities of his peculiar existence.

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