The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

the baron in the tree“Cosimo climbed up, and never came down again,” Biagio explains. Biagio is the one who narrates the whole story. He is the younger brother of Cosimo, a twelve year old protagonist who rebels against his family. He refuses to eat dinner  – roasted snails that his nun prepares. He protests by climbing up a tree, and swears to never return to the ground. He treasures that promise ever since. He does not come down to meet his family, who spends their time trying to communicate to him. He adapts skillfully on the trees: He hunts from the tree, he spies from the tree, he even stays in the tree when his life is threatened by a wild cat.

Cosimo is the heir of his family, as he is the eldest. He is supposed to be the next baron, but flatly refuses to, ever since his life is up in the trees. That, earns the title of this book ‘The Baron in the Trees‘, a story of a perfect mixture of absurdity, sadness, and love. Cosimo lives on the age of Voltaire, passing through it –on the trees.  As Cosimo stays longer and longer in the trees, more and more people learn about him and, inevitably, the rumors and stories about him get more and more exaggerated. Italo Calvino – the author, lets me in this weird situation right at the beginning and I start taking it as normal by the end of the book.

The story is pretty episodic, with each chapter a different little tale about Cosimo: the time he fights off pirates, the time he helps and prevents a forest fire, the time he helps hide a thief, and so on. Biagio never witnesses any of his brother’s stories because he stays on the earth. Being second son, he probably becomes the Baron. He is his brother’s best friend, before Cosimo went airborne. Although the tree separates them, it does not stop them from staying as best buddies between the two worlds.

Calvino is a masterful storyteller and manages to sell the reader on the idea that living in the trees is not only possible but an admirable way of life. I would definitely not mind staying up there, sleeping between oak and birch trees. This is a bizzare tale about a boy who cannot–and probably should not–detach himself from humanity entirely. I enjoy the ridiculousness of the story line: a boy lives in the trees for almost his entire life. It is like every eleven year old’s dream come true; it is like my dream come true! I  love the ending, where instead of dying and being buried in the ground, he never lets his feet touch the earth. He does something weird that reminds me of the particular children book, Winni-the-Pooh. That part really rocks.

Italo Calvino was an Italian writer who wrote down many short stories and novels. He was born on 5 October 1923. He passed away in 1985. As an Italian journalist, his best known works include Invisible Cities and If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. He was the most-translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death. It is good to know that he was a noted contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature.


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