The Baron in the Trees
|Original title||Il barone rampante|
The Baron in the Trees (Italian: Il barone rampante) is a 1957 novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. Described as a conte philosophique and a metaphor for independence, it tells the adventures of a boy who climbs up a tree to spend the rest of his life inhabiting an arboreal kingdom. Calvino published a new version of the novel in 1959.
Set in an imaginary village on the Ligurian Riviera, Ombrosa represents the author's vision as a central theme, little inclined to judgments and dull opinions.
The novel is narrated by Biagio, the younger brother of the protagonist, and it is the story of a young baron, Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, firstborn of a noble family sadly late for the times. The main fact is represented by a dispute on June 15, 1767 in the villa of Ombrosa, between adolescent Cosimo and his father, after which Cosimo, who had quarreled with his father because he had refused to eat a snail soup, will climb the trees of the home garden and promise never to go down again.
After the quarrel, Cosimo's life will always take place in the trees, first in the family garden and then in the surrounding woods. Cosimo's life will be full of adventures, starting with friendships with fruit thieves, to the days spent hunting or reading. In the life of the baron there will be no lack of amorous encounters either. Cosimo's fame will spread quickly. At the beginning it will become famous as a freak show and his family will almost be ashamed of it, but later he will also find a way to win the respect of the Ombrosa community. The return of Viola, his first love, will trigger a mutual feeling, always existed, which will end sadly for a series of misunderstandings and misunderstandings. The one between the two will be a strong love, even if the relationship will be full of furious quarrels, leaks and refusals. Even its end will come about in an unusual way; in fact, aged and sick, feeling the onset of death, he will climb to the top of a large walnut tree and hang himself on a passing balloon. Thus, without betraying his intent to never set foot on the earth again, he will disappear into the sky, without even giving the earth his remains.
The Baron in the Trees is the second volume in the fantasy trilogy Our Ancestors, together with The Cloven Viscount (1952) and The Nonexistent Knight (1959). The novel received the Viareggio Prize in 1957.
On publication, various Italian critics complained of "the 'tired' feel of the plot in the second half of the novel" while novelist and critic Elio Vittorini considered the "stylistic disunity between the early and later chapters" was a problem. Despite these perceived flaws, critic Martin McLaughlin argues that the novel "remains something of a tour de force in Calvino's oeuvre. It is an extraordinarily successful attempt to reproduce a utopian, philosophical conte for the 1950s, with a whole range of intertextual allusions and a sophisticated parody of the poetics of the early English moralising novel as practised by Richardson and parodied by Fielding".
Together with If on a winter's night, a traveller (1979), The Baron in the Trees is Calvino's biggest-selling work of fiction.
- Pacini, Giulia (2014). "Arboreal and Historical Perspectives from Calvino's Il barone rampante". Romance Studies. 32 (1): 57–68. doi:10.1179/0263990413z.00000000058. ISSN 0263-9904.
- Illustrations to The Baron in the Trees by French artist Yan Nascimbene