Friday’s Forgotten Books

If on a winter's night a traveler I just want to call your attention to Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller, my contribution this week to Pattinase’s Friday’s Forgotten Books.

Certain books exert on us great amount of fascination, but we do not know why or at least we cannot explain adequately the reason for this attraction. In my case this is one of these books. My edition is dated back in 1984 and I probably read it for the first time that very same year but I’m still seduced by this book. However I must introduce a word of caution, not everyone agrees with me. There is quite some controversy around its merits. Judge by yourselves.

To search inside this book click HERE.

Opening lines:

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. tell the others right away, ‘No, I don’t want to watch TV!’ Raise your voice –they won’t hear you otherwise– ‘I’m reading! I don´t want to be disturbed!’ Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: ‘I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino´s new novel’ Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.” 

The blurb reads:

If on a winter’s night a traveller turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive an extinct, through which two readers, a male and a female, pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another. They are the true heroes of the novel, for what would writing be without readers?”

Here is an excellent review by Melissa Coombe. Now sit, relax and enjoy your reading. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller…..

Following Agatha’s Steps: Canary Islands, February 1927

acrc2_blogtour2010To commemorate Agatha Christie’s 120th birthday, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise has launched a blog carnival tour this month at the ACRC . Each participant has volunteered to host the blog tour for one day in September. Obviously the post must be related to an Agatha Christie topic. Today, September 16th, is my turn. Thank you very much for your visit and please do follow the rest of this magical mystery tour.

In February 1927 Agatha Christie visited Canary Islands to recover from the psychological strain of the events that took place late in 1926. She mysteriously disappeared for eleven days in a “fugue state”, an amnesic episode due to emotional stress. Her mother, Clarissa Miller, had died after a severe illness, her husband was in love with another woman and she was going through a period of financial difficulties. (The enclosed picture showing Agatha Christie with her daughter Rosalind was taken probably around the time of her visit to Canary Islands).Agatha Christie and Rosalind

Agatha Christie together with her daughter, Rosalind, and her secretary, Charlotte Fisher, arrived at Tenerife on 4 February 1927. She was thirty-six years old. They stayed at the Gran Hotel Taoro in Puerto de la Cruz, at that time the best hotel in Tenerife and the centre of the British community on the island. On its premises were located the Anglican Church and the British Library, now Taoro Park. Upon their arrival they probably went to see the Orotava Valley, the favourite tour for all visitors arriving there. It is said that in Puerto de la Cruz Agatha Christie completed The Mystery of the Blue Train and she sent it to her publishers. She never felt proud of this book but it sold very well thus putting an end to her economic problems.

Having completed her novel she decided to stay one more week on the island to relax but she was not attracted to stay in Tenerife due to the absence of white sand beaches and on 27 February she moved to the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Agatha Christie and her entourage stayed at the Metropole Hotel located midway between Santa Catalina Pier and the city, opposite to Santa Catalina beach. The British Club and the tennis courts were nearby. In its halls Agatha Christie began to write The Companion, one of the mysteries included in her collection of short stories, The Thirteen Problems. This story has clear references to Gran Canaria, particularly to the beach of Las Nieves, located 48 miles from Las Palmas, in Agaete with a population close to 3,500 inhabitants at that time. On 4 March 1927 Agatha Christie took a steamboat back to England.  We can read at The Companion:

‘I don’t know whether any of you know the Canary Islands,’ began the doctor.

‘They must be wonderful,’ said Jane Helier. ‘They’re in the South Seas, aren’t they? Or is it the Mediterranean?’

‘I’ve called in there on my way to South Africa,’ said the colonel. ‘The Peak of Tenerife is a fine sight with the setting sun on it’

‘The incident I am describing happened in the island of Grand Canary, not Tenerife. It is a good many years ago now. I had had a breakdown in health and was forced to give up my practice in England and go abroad. I practised in Las Palmas, which is the principal town of Grand Canary. In many ways I enjoyed the life out there very much. The climate was mild and sunny, there was excellent surf bathing (and I am an enthusiastic bather) and the sea life of the port attracted me. Ships from all over the world put in at Las Palmas. I used to walk along the mole every morning far more interested than any member of the fair sex could be in a street of hat shops.

‘As I say, ships from all over the world put in at Las Palmas. Sometimes they stay a few hours, sometimes a day or two. In the principal hotel there, the Metropole, you will see people of all races and nationalities – birds of passage. Even the people going to Tenerife usually come here and stay a few days before crossing to the other island.

‘My story begins there, in the Metropole Hotel, one Thursday evening in January.”

And later on: “The following day I had arranged to go for a picnic with some friends. We were to motor across the island, taking our lunch, to a place called (as far as I remember – it is so long ago) Las Nieves, a well-sheltered bay where we could bathe if we felt inclined. This programme we duly carried out, except that we were somewhat late in starting, so that we stopped on the way and picnicked, going on to Las Nieves afterwards for a bathe before tea.”


In a mystery entitled The Man from the Sea, a short story included in her book The Mysterious Mr Quin also written in Canary Islands, the action takes place in an island that Christie locates in the Mediterranean Sea but everything reflects clearly La Paz at Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. From her description, Agatha Christie had visited the Cologan’s house at La Paz where the central plot to the story is developed. Other typical places also mentioned in this short story are: Sitio Litre Garden and Martíanez Cliffs. For additional information visit Agatha Christie’s Route (in Spanish).

This information can be found in a book published to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of her visit: Agatha Christie en Canarias by Nicolás González Lemus (La Laguna, Nivaria, 2007). Puerto de la Cruz also held that year the First International Agatha Christie Festival from November 23rd to December 1st. Matthew Prichard, Christie’s grandson, was the guest of honour. This Festival is to be held biannually, the second edition of the International Agatha Christie Festival took place in June 2009. There is also a bronze bust of Agatha Christie and a street named after her at Puerto de la Cruz, the first one to my knowledge. festival_agatha_christie

See also:

Agatha Christie en Canarias (in Spanish) with several pictures.

Hotel Metropole, Las Palmas, Ilhas Canarias (in Portuguese and in Spanish) with picture of the hotel.

For a complete guide to travels with Agatha Christie click HERE.

Canary Islands Tourist Information

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