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The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino
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The Nonexistent Knight (1959)

by Italo Calvino

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» See also 22 mentions

English (8)  Italian (5)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I haven't read any Calvino but If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, and that was many years ago. I've been meaning to read more for a while, and this book looked so charming that I just had to pick it up.

I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed. The knight character didn't exist, so it isn't like you could be drawn into the story by empathy for him, most of the other characters hardly felt original (partly the point, yes, I know), there was a castle filled with sex-starved ladies that felt more like a Monty Python sketch than anything else, the bit with the nun turning out to be one of the characters from the story was obvious from a mile off, and while the whole deal with the Knights of the Round Table was certainly... different, I had no idea how to feel about it. Was it supposed to be clever? Satirical? Funny? Ironic? I finished the book with a feeling of "well..."

There were some clever bits, and some ways that it was clear that Calvino was poking some fun at some knights and chivalry tropes, but then the book ends with a rape (I'm sorry, but if the woman you're having sex with thinks you're someone else, and wouldn't have consented if she knew your identity, that's rape.) and then the woman falling in love with her rapist.

Ugh. ( )
1 vote greeniezona | Mar 25, 2018 |
The Cloven Viscount is a novella by the famed Italian writer Italo Calvino. Together with The Baron in the Trees, and the Nonexistent Knight, it forms Calvino’s popular Our Ancestors Trilogy.

The Cloven Viscount

The Cloven Viscount is a fantastic novella about a Viscount who is exactly as the name implies – cloven. At the start of the novel, an unfortunate accident befalls Viscount Medardo on the battlefield in a war between Christians and Turks.

Miserable upon finding himself split in half, Medardo travels back home to claim his birthright as Viscount of Terralba. Shortly after his arrival, it becomes evident to all who live in the village that the half of Medardo which has returned to the village is his evil half.

Evil Medardo does not waste any time, and busies himself with coming up with ingenious ways of committing malicious acts toward the townspeople. Medardo’s evil half tortures small animals, destroys everything around him, and doesn’t give a second thought to killing or injuring both guilty and innocent people alike.

Like his bad half, Medardo’s good half decided one day, to come back to his hometown. The villagers, who at first could not tell the difference between the two halves, were confused at the Viscount’s sudden change of demeanor and random acts of kindness. They soon realize, to their amazement, that it is Viscount Medardo’s other half – his good half, which was responsible for all the good deeds in the village.

Naturally, his good half is the exact opposite of his evil half. Good Medardo devotes his life to performing selfless acts for the betterment of the community, or so he thinks. He tends to the poor, the weak, and the lame, he counsels and preaches against immoral and impious acts.

As much as the villagers hated living with the evil Medardo in their midst, they also hated having the good Medardo around. Good Medardo’s acts of kindess, to them, was just as bad as evil Medardo’s acts of maliciousness and evil.

Through Medardo’s opposite halves, Italo Calvino illustrates two opposite sides of a person that must co-exist in order for him to be complete. A completely evil person, set on destroying everything around him, will eventually destroy himself, just as a selfless person, who dedicates himself to the woes of other people, with no regard for his own well-being, will eventually hurt himself. A person who is completely good and pious, or is completely evil, cannot and does not exist.

However, in his idea that man has two opposing sides inside him, I feel that Calvino is saying that just as every good person has a cruel, unjust side, a person generally classified as evil must have a good, compassionate side. In this way, I feel that Calvino sees humanity in an optimistic light.

The villagers hatred for evil Medardo, and later, for good Medardo illustrates that an excess of kidness and morality is just as bad as an excess of cruelty. Random acts of kindness, though well meant can lead to harmful conclusions, just as a seemingly cruel act, can sometimes produce good results.

Another aspect of the story, I feel, is the concept of incompleteness brought about by youth and inexperience. In the beginning, it is the Viscount’s youth and inexperience that lead him to the battlefield to his unfortunate accident.

This aspect can also be seen in Medardo’s young nephew, who is also the narrator the story. The young boy fills his days wandering the village and forest, looking for adventures and interesting activities. He is equally fascinated and repelled by both halves of his uncle, and by the other people in the village.

The young narrator admits to youth being a form on incompleteness. He daydreams all day about fantastic stories, and yearns for adventure. In the end, both he and Viscount Medardo are wiser than they were at the beginning of the novel. Unfortunately, unlike his uncle, who is older, and is therefore, more complete, he is disappointed with the eventual onset of adulthood – of having responsibilities and forever chasing after things that can not be attained or understood.
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  aychayen | Jan 7, 2018 |
Agilulfo, paladino di Carlomagno, è un cavaliere valoroso e nobile d'animo. Ha un unico difetto: non esiste. O meglio, il suo esistere è limitato all'armatura che indossa: lucida, bianca e... vuota. Non può mangiare, né dormire perché, se si deconcentra anche solo per un attimo, cessa di essere. Una storia ambientata nell'inverosimile medioevo dei romanzi cavallereschi, ma vicina più che mai alla realtà del nostro tempo. Età di lettura: da 11 anni.
  npl.mattixleggere | Apr 17, 2016 |
This feels a bit like a prose version of a Shakespearean comedy, with mistaken identities, misplaced affections, wordplay, and both noble and common characters. The nonexistent knight is a walking suit of armor and code of honor; his squire is his foil, substance with no permanent (social) form; invincible Bradamante hungers for the knight, and is in turn desired by a romantic young warrior. Yet the various major characters are individuals as well as types, and their various interactions and adventures lead to a happy ending for some, and a merely appropriate ending for others. At the same time, the story works as a modern fable commenting on the futility of war, the advantages of love over unrequited desire, and the superfluity of the hero when communities are free and stable. It's a short and easy read, but laced with humor and insight. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jan 19, 2015 |
Recensione su: http://wp.me/p3X6aw-4e ( )
  Saretta.L | Sep 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Sotto le rosse mura di Parigi era schierato l'esercito di Francia. Carlomagno doveva passare in rivista i paladini. Già da più di tre ore erano lì; faceva caldo; era un pomeriggio di prima estate, un pò coperto, nuvoloso; nelle armature si bolliva come in pentole tenute a fuoco lento. non è detto che qualcuno in quell'immobile fila di cavalieri già non avesse perso i sensi o non si fosse assopito, ma l'armatura li reggeva impettiti in sella tutti a un modo.
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Agilulfo, paladino di Carlomagno, è un cavaliere valoroso e nobile d'animo. Ha un unico difetto: non esiste. O meglio, il suo esistere è limitato all'armatura che indossa: lucida, bianca e... vuota. Non può mangiare, né dormire perché, se si deconcentra anche solo per un attimo, cessa di essere.
Una storia ambientata nell'inverosimile medioevo dei romanzi cavallereschi, ma vicina più che mai alla realtà del nostro tempo.

"Questo romanzo di Calvino viene ad affiancarsi a 'Il visconte dimezzato' e a 'Il barone rampante', compiendo una trilogia di emblematiche figure, quasi un albero genealogico di antenati dell'uomo contemporaneo. Stavolta Calvino si è spinto più a ritroso nei secoli e il suo romanzo si svolge tra i paladini di Carlomagno, in quel Medioevo fuori d'ogni verosimiglianza storica e geografica che è propria dei romanzi cavallereschi".
(piopas)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 847844422X, Paperback)

La voz del caballero Agilulfo llegaba metalica desde dentro del yelmo cerrado, como si no fuera una garganta sino la propia chapa de la armadura la que vibrase. Y es que, en efecto, la armadura estaba hueca,Agilulfo no existia. Solo a costa de fuerza de voluntad, de conviccion, habia logrado forjarse una identidad para combatir contra los infieles en el ejercito de Carlomagno. Agilulfo puso todas sus fuerzas en un orden deseado y lo hizo con tal sentido de la exactitud que consiguio robar el corazon a la altiva amazona Bradamante. En esta hermosa fabula sobre la identidad, sobre la diferencia entre ser y creer que se es, Calvino se pregunta la razon por la que un hombre es amado, por la que otro desea vengarse, por la que un tercero se considera hijo, amante, amigo o caballero. La respuesta se encuentra tal vez en la pregunta misma, en su melancolia y su extraneza.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A parody of medieval knighthood told by a nun. Executed with brilliance and brio"(Chicago Tribune). Translated by Archibald Colquhoun. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

» see all 2 descriptions

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