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The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven…
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The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount

by Italo Calvino

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I had tried to read another book by Calvino before, and could not get through the first ten pages. This time I was determined; I heard these two tales were his best, etc. Well, I struggled through them and made it, but I am not sure if I will ever read Calvino again. The writing did seem clunky, and I also wondered if this is due to translation, early career, or just simply a stylistic choice on Calvino's part. When the language is not there, it is hard to find the motivation to continue for me, at least in fiction. One good thing I can say, though, is that there are some gems here and there; some sentences are delightful in their concise wisdom.

The first tale is certainly the more humorous of the two. I kept thinking if only the Monty Python would adapt it to the screen, it would be hilarious. (Oh, wait, The Holy Grail!) The second tale seemed more moralistic. But with both, it is not clear what Calvino is trying to do, trying to say, and where the story is going at any given point. In the end, you get somewhere, but it is either too predictable - and after such an unpredictable ride, it is strange that the end be so trite - or too eh, whatever.

In the end, the stories suffered from exactly the same ailment that haunts some films of Terry Gilliam. Like the Adventures of Baron Munchausen or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, where the fantastical images and ideas float about, bumping into each other, not quite making much sense, and dragging on for a while before they puff out in exhaustion, the Nonesixtent Knight, but especially the Cloven Viscount puff out and away, out of memory. ( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
While this is amusing and clever ( a non-existent, "perfect" knight), the narration is rather choppy and doesn't flow well at all. There's quite a few places with absolutely wonderful phrasing, but there's even more with incredibly awkward word choices that just make me cringe to read them. I think the translator may be trying to word for word translate the book, but it just doesn't flow as well in English as it does in Italian. I thought the same about The Baron in the Trees, and I just checked - it's the same translator.

Other than that, the Nonexistent Knight is a fun parody of medieval knight poetry, and the Cloven Viscount is just as funny. ( )
  Melanti | Mar 30, 2013 |
Good! Very satirical and sarcastic. Very descriptive and imaginative. Told from the perspective of Bradamante, a warrior woman in love with the nonexistent knight, who joins a convent in between adventures. The nonexistent knight is the perfect knight, and so can't exist. In the end, when his belief in himself is destroyed, he ceases to exist. ( )
  trinityM82 | Feb 19, 2010 |
Calvino's Cavaliere inesistente and Visconte dimezzato are both parts of his trilogy "Our Ancestors" (along with Barone rampante). These three works are, in my opinion, his most "modern" works. They deal with fantastical characters that are thrust into reality and shows the ways that they become part of society. In the case of the knight, who is a 'perfect' knight who lacks only the body inside his armor, this turns out to be impossible, since his existence is predicated on something that is not true. The same impossibility of existence happens with the viscount, who was split into two perfect halves, each of which can exist on its own and each representing a different fracture of the same man. The two men are faced with the dilemma of existence: they cannot continue to exist in their current condition, and their attempts to deal with the dilemma represent the modern condition. The books are both really fun and enjoyable and I would definitely recommend them! ( )
  lindenstein | Feb 1, 2010 |
These shorter works lack the conceptual heft and emotional maturity of _If on a winter's night a traveller_, but are entertaining and quirky, and reward the time spent reading well.
  endlessforms | May 24, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156659751, Paperback)

Two novellas: the first, a parody of medieval knighthood told by a nun; the second, a fantasy about a nobleman bisected into his good and evil halves. “Bravura pieces... executed with brilliance and brio”(Chicago Tribune). Translated by Archibald Colquhoun. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:35 -0400)

Agiluf, an empty suit of white armor, searches for a virgin; a nobleman bisected by a cannon ball has a duel before being reunited.

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