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The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,870 ratings  ·  133 reviews
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

Originally published as two distinct volumes: 'Il visconte dimezzato' (1952) and 'Il cava
Paperback, 264 pages
Published March 28th 1977 by Mariner Books (first published 1959)
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Oct 10, 2007 Aloysius rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of myth and fairytales
Last night, I finished the first novella in this book, Calvino's The Nonexistent Night, and as Calvino stands among my favorite novelists, I can't say a bad word about it.

The story revolves around a suit of armor with nothing inside except the nonexistent knight of Charlemagne's army, Agilulf, who (dis)embodies chivalric perfection. With tender wit and subtle humor, Cavlino traces the adventures of Agilulf as he travels throughout Europe and North Africa to prove the chastity of a virgin he'd s
This is the third time I've read *The Cloven Viscount* -- one of the very few books I've read three times. This short novel is the first in a loose trilogy of madly inventive tales called OUR ANCESTORS and is a fitting start to one of the most amazing story cycles in literary history!

*The Cloven Viscount* tells the bizarre tale of Medardo, Viscount of Terralba, who is bisected by a cannonball during the wars against the Turks. Both halves of him survive independently: in one side is gathered all
Italo Calvino is a brilliant comic writer, and I love reading his tales, which seem plucked from the Italian countryside. He's not afraid to be bizarre, too, as in the first story, which recounts the exploits of an animate suit of armor in Charlemagne's army--so dignified and courteous, yet ambivalent of his own nonexistence. His love scenes, creaking in full, hollow armor, are quite funny. The second story involves a viscount who gets torn in half by a cannonball while fighting the Ottoman Turk ...more
World conditions were still confused in the era when this took place. It was not rare then to find names and thoughts and forms and institutions that corresponded to nothing in existence. But at the same time the world was polluted with objects and capacities and persons who lacked any name or distinguishing mark. It was a period when the will and determination to exist, to leave a trace, to rub up against all that existed, was not wholly used since there were many who did nothing about it--from ...more
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, ...more
Calvino is my master. There is no better writer of tales. I really have to give credit to this Archibald Colquhoun, who translated most of what I've read by the man.

'The Nonexistent Knight' is Calvino's funniest story. A perfectionist knight, an empty suit of armor, can only retain being from constant organization and thoughtfulness. Just thinking of this character's precision makes me smile. He sits at table with other knights, mincing his food into neat rows that he stacks and reorganizes, shi
these novellas were written early in calvino's career, yet are colored with many of the literary elements for which he'd come to be known and loved. a fabulist of the highest order, italo's tales are gently conveyed, with nary a smidgen of sanctimoniousness to be found. with unassuming literary prowess and ample humor, calvino (whose snubbing by the swedish academy is unpardonable) possessed one of the most unique imaginations (to say nothing of styles) in all of modern literature.

both the nonex
Sir Agilulf Emo Bertrandin of the Guildivern is a nonexistent knight; however, as Charlemagne puts it, 'for someone who does not exist,' he 'seems in [irksomely] fine form.' The story sounds nutty as so many crazy things are happening as if everything is just fine but once you keep your disbelief at the background and delve into what is really going on, the logic of the story begins to grandiosely emerge.

Sir Agiluf is the envy of the ambitious Raimbaut, is ever-seductive to Bradamante, and is th
I think what I like about Calvino is that his novels feel like the work of a man who finds so much joy in reading and imagination and tries to write novels that capture that feeling. I don't think there's ever any agenda with him, other than to give the simple pleasure of reading.

Like The Baron in the Trees, this feels like a fairy tale in the best sense. Fantastic events are treated as being barely out of the ordinary and the impossible feels logical. I also like how the prejudices and supersti
Ligt het aan mij, of is het echt zo dat weinig mensen Italo Calvino kennen? Ik leerde deze schrijver kennen omdat iemand mij De baron in de bomen tipte. Geheel terecht. Straf, want ik hou niet bepaald van magisch realisme en laat Calvino een exponent van dit genre zijn.
Daarom stortte ik mij een tijdje geleden op De gespleten burggraaf, een boek dat dat duidelijk van dezelfde hand als als De baron in de bomen. Opnieuw een adellijke type, opnieuw een verhaal dat zich goeddeels in de natuur afspeel
Calvino writes the most charming fables; his stories always make me smile, and usually they contain some sort of lesson or satirical element. The Cloven Viscount was the gem of this book. It's a morbid, violent little tale about the literal duality of man's good and evil nature, and how the extreme of good is just as off-putting as the extreme of evil.

Calvino virgins, however, should still begin their forays into his work with If On A Winter's Night A Traveler.
Calvino's blend of fantastic whimsy bordering on absurdism is always entertaining but then you're taken a bit by surprise as a fairly thought-provoking philosophical or moral critique emerges. "The Cloven Viscount" opposes excessive badness with excessive goodness, "The Nonexistent Knight" parodies Renaissance tales of courtly conduct (Quixote-style) as it actually discusses the nature of being and non-being.
"a ritual to prevent plunging into the void"

the thinnest layer of abstraction applied to big ideas of life, and on that ten thousand coats of bright paint to please the senses. calvino a master of the "i want to tell you something' mixed with a friendly deception disguising pills in pudding... ideas that could completely be written in a fortune cookie but packaged within scented layers of foam peanuts and recycled paper bunches so that the unwrapping is most pleasant, even though you saw the pri
bedtime stories for the existentialist! in his playful way, Calvino addresses serious issues in these 2 short novellas far more effectively than other writers can with reams of anguished prose. this stuff must have seemed so off-the-wall in the 1950s; from our vantage point we can see a thread of humor and absurdity that runs thru Monty Python & Woody Allen's "early, funny" films. an empty suit of armor, animated only by belief in the holy cause he (it?) fights for, goes on a quest to defend ...more
I haven't read "The Cloven Viscount" yet, but "The Nonexistant Knight" was the logistical follow-up to The Castle of Crossed Destinies. I really like the way that Calvino engages with the genre of romance while bringing out a solid post-modern element. Again, its an intensely personal and selfish response to his writing, as I read it like a tool that helps me through my own desire to engage with genre while being suspicious of what genre means. If that makes sense.
Calvino yet again creates some fantastical plots and does a strong job in what is two novelas that are reminiscent of long fairy tales. Don't get me wrong, this is still a very good book, and is exactly what I have come to expect out of Calvino, but he doesn't totally kill it like he has with his others. The 3 stars is a symptom of everything of his now getting judged against himself rather than the world at large.

The first is about a knight who is only armor. He moves the armor and does everyth
Erik Fleischer
I enjoyed the Nonexistent Knight very much, it is an interesting take on both the medieval period and its ideals, while also addressing some more modern day themes and problems in an older setting. SPOILERS.......there was only one problem in my opinion near the end, which concludes in a way that seems rushed. The whole story progresses at a slower, detailed pace, while the finale seems to fly by with Raimbaut suddenly becoming a famous, glorious knight, and the twist ending which frankly did no ...more
Joshua Duff
In Italo Calvino's "The Non-Existent Knight", the knight, Agilulf, is an empty suit of armor. While dining with the other knights, Agilulf finds out that his knighthood is on the line and must prove that he is a knight by searching for the maiden in distress that he saved. In Italo Calvino's other novella, "The Cloven Viscount", the Viscount goes to war and gets cut in half down the middle and both halves survive. The halves each return to the area at different times and one half is bad and the ...more
What a fun and interesting way to work with themes like "identity" or "the duality of man". Maybe the themes are played with a bit of a heavy hand, but they're so lighthearted and funny.

Nonexistent Knight:
Farcical and delightful. Agilulf is a great character. Tragic and flawless other than the fact that he doesn't exist. His "love" scene is ridiculous. As you find out who is narrating the story there's some ambiguity around the truth of it. Agilulf could be symbolic and not actually be a real ch
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, Medard
Calvino, Italo. “THE NONEXISTENT KNIGHT” and “THE CLOVEN VISCOUNT.” (1959, 1951). ***.
Calvino, born in Cuba but raised in Italy, was a prolific writer of stories, novels, and poems. He is best known for his short “fables” based on both Italian folklore and on legends of the knights of medieval fame. The two fables in this book are Calvino’s take-offs on the themes of knights and their honor. “The Nonexistent Knight” tells of Sir Agilulf, a knight who has all the appurtenances of knighthood, but
In “The Nonexistent Knight and the Cloven Viscount,” Italo Calvino offers two novellas that dazzle and amuse. As delightfully far-fetched as these fables are, there’s always a touching humanity about the characters, even those who aren’t exactly human.

Inhuman but Humane
“The Nonexistent Knight” is none other than Agilulf Emo Bertrandin of the Guildivern and of the Others of Corbentraz and Sura, Knight of Selimpia Citeriore and Fez: an empty suit of white armor that speaks with a metallic voice
Glen Engel-Cox
I've long meant to give Calvino a try as his name is always mentioned in the company of other magic realists and fabulists that I like. I decided on this one simply because I found a nice copy used. Unfortunately, I didn't like it very much and I wonder if I just got the wrong book to give Calvino a fair try.

This is two novellas that showcase why he's considered a magic realist, and they do meet at least my definition of that term. In "The Nonexistent Knight," the titular character Agilulf is in
Calvino just has magic. This book really consists of two long stories or novellas. The first one, The Nonexistent Knight is the somewhat amusing story of a suit of armor without a body inside that is serving in Charlemagne's army and of a girl in love with the knight she imagines inside.

But it is in the second story, The Cloven Viscount, that Calvino really lets loose. This is the story of a man cut in half by a canon ball whose two halves return home, one evil and the other good, and the advent
These two novellas are fairly slight but still manage to be entertaining. They fall into the category of "magic realism" or perhaps historical fantasy. In the first, we meet a knight fighting for the Christian King Charlemagne against the Muslims. The only problem is the knight doesn't exist. His armor is empty. It functions like a knight would but there's nobody there.
We learn that war must be fought according to arcane rules invented by bureaucrats, that knights bring interpreters on to the ba
Feb 21, 2008 Nat rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nat by: Arindam Chakrabarti
I read this because "The Cloven Viscount" was mentioned by the keynote speaker at a philosophy conference last year in relation to me and a certain friend of mine. He said that we reminded him of the cloven viscount of the story. I don't know what to make of that comparison--in the story, the bad half of the Viscount causes all kinds of unnecessary havoc. Maybe the speaker was making a point about the fact that we were being rowdy and disrespectful. I'm not sure.

Also, there's a Bas van Fraassen
Except, my book only contained The Nonexistent Knight. I was kind of disapointed at first, as I thought that one exceptional (as in out of the oridnary) character was enough for such a novel. I think one approach could be, as they say, a critic view of the medieval times from a nun point of view, but I do not think this is the primary level. The time is chosen to be medieval as then there were times that allow people to have ideals different from those of our days. The ideal (the nonexistent kni ...more
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
Frank Kasell
Delightful and diverting...exactly what one might expect from Calvino. These two stories (parables?) speak to the struggles we each face to develop our identities. In "The Nonexistent Knight," we explore questions about the possibility of virtue. How much can we--fleshy beings with all of our marvelous and variegated human carnal weaknesses--truly espouse the intangible ideals of virtue and honor? Or are we limited to merely donning "honor" like a shell, or a suit of armor? How do our actions an ...more
In The Nonexistent Knight Italo Calvino has a lot of fun interpreting the heroes of both the Arthurian and Carolingian knightly tales. I found it a very swift read, and I loved the portrayals of the different paladins and especially the auto-stupefied, hypocritical, self-important Knights of the Round Table. Calvino clearly knows his chivalric legends inside and out, and he takes pleasure in portraying Christendom's heroes as flawed humans caught up in, and blinded by, their personal mythologies ...more
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Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).

His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic
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“If a lover is wretched who invokes kisses of which he knows not the flavor, a thousand times more wretched is he who has had a taste of the flavor and then had it denied him.” 12 likes
“It was the hour in which objects lose the consistency of shadow that accompanies them during the night and gradually reacquire colors, but seem to cross meanwhile an uncertain limbo, faintly touched, just breathed on by light; the hour in which one is least certain of the world's existence.” 7 likes
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