Did we mention that we love Italo Calvino? We couldn’t resist including in this anthology another of his stories. ‘The Cloven Viscount’ tells of Viscount Medardo, who is bisected by a Turkish cannonball during the Crusades; when his two halves come back to his homeland, walking around independently from each other, one reveals to be the kind half of the viscount, while the other terrifies everyone.
When this longish short story appeared at the start of the 1950s, Calvino was criticised for abandoning the realism of his early writing. Later he revealed that the story had developed from a visual image that he saw in his mind – the image of a man split in two halves. But more than with a moral good/evil division, this splitting had to do with a feeling of being incomplete and the impossibility of feeling whole, of being everything that one would like to be. This novella includes one of our favourite literary quotes: “Alle volte uno si crede incompleto ed è soltanto giovane.” (“Sometimes one who thinks himself incomplete is merely young.”)
First published by Einaudi, 1952 / collected in Our Ancestors, Vintage, 1992