The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino 4/5
This novella tells a story about Viscount Medardo of Terralba who joins the Christian forces to fight against infidels during the late 17th century war between Austria and Turkey. Soon after joining the battle, he is halved by a cannonball. The mutilated body is described as:
"the whole thorax and abdomen between the arm and leg had been swept away... All that remained of the head was one eye, one ear, one cheek, half a nose, half a mouth, half a chin and half a forehead; the other half of the head was just not there."
Unaware of each other, the two parts of the Viscount live on autonomously. The right half returns to his Ligurian estate in Terralba and establishes a reign of terror by cutting plants and animals in half, condemning several of his subjects to death for minor disputes. While the other half is endowed with exemplary qualities. When he eventually arrives in Terralba, people fail to recognized that it is the left side of Medardo that has returned. The story really picks up when both parts fall in love with a shepherdess, Pamela.
I was surprised to find that people of Terralba find the virtuous Medardo (referred as The Good 'Un') equally unbearable —he is rather preachy!
As Calvino puts it: “We felt ourselves lost between an evil and a virtue equally inhuman."
Calvino makes me reflect and appreciate myself with both good and bad qualities (impatience, childish, spoiled, and the list goes on). These "bad" qualities make me human, less naive, more humble, wise, and accepting of others' shortcomings.
"So my uncle Medardo became a whole man again, neither good nor bad, but a mixture of goodness and badness, that is, apparently not dissimilar to what he had been before the halving. But having had the experience of both halves each on its own, he was bound to be wise."
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