I have been struggling for a long time – I can’t do it. Write about The Cloven Viscount, that is. I blame it on my curiosity.
Interested to learn what other people had thought about the book, I did a Google search and thus found a blog post that made it impossible to write my own. There they were: my own thoughts, the connections I noticed or suspected, images I loved… all the things I wanted to write about plus much more.
It has been more than four months since then. There’s really no point in torturing myself further when one can simply head over to A Just Recompense and read her text instead. I liked it very much and I am glad to have discovered the blog!
Phew, now I can relax and continue my journey.
About the irrelevant connections... The Cloven Viscount is a kind of a book that is really a cornucopia of symbols, references, winks to many historical events and literary works, connections of both the insignificant and meaningful kind.
Still, I was amused by the fact that the book had something in common with precisely the two books I began this Italian journey with.
The connection with The Betrothed – brigands:
That day there was to be a trial of a band of brigands arrested the day before by the castle constabulary. The brigands were from our estates and so it was for the Viscount to judge them. The trial was held and Medardo sat sideways on his chair chewing a fingernail. The brigands appeared in chains. The head of the band was the youth called Fiorfiero who had been the first to notice the Viscount’s litter while pounding grapes. The injured parties appeared: they were a group of Tuscan knights who were passing through our woods on their way to Provence when they had been attacked and robbed by Fiorfiero and his band. Fiorfiero defended himself saying that those knights had come poaching on our land and he had stopped and disarmed them as poachers, since the constabulary had done nothing about them. It should be said that at the time assaults by brigands were very common, and laws were clement. Also, our parts were particularly suitable for brigandage, so that even some members of our family, especially in these turbulent times, would join brigand bands. As for smuggling, it was about the lightest crime imaginable.
The connection with Levi’s The Periodic Table is more interesting. There’s a a character in both of these books that confines himself to a room. Here’s Calvino’s:
… old Viscount Aiolfo, my grandfather, who had not been down to the courtyard for ages. Weary of worldly cares, he had renounced the privileges of his title in favor of his only son before the latter left for the wars. Now his passion for birds, which he raised in a huge aviary within the castle, was beginning to exclude all else. The old man had recently had his bed taken into the aviary too, and in there he shut himself, and didn’t leave it night or day. His meals were handed through the grill of the cage together with the bird seed, which Aiolfo shared. And he spent his hours stroking pheasants and turtle doves, as he awaited his son’s return.
And here’s Levi’s:
Remotest of all, portentously inert, wrapped in a thick shroud of legend and the incredible, fossilized in his quality as an uncle, was Barbabramín of Chieri, the uncle of my maternal grandmother.
[..] Now it happened that his mother, Aunt Milca (the Queen) fell sick, and after much argument with her husband was led to agree to hire a havertà, that is, a maid, which she had flatly refused to do until then: in fact, quite prescient, she did not want women around the house. Punctually, Barbabramín was overcome with love for this havertà, probably the first female less than saintly whom he had an opportunity to get close to.
[..] He did not say anything to the girl but told his father and mother that he intended to marry her; his parents went wild with rage and my uncle took to his bed. He stayed there for twenty-two years.