Our Ancestors by Italo Calvino. The dog signifies nothing Now is as good a time as any I suppose to admit that I regularly confuse Italo Calvino with Umberto Eco and when struggling for the name of one of them, invariably come up with the name of the other. None whatsoever. Of course, reading the Wiki pages on the two of them to make sure I was talking about the right fellow I noticed with some dread that Our Ancestors is one of the best known works of the most translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death and here I am, trying to make sense of it in my own personal context.
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Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published December 31st by Picador first published More Details Original Title. I nostri antenati: Il visconte dimezzato - Il barone rampante - Il cavaliere inesistente. I nostri antenati Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Our Ancestors , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 17, Michael Finocchiaro rated it it was amazing Shelves: kids , italianth-c , fiction , short-stories.
My favourite story in this collection is The Baron in the Trees which is a wonderful fairy tale about a kid who wouldn't finish his dinner, decides to live in a tree, and crosses Europe from Italy to southern Spain without once touching the ground.
It is a beautiful, masterful tale that reminds us how man in the last 6 or 7 centuries has destroyed many of the forests and natural diversity that existed on the Mediterranean coast in the middle ages. It can be read again and again and is absolutely My favourite story in this collection is The Baron in the Trees which is a wonderful fairy tale about a kid who wouldn't finish his dinner, decides to live in a tree, and crosses Europe from Italy to southern Spain without once touching the ground.
It can be read again and again and is absolutely captivating. That reminds me that I still need to read it to my kid! The other two stories in this collection, The Cloven Viscount and The Non-Existent are both exemplary of the softer more dreamy side of Calvino's writing and incredible imagination. View 2 comments. If these are our ancestors then we do indeed have a troubled and difficult inheritance, although it could be that the collection title is the gift of the publisher.
This collection of three Calvino stories features partial people, an empty suit of armour, a half man, chopped in half by a war would and a baron who doesn't have his feet on the ground.
Apparently then we are in the world of fables, are they critical views of our heroic past? Or simply games toying with notions? The great heroism of If these are our ancestors then we do indeed have a troubled and difficult inheritance, although it could be that the collection title is the gift of the publisher.
The great heroism of Charlemagne and his paladins is empty - not exactly a surprise after The Song of Roland , when one might well suspect that the heroes are some kind of mechanical mincers released on to the battlefield.
And are we being brought to perceive of the Rococo and Enlightenment as periods when people had their heads in the clouds and couldn't keep their feet on the ground? A set of charming cultural jokes then, which is perhaps not so far in attitude from If on a winter's night a traveller. On the whole these were my least favourite Calvino stories, which means I still recommend them highly to the curious reader.
View all 4 comments. I reviewed all three stories separately. The Baron in the Trees is brilliant, 5 stars and more, but the other two are 4 stars - equalling the collection out to 4. Dec 08, Trevor rated it really liked it Shelves: literature.
Calvino is probably my favourite writer. His books are as varied and beautiful as it is possible to be. For a long time I tried to learn Italian in part so as to be able to read him in the original language. These are a fascinating series of stories, almost stories for young adults, but also allegories on a world divided into East and West.
My favourite of these stories is Baron in the Trees. The tale of a young man who fights with his family, storms out of the house in a fit of fury and climbs a Calvino is probably my favourite writer. The tale of a young man who fights with his family, storms out of the house in a fit of fury and climbs a tree saying he will never come down - and never does. Unlike many of Calvino's other books this is straight narrative and wonderful story telling by a master story teller.
Not a bad place to start a journey into Calvino. Apr 23, Inderjit Sanghera rated it it was amazing. In a kind of macabre re-working of the double theme-and in particular Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-one side is evil and the other good and the viscount is able to terrorize his subjects in turns via both his piety and malevolence.
A character in a novel by another writer who explored similar themes-Tolstoy-make an appearance, as the Viscount encounters a lachrymose Russian soldier named Pierre. Despite-or perhaps because of-his unusual lifestyle, the Baron is able to live a rich and meaningful life, a life full of joy, pain, heart-break, violence, wisdom and madness and which is resplendent with beauty. A truly beautiful collection of stories which are well worth a re-visit. Jun 08, Tim Pendry rated it really liked it Shelves: literature-general , cultural-studies , heroic-fantasy , twentieth-century , modern-european , black-comedy.
This volume pulls together two novellas and one novel written across the length of the s by Italo Calvino as partial pastiches of past literature, all with an implied commentary about the position of the intellectual in post-war Italy.
This tells us all we need to know about the strengths and weaknesses of the work. On the one hand, Calvino writes fluently and with a mastery of the forms he is working with — the comic Gothic novel, the moral tale of the Enlightenment and the courtly romanc This volume pulls together two novellas and one novel written across the length of the s by Italo Calvino as partial pastiches of past literature, all with an implied commentary about the position of the intellectual in post-war Italy.
On the one hand, Calvino writes fluently and with a mastery of the forms he is working with — the comic Gothic novel, the moral tale of the Enlightenment and the courtly romance — but he is soon falling into the post-modern trap of saying very little of any depth extremely well. Why is this? Perhaps it is because he is embarrassed. He is a bourgeois intellectual and instinctive aesthete who wants to be a socialist in an age of hard-nosed Marxists.
He is trying to keep his nose high from the stench of politics and compromise while being a man of the Left. How does he try and do this. By metaphorically staying up in the trees and trying to appropriate the great European literary tradition for a basic liberal decency that reminds us of the similar and often not quite convincing efforts of Camus to do the same in s France.
Calvino tries lightness of touch instead of trying to meet the sour-pusses of the old Left on their own puritan ground as Camus did. This means that the works are mostly enjoyable but also rather shallow, a case of educated bourgeois knowingly speaking unto educated bourgeois.
For all the claims Calvino was to make about abstracting the authentic vision of the common man from traditional literature exemplified by his remarkable knowledge of folk tales , his work requires a fair amount of education to appreciate fully.
The stories of good and evil disembodied in the cloven viscount, the young aristocrat who takes to the trees and stays there and the knight who is perfect but does not exist are all well told and give an insight into the minds of an elite uncomfortable with modernity and yet committed to it. They will not let go of the past. Our genuine aristocrat can paradoxically : he speaks of the past as the past whereas Calvino tries to bring the past into the future, turning tragedy perhaps into farce. He refers to his initial engagement with the post-war fashion for social realism after the victory of the partisans over Mussolini but in his late twenties decided to follow his heart and Robert Louis Stevenson.
This tension between his literary aestheticism and the politics of engagement are being worked through in these works and that is why they are good but not great.
They are neither one thing nor the other — the politics is obscure and the adventuring cloaked in too much implicit meaning. In the end, it is all too clever by half. The stars should be four and half. I now realise that I can not get enough of Italo Calvino. He entertains and amazes me all the time. I loved both of them and then when I picked this up One of his earlier works I was prepared myself to face the intellectual challenge.
But then I found myself in the fairy world. This book contai The stars should be four and half. That was a pleasant surprise. About the three novellas: "The Cloven Viscount" speaks of a man halved into two and both his parts roam around in the village one doing good and the other doing bad.
Because according to him the view from the trees helped him to see the earth better. The narrations seem very simple. But the actual reading gives the attentive and a literary reader plenty to ponder over. In a simple fairy tale the history of Italy and Europe with emphasis on French revolution and the Muslim occupation of Spain, the philosophical opinions Communism and feudalism and psychological insights and many other reflections on human nature and history are all splattered. They do not interrupt the progress of the story.
Our Ancestors: The Cloven Viscount, The Baron in the Trees, The Non-Existent Knight
Please refresh the page and retry. O n September 19 , 30 years ago today, Italo Calvino died at his home in Tuscany of a cerebral haemorrhage. Reportedly, Calvino had planned to write 14 more books; he was Three decades on, the Italian fabulist still has his detractors. His books are of great formal brilliance, they say, but of negligible importance — a mere pomp of words. In Italy, the trilogy is sometimes classified as an allegory for children; can this be serious literature?