Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Halves of us

“That's the good thing about being halved. One understands the sorrow of every person and thing in the world at its own incompleteness. I was whole and did not understand, and moved about deaf and unfeeling amid the pain and sorrow all round us, in places where as a whole person one would least think to find it. It’s not only me . . . who am a split being, but you and everyone else too. Now I have a fellowship which I did not understand, did not know before, when whole, a fellowship with all the mutilated and incomplete things in the world.” 
- The Cloven Viscount, 1952

I once read a book for school, called “The Cloven Viscount”. It was written by an Italian called Italo Calvino.

In summary, the story is about a young Italian viscount, who just went to the Crusades to get more support and influence where he lived. He is hit by a bomb and is halved into two. Literally. Only the right side is found and gets medical help. It then returns to his town, but didn’t know, that the left side survived too. One part is the extreme opposite of the other: the right one is evilly bad (called originally as Bad), while the left one is so good it’s annoying (Good).Then, Bad and Good fall in love for the same person, Pamela, who agrees to marry both of them. She marries Good, because Bad was late, and the two halves duel, and get severely wounded. Bad and Good are stitched together, and Pamela marries the one viscount.

Must say, I became a little disappointed when the teacher told us the viscount wasn’t physically halved and asked what the author meant by ‘cloven’. For my naive brain, it was crystal clear there were two parts, and two viscounts. How come my teacher said there weren’t? It was just there, written in black ink, Times New Roman and all those white pages.

She then explained everything was a metaphor, that the viscount was only halved on the inside. And the thing is, no one is completely good or completely bad. If we were, we would be so annoying we wouldn’t stand to be in companion of others, especially if we were the extreme of one quality, like Good and Bad were. We all have wickedness and kindness in ourselves, we are all cloven, all good and bad, all divided in parts.

The lesson was learned: I got an A on the test and started to look at the world around me in a completely different way.