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Original scientific paper

A Classic Work of Italian Literature: Italo Calvino’s Trilogy for Young Readers

Marnie Campagnaro orcid id ; University of Padua, Italy

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page 83-95

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During his career as a writer, Calvino achieved a special bond with the children’s universe. He was one of the greatest Italian storytellers for adults who also explored the area of children’s literature and young adult literature and did so with sublime results. In particular,
his literary approach is especially inspiring when addressing young adults. The main characters of his Our Ancestors trilogy embody some important qualities of the new contemporary man. The protagonists of The Cloven Viscount, The Baron in the Trees and The Nonexistent Knight all live, each in his own way, ‘upside down’, because they break the rules of logic. Their ‘adultness’ is characterized by the actual dimensions of unrest, ‘incompleteness’, indefiniteness, doubt, confusion, and uncertainty about the future, that is, by feelings that deeply define the archetypical elements of youth. Furthermore, their behaviour emphasizes the role of wandering which is considered a viaticum given as a means to access a different quality of life, which is certainly strange, unusual, and extraordinary, but also, precisely because of this extraordinariness, all the more authentic and rewarding. Finally, the search for humanity, differently incarnated by the three respective characters, represents the highest literary and educational values of Calvino’s narratives.


Calvino, children’s literature and young adult literature classics, fantastic, imagination, human nature, self-identity

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