The Nonexistent Knight

by Italo Calvino

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What are the narrative techniques of the author?

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Italo Calvino published The Nonexistent Knight in 1950s. The novella is thick with criticism about bureaucracy, chivalry, and the very existence of idealistic virtues. Calvino uses a variety of narrative techniques to explore these themes by contrasting expectations with reality, highlighting absurdities, and questioning the nature of the story itself.

The Nonexistent Knight uses irony, satire, and an unreliable narrator. The Knights of the Holy Grail are given an ironic twist. When Torrismund finds them, instead of benevolent protectors, he finds brigands that steal from villagers.

The author exaggerates chivalry to a comic degree. Calvino describes armed conflict full of artificial rules that the non-existent knight Sir Agilulf knows by heart. With a dose of satire, the author portrays war that is fought devoid of thought or meaning, but full of ritual.

Perhaps the most significant narrative device is Sister Theodora. Instead of declaring her role as the narrator, she becomes more visible over time. Sister Theodora filters the entire story through herself, punctuating sections with her comments. She may be exaggerating or fabricating the novella. Her presence invites people to be more active in their reading, to sit up and examine the nature of the story and the ideals held by its characters.

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