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The Late Mattia Pascal
by Luigi Pirandello, Trans. By Arthur Livingston
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From Publishers Weekly
Universally recognized as one of the founding figures of modern drama and theater, Pirandello is virtually unknown here as a novelist and short story writer. Written in 1904, this novel touches on some of the themes that reverberate throughout his work: illusion and reality, the enigmas of identity, art and life. The narratorprotagonist is something of a buffoon, a figure out of comic opera, the impoverished son of a once-rich family stripped bare by a villainous swindler of an estate manager. Living a dreary life as an archivist, tired of his dismal marriage, plagued by an intrusive mother-in-law, tormented by creditors, he slips away to Monte Carolo and hits it big. While he is gone, a suicide in his hometown is mistakenly identified as the very same Mattia, who, being an enterprising scamp, changes name and identity, marries anew in adopted territory, fakes his own suicide and returns to the orginal scene as his old self, to the consternation and confusion of everyone. Comedy descends to farce and slapstick here and there; but no harm done. Essentially the novel is a lark, with some shadowy overtones; and the portrait of town lifethe "biographies of worms," Mattia saysis drawn in acid.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Mattia Pascal endures a life of drudgery in a provincial town. Then, providentially, he discovers that he has been declared dead. Realizing he has a chance to start over, to do it right this time, he moves to a new city, adopts a new name, and a new course of life—only to find that this new existence is as insufferable as the old one. But when he returns to the world he left behind, it's too late: his job is gone, his wife has remarried. Mattia Pascal's fate is to live on as the ghost of the man he was.
An explorer of identity and its mysteries, a connoisseur of black humor, Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello is among the most teasing and profound of modern masters. The Late Mattia Pascal, here rendered into English by the outstanding translator William Weaver, offers an irresistible introduction to this great writer's work
Text: English, Italian (translation)
About the Author
LUIGI PIRANDELLO (18671936) was born in Agrigento, Sicily, the son of a rich mining contractor. Having studied at the universities of Palermo and Rome and taken a degree in philology at Bonn, the young Pirandello turned to writing poetry and stories, achieving his first literary success in 1904 with his novel The Late Mattia Pascal. During World War I, Pirandello began to write for the stage, winning an international following with plays such as Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) and Henry IV (1922). In 1934, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pirandello was the author of novels, essays, stories, and more than fifty plays He had an influence on writers as different as Eugène Ionesco and T.S. Eliot. Commenting on his work in 1920 he wrote: I think that life is a very sad piece of buffoonery; because we have in ourselves, without being able to know why, wherefore or whence, the need to deceive ourselves constantly by creating a reality (one for each and never the same for all), which from time to time is discovered to be vain and illusory.... My art is full of bitter compassion for all those who deceive themselves; but this compassion cannot fail to be followed by the ferocious derision of destiny which condemns man to deception.
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