The Late Mattia Pascal
by Luigi Pirandello, introduction by Charles Simic, translated from the Italian by William Weaver
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.
Three writers of the twentieth century have given voice to—and leant their names to—our disquiet, our injuries, and our fear; at the same time, through the catharsis or measure of contemplation, which are among the revelations of art, they have helped us to live by tempering our anxiety and desperation; and I am using this term, tempering, in a musical sense...of striking a more pure, more cristalline, more vibrant note. These three writers are Pirandello, Kafka, and Borges.
— Leonardo Sciascia
Very funny, often hilariously so. It is also moving, disturbing, tragic. For Pirandello saw comedy residing in "the fundamental contradiction .... between human aspiration and frailty," a contradiction that induced "a certain perplexity between weeping and laughing."
— The New York Times Book Review