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The Late Mattia Pascal Paperback – November 30, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Tra edition (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171152
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #738,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on September 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Italian author, winner of the Novel Prize in 1934, Luigi Pirandello is better known for his plays, forerunners of the theatre of the absurd. In this novel, the main character Mattia Pascal faces an economic downfall and a marriage without love. He decides to escape from this situation and in a stroke of luck wins a fortune in Monte Carlo. He takes a new identity, gains total freedom, shams death but the ghosts of his past existence, and the discovery of true love will spoil his new life.
The plot is neatly constructed and the dialogues between Mattia Pascal and some of the characters are enlightening, expressing Pirandello's philosophical outlook on life as well as reflecting biographical elements. The author is concerned with the ambiguity of truth and reality, the problem of identity and illusion. For him self-identity only exists in relation to others, as much as man is a social creature, unfortunately bound to social conventions. Man creates his own reality and lives in a world of illusions, always bound one way or the other to the past. The resulting paradox is that illusion may often become more real than reality!
Mattia Pascal is unable to cope with his total freedom which strucks him as being shapeless and aimless. Only the love he feels for Adriana will help him brake away from his suffocating mask. Upon returning to his former town he finds his wife has remarried and he is destined to become the shadow of a dead man.
Pirandello held a pessimistic outlook on life, believeing that his time was one of distress and darkeness (early 20th century), democracy was nothing more than tyranny disguised as freedom, and philosophical speculations nothing more than a product of our imagination.
"When death comes perpetual night will great us after the misty daylight of our illusion, or rather, we will be left to the mercy of Being, which will only have shattered the vain forms of our reasoning."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a novel for those who read to get transpotred into another world and simply enjoy a great story! If you like Calvino you'll love "Pascal". It's a very funny depiction of what happens when one (here, Pascal) tries to reinvent oneself and become something else. Like Calvino, it incorporates irreverent humour, mystery and wonderful descriptions. But Pirandello is more traditional in his prose than Calvino--so if your offset by Calvino's randomness, don't worry, Pirandello is more focused.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on November 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This novel is about the identity of the individual, and the possibilities and limits of self-reinvention. By failing to transform himself into someone else, Mattia Pascal remains the same person, but radically changed from his experience. Oh, but it's not so complicated. Mattia Pascal is a good-for nothing- junior who, along with his also-spoiled brother, lose the fortune inherited from their father. Besides losing his fortune, Mattia is forced to make a disastrous marriage. And then, along comes a big and most unexpected chance to run away and become someone else. I won't spoil anything. Just read it and you will find an amazing story. Pirandello's writing is easy. The introduction to the real knot of the story is a little long, but it is absolutely necessary to situate the plot, and moreover, it is very funny. Pirandello's style fluctuates between irreverent and outrageous irony, and melancholic reflections on fate, identity and man's place in the world. Far from being boring, it has extremely funny moments of dark humor (check his confrontations with his mother-in-law). So, it is an extremely recommendable book, because it is intelligent humor with a reflection on life. If you really get to love the story, as I did, you'll end up asking to yourself: "Who the hell am I?".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Craven on April 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Okay, so that may sound awfully obvious, but my goodness! Of course it's not funny! It's not supposed to be funny! When is Pirandello ever funny? If anything, he may be ironic, but he is never slapstick and certainly wrote nothing to be considered "a lark." The author of the article in Publisher's Weekly ought to be taken out and shot in the most General Dreedle sense of the term. Il Fu Mattia Pascal is anything but a beach read and if you were disappointed in it because it was not cheap entertainment, your disappointment is probably due to the misinformation you received from a review as miscomprehending as that of Publisher's Weekly. Il Fu is an examination of the modern treatment of identity. It is an existential examination of society's abandonment of those who seek to live an "authentic" life. It is a piece of LITERATURE, not a DaVinci Code or a Mary Higgins Clark mystery. These may be enjoyable books, but for a different reason. Read Pirandello with expectation that you will be made to think, to question, and you will not be disappointed.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ventura Angelo on April 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is very sad...it tells the story of a man who can't cope whit life's responsibilities and whit himself. A strange accident causes him to be believed dead, and he thinks he can assume a new identitiy and take on a new life. But he can't escape himself, and his new life shall be as unsatisfying and full of disillusions as the first. The clou of the book is the tragic melancholy of the seance...when he himself is evoked as his own spirit.Existentially spooky!
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