The Late Mattia Pascal
By: Luigi Pirandello
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.
In my quest to read more Italian literature, I came across this title. It’s totally up my alley, touching on themes of identity, starting over, life. May contain some spoilers ahead!
What’s really wonderful about this novel is how easily accessible it is. Written by Mattia Pascal, he recounts his life and trials with such ease that as a reader you get a clear sense of what the character is about. He’s surrounded by an array of intriguing and colourful characters that often give him more trouble than peace and seeing Mattia’s reaction to them can be quite amusing. The things he goes through are both funny and strange and sad that you can’t blame him for doing what he did or laughing things off at the end. Because life is strange like that too.
What’s also interesting about this novel really is the themes that it touches on. Due to a strange series of incidents, Mattia Pascal is declared dead. Given how bad things had been going in his life and seeing his “death” as an opportunity to start over, he does. He takes on a new name and with his new funds to keep him afloat, he does what he’s always wanted to do so to speak, free of obligation and ties to his past. But that’s where things gets interesting, because as much as he’s free from his past, he’s bound to keep it hidden as well. Hence he’s always on the move, fabricating lies to deepen his assumed persona but always reminded of his old life and personality as Mattia Pascal. Rather than experiencing complete freedom from his break with the past, he’s just as much chained to it. It’s an interesting struggle to read and debate about.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed The Late Mattia Pascal, I have to say it’s my favourite from the three Italian books I received as gifts from my birthday. While there were one or two moments that left me wondering what exactly was going on–one of the many comedic and crazy moments peppered throughout the novel–but otherwise it’s a wonderful story worth checking out.