Mattia Pascal is a young Italian man. After his father's death, his
family is ruined by the man who was supposed to help them, and Mattia
finds himself in a miserable social condition. His wedding is not more
happy : his mother-in-law, with whom he lives, hates him. After a
strong row, Mattia leaves to MonteCarlo, where he wins a lot of money
in a casino. On the train back, after 12 days, he learns on reading a
newspaper that, in his villages, everybody thinks he is dead : a body
unrecognizable has been found in his well.
He then decides to start a new life under the name of Adriano Meis.
After having travelled through the North of Italy and the South of
Germany, he finally settles in Rome in a family pension. He falls in
love with the daughter of the owner. But he still feels here the weight
of man's loneliness and of social conventions. Furthermore, without a
real civil status, he can neither marry nor work, nor even having real
friendship for fear he might betray his secret. He is condemned to a
He goes back to his village, after several years. There, he finds his
wife married to one of his friends, with a little daughter. There
again, even if his identity is recognized, he is doomed to stay the
late Mattia Pascal, officially dead. He recongnizes it himself when he
goes and put flowers on his own tomb.
In this book, published in 1904, there are all the themes of what is
called pirandellism : the search for an identity (which is, most of the
time, only a mask that one must wear), the social pressure lived as
suffocating and ordinary loneliness of men who cannot communicate. The
style, as often with Pirandello, mixes drama and humour, and is
voluntarily quite easy to read in order to make the novel accessible to
everybody and not only to a well-educated elite.