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Intelligent and moving novel
, 25 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Late Mattia Pascal (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Without wishing to retell the story in condensed form, I will say that I found the premise behind the novel, ie. that a man is given the chance, through a combination of his recklessness and fortunate circumstance, to leave his old life behind and restart afresh in total liberty at the age of around 30, to be both original and highly engaging, and one which earns my highest recommendation. Pirandello's writing style more than does justice to his story, with its beautiful flowing prose describing the scenes and feelings lived through by the narrator in what I found to be a very engaging, readable style whilst also managing to bring the characters alive with all their quirks and features.
This is a novel which to my mind can be deeply appreciated on a number of levels - not only for the beautiful writing style and absorbing narrative but also for the intelligence with which the author tackles the main theme of the book, which is what being 'free' really means in modern society, and whether being able to do whatever he wants leads a man to feel fulfilled than when he is living under constraints.
Rather than going down the obvious route of showing that 'freedom is only worthwhile if you feel loved' or some other such black-and-white cliché, the author tackles the issue with intelligence and subtelty, exploring both the opportunities and happiness available to a man when he has the freedom to act entirely as he pleases, and the ultimate impossibility of ever reaching this level of freedom in a typical organised society.
I should add that this last point is my interpretation of the novel rather than a point explicitly made by the author; it is not necessary to think about the moral or philosophical points raised to appreciate the warmth, wit and intelligence permeating this book, though those looking for something extra to dwell on after they have finished reading will find plenty of food for thought. The issues of the solitude imposed on us by large societies, and of the constraints placed on us by living in small societies are also explored at various points throughout the book.
I should point out that the humour Pirandello uses is more likely to frequently raise a smile than to make you laugh out loud, for me at least, so it would be wrong to expect some sort of comedy novel, as one previous reviewer sooms to have done. This is above all a novel following the unusual (though not impossible) imagined life-story of the main character, and his story is a human journey through loneliness, pain, happiness and love, narrated in a witty and intelligent style rather than a pantomine or comedy novel.
This is the first and so far only book by Pirandello I have read, and it certainly won't be the last. Don't be put off by the date it was written on; this book is a lot more relevant and readable than most books released nowadays, let alone fifty or one hundred years ago, both as an observation of modern society, and simply as an absorbing, good read which you won't want to put down.
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