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Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) was born in Agrigento, Sicily, the son of a rich mining contractor. Having studied at the universities of Palermo and Rome and taken a degree in philology at Bonn, the young Pirandello turned to writing poetry and stories, achieving his first literary success in 1904 with his novel The Late Mattia Pascal. During World War I, Pirandello began to write for the stage, winning an international following with plays such as Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) and Henry IV(1922). In 1934, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pirandello was the author of novels, essays, stories, and more than fifty plays, as well as an influence on writers as different as Eugene Ionesco and T.S. Eliot. Charles Simic is a poet, essayist and translator. He has published twenty collections of his own poetry, five books of essays, a memoir, and numerous of books of translations. He has received many literary awards for his poems and his translations, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Prize and the MacArthur Fellowship. Voice at 3 A.M., his selected later and new poems, was published in 2003 and a new book of poems My Noiseless Entourage came out in the spring of 2005. William Weaver is celebrated for his numerous translations from the Italian, including Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and novels and stories by Italo Calvino. Weaver's translation of Pirandello's The Late Mattia Pascal is also published by NYRB Classics.
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. (April)
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