Uno, nessuno e centomila : E il vostro naso? 

According to Pirandello, Uno, nessuno e centomila is the key to all of his work.i From this we may infer that Pirandello’s most important texts ultimately comprise the themes of alienation, the absence of identity and renunciation. All these are explored to their extreme by Vitangelo Moscarda. It is not just that life is capricious and unpredictable, that attempts to establish order in the world are thwarted, and that judgements are unreliable. There is a deeper anxiety, at a level where even the centre of experience is called into question, where the self which one blithely takes for granted starts to unravel. Yet if we may take both the author and the narrator at their word, this process of “self-destruction” may in fact lead to the attainment of true knowledge and felicity: “E’ il romanzo della scomposizione della personalità … Spero che apparirà in esso, più chiaro di quel che non sia apparso finora, il lato positivo del mio pensiero”.ii Many readers, however, have remained unconvinced, and feel that Moscarda ends in sadness and defeat. Conversely, this article, drawing largely on Buddhist doctrine, attempts to provide a systematic explanation and vindication of Moscarda and his “refusal to be”. In this light, I hope to demonstrate what existence means for Pirandello and his protagonist, why it is a bad bargain, and most importantly, how the latter successfully transcends it.

Why take this approach? First, there is good reason to suppose that Pirandello was aware of Oriental thought in general, and Buddhism in particular: for example, in his personal library he possessed a copy of the ancient Indian epic Mahābhārata.iii As I argue elsewhere, whilst he was studying philology at Bonn our author would almost certainly have known of the pioneering translations from Pāli (the language of Buddhist scripture) into German by Professor Max Müller, Karl Neumann and others.iv Our supposition that he had some direct knowledge of Buddhist doctrine is also based on the fact that he referred to kāmaloka (thus using the technical Pāli term with its authentic meaning as “the realm of desire”) in Chapter 10 of Il fu Mattia Pascal. Further, an examination of the literature of Pirandello’s contemporaries reveals ample Buddhist influence, which—as one writer has claimed—reflected the voice of the age (Zeitstimmung).v We may also ascertain that whilst at Bonn he encountered the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer and that they exerted a great influence upon Numerous quotations from Schopenhauer’s major works demonstrate his reverence for the Buddha and his familiarity with his philosophy—from which we cite the following: “If I wished to take the results of my philosophy as the standard of truth, I should have to concede to Buddhism pre-eminence over the others. In any case, it must be a pleasure to me to see my doctrine in such close agreement with a religion that the majority of men on earth hold as their own, for this numbers far more followers than any other.” vii

Most important for our purposes is the fact that although Pirandello was among the first to dramatise the identity crisis, he was not the one who discovered it. The Buddha was the first in recorded history to propound that existence is anattā, or “not-self”, on the grounds that it is anicca, impermanent and dukkha, troublesome and ultimately unsatisfactory. In which case, Buddhist doctrine may well establish sufficient motivation for Moscarda’s apparently bizarre behaviour, as well as a coherent philosophical basis for the extraordinary conclusion where our protagonist claims to be living and dying every instant: in other words, to be a person without an abiding personality.

Whereas Moscarda’s anguish and alienation may concur with much of modern European thought, Buddhism provides the rationale for his audacious claim to have transcended his own individuality. This ancient teaching regards sakkāyadiṭṭhi, or the adherence to a personal identity, as an illusion conditioned by the primordial disposition towards avijjā and taṇhā.viii Avijjā, often translated as “ignorance”, also implies the active self-deception of the conceit “I am”; taṇhā (literally, “thirst”) comprises all craving, including kāmataṇhā (the impulse to seek pleasure) as well as bhavataṇhā, the desire to be, to perpetuate the drama we perform with our persona in the leading role. As a consequence of these innate tendencies, sakkāyadiṭṭhi is thus an extremely difficult illusion to dispel: to do so requires an immediate experience called yathābhñtaṃñāṇadassana, “direct knowledge of things as they are”— i.e., as impermanent, contingent, insubstantial and beyond one’s control. Yathābhūtaṃñāṇadassana therefore undermines every notion of “my self”, and one suddenly finds that one “is not”, or more accurately, an “existential ambiguity”. This realisation leads to the state of nibbāna, in which every vestige of craving, aversion and ignorance is dispelled.

This “existential ambiguity” is the cause of all Moscarda’s troubles. His anguished narrative is perhaps the greatest challenge that Pirandello presents to his audience, both in terms of its philosophical complexity and its confrontational style. Unlike other protagonists such as Mattia Pascal, Moscarda seems not to have any personal problems, any financial worries, except that he is not who he takes himself to be. For this reason alone he suffers. Yet unlike the puthujjana, or l’homme moyen sensuel, Moscarda is not content to live with the ambiguity; he strives to resolve it at all costs and thereby free himself from discontent. According to Buddhism that is the highest achievement to which one can aspire—indeed, it is the only one worth pursuing.

As the mirror is the dominant image in the novel, it also reflects the mode by which Pirandello’s fiction works; it is what goads Moscarda out of his easeful existence. But surely we are meant to fix our gaze in the mirror too, like the other citizens of Richieri, and thereby to shatter the “solidissima realtà” that we have constructed out of our will and its representations, as Schopenhauer would say. For if we look closely, we shall find that both the reflection and the one who beholds it lack substance:

Suppose … that you have mistakenly perceived a reflected image in a mirror, taking it as the “real” (unreflected) object … misled by inattention or bad lighting or for some other such reason. Taking into account the circumstances, one can say that the reflection is illusory, in that it is not what it appears to be

In what way are all the objects that we encounter in the course of everyday life similar to the reflected image discussed above? … The “I” and the objective, external things of the world appear to us as independent, self-sufficient entities, but … this appearance proves to be predicated upon a tacit, preconscious failure to engage with the deeply contextual nature of their presence. ix

That tacit failure in Uno, nessuno e centomila is symbolised by Moscarda’s “inability” to notice—over the course of 28 years—his defective nose. For us, the tacit failure in our reading of the novel is that we may neglect the implications of the passages written in the second person, addressed to voi; and I do not think that it is belabouring the obvious to state that the voi must refer to ourselves, for the most part members of a bourgeois society just like the protagonist. The reader may assume that voi means somebody else, perhaps another banker’s son; surely we who read so much literature and philosophy already understand the contingent nature of identity. Moscarda, however, thinks otherwise: “Ho voluto supporlo, ma non ci credo. Io credo anzi che se in realtà un tal pensiero vi venisse in mente e vi si radicasse come si radicò in me, ciascuno di voi commetterebbe le stesse pazzie che commisi io” (II, i).x

Thus, if we truly understood what lucidissimo Moscarda says, we should act differently: we too would immediately set about the business of unravelling the illusory “self”, we would no longer be content to live as we do. Our understanding is therefore theoretical, superficial; it is not intuitive, not yathābhūtaṃñāṇadassana, not “rooted” in us as it is in him.xi Given the novel’s philosophical arguments, the reader may conclude that Vitangelo’s problem is “all in his head”. However, our protagonist is not simply plagued by an intellectual dilemma: on the contrary, he experiences the identity crisis on a visceral level. His anguish involves a crisis of his entire being, and for this reason an interpretation based only on a speculative level avoids the novel’s pivotal issues. Instead, we should always bear in mind passages such as this from IV, ii: “Rischiai, cioè, rischiammo tutti quanti, come vedrete, il manicomio, questa prima volta; e non ci bastò. Dovevamo anche rischiar la vita, perché io mi riprendessi e trovassi alla fine (uno, nessuno e centomila) la via della salute” (italics mine).

Although Moscarda expresses himself as clearly and directly as possible, many are reluctant to acknowledge that he means exactly what he says. Indeed, he speaks at cross purposes not just with those around him, but with anyone who lives from day to day on the assumption that there is one stable, discrete, inner reality operating in the context of another, separate, external reality. For the puthujjana, life consists of a centre (I, my self) existing in relation to its circumference (the world), and experience is the radius uniting them. It is to be expected that he does not want to upset that precious equilibrium, to face the precariousness of his identity. Moscarda, on the other hand, realises the contextual nature of every element of the circle. Once the deception of the whole structure becomes apparent to him, it must be dismantled.

The chapter entitled “Ci sono io e ci siete voi” demonstrates that all experience is by nature subjective. An event, a sight, a sound does not simply occur; it always happens to someone, and its significance is determined by an experiencer who perceives it according to a variable set of conditions and preferences. Buddhism calls this “mental concocting” saṅkhāra, or the act of constructing a personal reality. As Moscarda says: “C’è in me e per me una realtà mia: quella che io mi dò; una realtà vostra, in voi e per voi; quella che voi vi date; le quali non saranno mai le stesse né per voi né per me” (II, iv). As he admits, he is not stating a truth that has never been uttered before: we routinely acknowledge the axiom de gustibus non est disputandum, and so in II, iii one person conceives the row of cypresses as morbid while another does not. It is, however, more than a matter of taste, it is a matter of existence; persons and things always exist in one’s cognition in this way or that way. Every “reality” is determined by an ephemeral set of perceptions:

Perché vi pare che sia propriamente quesione di gusti, o d’opinioni, o d’abitudine; e non dubitate minimamente della realtà delle care cose, quale con piacere ora la vedete e la toccate.

Andate via da codesta casa; ripassate fra tre o quattr’anni a rivederla con un altro animo da questo d’oggi; vedrete che ne sarà più di codesta cara realtà.

Moscarda’s deductions may be convincing, but not persuasive; for as he points out, even those who agree with his reasoning in principle tend to live from moment to moment as if their constructed realities were absolute. As a result, he does not arouse in others the same alienation and the same sense of urgency: “Ma perché … seguitate a fare come se non si sapesse?” (II, iv). The answer may well be that the implications of existential ambiguity are simply too disconcerting. Almost all of Book II is dedicated to showing that since all individual realities are isolated and transitory, they must be understood as ultimately meaningless. As Vitangelo notes during his visit to Anna Rosa in VII, viii, “Non valeva piú nulla essere per sé qualche cosa.” Further, if reality is fleeting, if it has no validity outside of the mind, if it cannot be verified or justified outside of itself, then the entire notion of a separate “self” as subject is undermined. Finally, the continuance of that self is in vain: if Moscarda accumulates more experiences, more pleasures, more possessions in order to sustain his shadow (as Mattia Pascal would say), he merely continues to multiply by zero. Now the question is whether this knowledge of relativity is to be considered as an “objective”, truth: if so, he could have remained content with circumstances as they were; but since he experiences this awesome understanding as yathābhūtaṃñāṇadassana, he is compelled to do something about it. This is exactly what happens to Moscarda, and as a result he is led to commit his “pazzie”.

In order to truly comprehend our protagonist, it is necessary to understand precisely what drives him to “pazzie per forza”. As Johannes Thomas has shown, there is great controversy among critics regarding the validity of Moscarda’s reasoning and motivations: one critic finds a “chiara linea logica” and another a “salto nel limbo dell’irrazionale” in his arguments.xii Thomas himself finds some of Moscarda’s argumentation “pseudo-logical”: “Abbastanza piú problematica si presenta la seconda ‘conclusione’, di scomporre cioè dispettosamente le immagini costruite dai suoi conoscenti. Questa conclusione non è in nessun modo deducibile dalle osservazioni precedenti …”.xiii

Formal logic, however, has little or nothing to do with the problems of a suffering individual; on the contrary, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, it is “the branch of philosophy that treats of the forms of thinking in general, and more especially of inference and of scientific method” (italics mine). But the existential dilemmas faced by Pirandellian characters cannot be solved by scientific or objective means, or by speculating in general terms; each faces a personal crisis, and once the “I” enters into a situation objectivity flies out of the window. Furthermore, to act “reasonably” usually means to behave according to conventional mores, precisely those which our protagonists abjure: indeed, logic suffers from guilt by association in V, i, when Vitangelo says, “Ah, non c’è che dire, stava tutta dalla parte di Firbo, la logica”.xiv Thus his narrative moves into a different dimension, which operates by different standards. Moscarda clearly indicates that he makes no pretence of acting according to syllogistic reasoning: “non avendo mai pensato finora a costruire di me stesso un Moscarda … s’intende che non mi era possibile agire con una qualche logica coerenza” (III, i).

This is why Thomas’s analysis cannot find justification for Moscarda’s conclusions: while in theory he may not be compelled to act in one way or another, the fact is Moscarda does feel such compulsion. This is the basis of the novel’s strategy. Just as there may be no reason for Mattia Pascal to return to Miragno (as Berto’s brother-in-law points out), once he finds it intolerable to continue living the lie of Adriano Meis, he simply has no other choice. Likewise, once Moscarda comes to grips with the implications of being branded a usurer or nicknamed Gengè, the ensuing need to annihilate those false images becomes his raison d’être. xv Everything he does thereafter follows naturally, one might say, even if not logically. As for the contention that he lacks a premise for his dispetto, one should have to consider just as unfounded Mattia’s contempt for Adriano, and the even stronger revulsion expressed by the narrator of “La carriola” for his professional identity: “E grido, l’anima mia grida dentro questa forma morta che mai non è stata mia: ‘Ma come? io, questo? io, cosí? ma quando mai?’ E ho nausea, orrore, odio di questo che non sono io, che non sono stato mai io; di questa forma morta, in cui sono prigioniero …”.xvi Each protagonist detests that living fiction, that not-I for its very falsity. The horror and revulsion give rise to a compulsion to destroy the man of straw that passes for himself. As Moscarda says at the end of the chapter entitled “Pazzie per forza”, “Pensarci e sentire un impeto di feroce ribellione fu tutt’uno.”

Moscarda’s mission, therefore, is not the result of mere chance nor does it arise from obscure tendencies. Dida’s remark about his nose may be fortuitous, but what Vitangelo does about it is not. Rather, he acts out of a necessity and urgency far graver than what logic would dictate. In fact, it is the worldly man (who continues with his complacent bourgeois ways even after their absurdity is demonstrated) whose thinking is essentially “irrational” and “asystematic”: it can only be justified by excuses, evasions and unawareness—in sum, avijjā. In contrast, Moscarda realises that he has been living a lie, a meaningless existence, and he immediately sets about putting things right: “che usurajo no, quell’usurajo che non ero mai stato per me, ora non volevo più essere neanche per gli altri e non sarei più stato, anche a costo della rovina di tutte le condizioni della mia vita” (V, viii). Yathābhūtaṃñāṇadassana always demands a fundamental revolution, in a way that objective knowledge and reasoning do not. Let us recall Chapter V of L’umorismo, where Pirandello describes the moment of insight and its ramifications:

Lucidissimamente allora la compagine dell’esistenza quotidiana … ci appare priva di senso, priva di scopo; e quella realtà diversa ci appare … La vita, allora, che s’aggira piccola, solita, fra queste apparenze ci sembra quasi che non sia piú davvero, che sia come una fantasmagoria meccanica. E come darle importanza? come portarle rispetto?xvii

There can be nothing more direct or linear than this. Once Moscarda experiences quella realtà diversa, life as he had lived it to this point now seems completely void of meaning; and if, as Moravia’s Dino would say, he no longer believes in the geography of the world, he cannot live according to its precepts. Our protagonists, therefore, are not truly at liberty to act other than as they do once they have made the crucial leap into the different dimension.

When Moscarda sees that his “reality” is founded on false assumptions, the process of “scomposizione” immediately begins. Consider the title of the first chapter: “Mia moglie e il mio naso”. My wife and my nose: two convenient, casual assumptions, the first based on a relationship, on an identification with another, and in a subtle sense, a possession; and from that possession, from the “mine”, the “me” is constructed. The second is taken to be not only his, but also “he himself”; his nose, his eyebrows and his ears comprise not just his body: they are construed as a “self”, as Vitangelo. This is how he—like every puthujjana—looks upon the world: according to a latent tendency which conceives of an ego inseparable from its corporeal manifestation. From that combination of body and ego he identifies himself and his relationship to others, and further (as we read in IV, v), imposes his inner world on others.

But Moscarda rapidly finds out that the foundations of his self-image are unsound. His wife is not his wife, in several ways which are revealed in the course of the novel. Obviously she is beyond his control: despite his prohibition, she leaves the house in bad weather to see her friend Anna Rosa, who later informs him that Dida is in fact his enemy. As for his nose, after living with the same one for 28 years, he has to acknowledge that he has never truly observed it, and the same goes for the rest of his body: “non conoscevo bene neppure il mio stesso corpo, le cose mie che più intimamente m’appartenevano: il naso, le orecchie, le mani, le gambe”. Not having known them as they are, he could not know the crucial fact that they were not his, nor that they were not himself.

We may think that we can look upon our features with equanimity, but since they determine not just how we see ourselves, but also how others see us, we cannot easily observe them “objectively”, nor patiently endure a catalogue such as the one Dida recites: “La scoperta improvvisa e inattesa di quel difetto perciò mi stizzí come un immeritato castigo”. The Nakulapitasaṃyutta (Saṃyuttanikāya III: i) explains the extent of the mutual attachment between the “I” and the body:

The untaught puthujjana … regards the body as self, regards the self as having a body, body as being in the self, the self as being in the body. ‘I am this body’, he says, ‘this body is mine,’ and he holds to this idea; then that same body … alters, becomes otherwise, changes for the worse, owing to its unstable and changeful nature, then sorrow and grief, woe, lamentation and despair arise in him.

On an abstract level, it is easy to acknowledge that the body is changing all the time, but that is irrelevant to one’s feelings: it is only at the moment when one notices the wrinkles, the grey hair or the defective feature that the “self” feels threatened. This is why such a “scoperta improvvisa” can set in motion the entire process of unravelling. As Moscarda is by nature contemplative, the realisation that he is not familiar with even his most intimate aspects forces him to re-evaluate every aspect of that “self”; for if he is ignorant of the most palpable characteristics of his persona, how can he be sure of the thoughts, feelings and perceptions that comprise the personality of “Vitangelo”?

It is remarkable that Moscarda’s case does not seem so remarkable: that is, he needs Dida to tell him what he really looks like. Most readers accept the incident of the initial chapter at face value, without asking how it is possible for someone to be so unaware of such obvious particulars about himself; it is simply taken for granted that he had never noticed all those defects that Dida calmly lists in detail. Why does his experience seem credible, and so often pass without comment? It can only be that his unawareness was the result of an intentional self-deception. This demonstrates the profound meaning of avijjā : it is not just that Moscarda does not see the unsettling truth; deep down, he does not wish to see it. He contends: “Mi fermavo a ogni passo; mi mettevo prima alla lontana, poi sempre più da vicino a girare attorno a ogni sassolino che incontravo”, and yet he lives all those years without properly examining his own features. He must have examined himself in the mirror thousands of times; yet he still believes that his nose, just like the rest of him, is “almeno molto decente”. He has always looked without seeing, or rather he has only seen what he wanted to see.

Therefore, the apparently simple, innocuous phrase “mia moglie e il mio naso” is just as dubious an assumption as “Io mi chiamo Mattia Pascal”. After Moscarda is undeceived, he finds that the body he always thought to be his does not obey him any more than does his wife; otherwise, he would be able to change the direction of that nose and the shape of those eyebrows. But he cannot. Moreover, it dawns on him that he never asked for any of those features, and in words that recall Serafino Gubbio’s he asks: “Che era? Ero io? Ma poteva anche essere un altro! … Poteva avere quei cappelli rossigni … e quel naso che pendeva verso destra, non soltanto per me, ma anche per un altro che non fosse io. Perché dovevo esser io, questo cosí?” (I, vii).

Under further scrutiny, the body reveals its inherent defects: first, it is subject to mutability (anicca): “Passato il momento in cui lo fissavo, egli era già un altro”; moreover, “quel corpo per se stesso era tanto niente e tanto nessuno, che un filo d’aria poteva farlo starnutire, oggi, e domani potarselo via”. Consequently, it is also anattā, or not-his; it is foreign, fragile, even hostile, foisted upon him by chance. He feels “una profonda antipatia” for it, not only for its faults, but for its very nature. He echoes the professor of “La carriola”, who says, “Anche il mio stesso corpo, la mia figura … mi parve estranea a me; come se altri me l’avesse imposta e combinata, quella figura, per farmi muovere in una vita non mia …”.xviii From whatever angle, the body which Moscarda regarded as his own, upon reflection, corresponds to what we read in the Dīghamakhasutta (Majjhimanikāya 74): “This body … is subject to impermanence, to being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and disintegration. It should be regarded as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as an abscess … as a calamity, as affliction, as enemy, as disintegrating, as void, as not self.”

When he walks into Richieri after his troublesome morning, he forces others to undergo the same shock treatment that Dida had administered to him. They, too, attempt to diminish the importance of their newly-revealed defects and to feign nonchalance. Not wanting to reveal any irritation at the way his dimple distorts the contour of his forehead, his friend contends that after all, it is “una piccolezza”. But as Moscarda illustrates, such a little thing looms very, very large in one’s ego: “E glielo imposi a una ferma e attenta osservazione come se quel difetto del mio naso fosse un irreparabile guasto sopravvenuto al congegno dell’universo”.

He is not exaggerating. The distortion of his nose, or rather his recognition of it, is exactly that—a breakdown of the mechanism of the universe, because of its colossal importance to the ego. As the incident shows, we measure the significance of things and events by how they affect ourselves, by their evocative power, not by so-called objective standards. Planets may collide in outer space without having any impact at all on the “I”, whereas a tiny affront to my opinion of myself, or to my sense of security, seems to knock the world out of orbit. Our world is another fragile saṅkhāta, a construction, as we read in Act II of Non si sa come: “Sí, sí, e la vita è tutta ricostruita dall’uomo, come un mondo nel mondo, creato da tutto ciò che l’uomo sente e sa.”xix This is why the Buddha described the world not as something external to us but as the coming together of the senses, sense-objects and consciousness: in Aṅguttaranikāya II, Rohitassavagga he states: “In this fathom-long body endowed with perceptions, endowed with a mind, there is the world, the arising of the world, the end the world, and the way to bring it to an end .” For this reason, Moscarda cannot be consoled by compliments or deterred by “objective” truths. He may remain, as Dida says, “un bell’uomo” despite his defects, yet that does not mitigate in any way the anguish he feels at the discovery that he and his world are not what he had conceived them to be. As with most of us, what really matters to him is his own anxiety, the fact that his vulnerable mirror-image has been shattered, not that a similar misfortune has occurred to somebody else. Uno, nessuno e centomila is the story of what happens when my world is taken away from me.

That mirror-image is not restricted to his physical appearance: more importantly, it involves whatever he conceives as internal, as constituting the “real Vitangelo”. Having discerned the contingency of his body, thrust upon him at the moment of conception, he realises the contingency of everything else he views as “self”. Even more distressing is the fact that whatever makes up his inner existence is also very much conditioned simply by being his father’s son: “quel mio stesso ozio, che credevo proprio mio … m’era stato dato da mio padre…”. His birth and physical make-up may be beyond his control, but his thoughts and feelings—these, he believed, comprised his own domain; and so, contrary to what he said in Chapter 1, Moscarda finds that what most intimately belongs to him is his “personality”: that is, who he takes himself to be. Hence, he lives under the delusion that his identity is his own creation, only to be undeceived when he notes that not even his thoughts and sentiments belong to him: “M’ero creduto finora un uomo nella vita … Come se in tutto mi fossi fatto da me. Ma come quel corpo non me l’ero fatto io … cosí, senza mia volontà, tant’altre cose m’erano venute sopra dentro interno, da altri” (III, ii). Vitangelo’s identity is even more shadowy than the shadow of Mattia Pascal:

Io mi costruisco di continuo e vi costruisco, e voi fate altrettanto. E la costruzione dura finché non si sgretoli il materiale dei nostri sentimenti e finché duri il cemento della nostra volontà … Basta che quella vacilli un poco, e che questi si alterino d’un punto o cangino minimamente, e addio realtà nostra! (II, xi).

The “inner self”, then, is a shoddy fabrication, a combination of vacillating will, feelings, perceptions and consciousness which continually unravel. They, too, are “not-me” and “not-mine”. This insight—far more than the one directly brought about by Dida’s remarks—brings about Moscarda’s incurable anxiety and consequently his “pazzie per forza”. As the Abhisamayasaṃyutta (Saṃyuttanikāya II, Mahāvagga 1) explains, it is far more difficult to relinquish attachment to the ego than to the body:

The puthujjana can turn away from, feel dispassion for, be released from this body … But what is called feeling, is called knowing, is called consciousness, to turn away from them … to be released therefrom, the puthujjana is unable. And why? For a long time he has held to and cherished this view: “This is mine, this am I, this is my self”. Thus he cannot turn away … and be released therefrom.

Once again, any assertion of identity is undermined as soon as one perceives the pervasiveness of anicca : that which is ever subject to change cannot be reckoned as self. At the same time, however, Moscarda is imprisoned by an inner form as fixed as that of his despised body.xx This appears to be a paradox: after he sees that his “personality” is so changeable, what identity remains to imprison him? Has he not, by coming to terms with the variable nature of his “reality”, already solved the problem? Unfortunately, he has not—as we shall see, it is impossible for him to escape the quandary simply because he wants to, or by reflecting and pondering; sakkāyadiṭṭhi is much too latent in every movement of thought and volition.

According to Buddhist philosophy, in order to eradicate existential discontent (dukkha) one must cut off all identification with the conceiving subject, with every preoccupation with “I”, “me” and “mine”. So, the problem is not just that Moscarda remains “Gengè”, “l’usurajo”, “imbecille”, or finally “pazzo” to everyone else, no matter what he says or does; more importantly, at the same time he conceives of a different (and to him more genuine) “I”, knowing full well that it cannot be real, ironically implying the existence of what he has just negated: “Per sopraffare uno, bisogna che questo uno esista; e per sostituirlo, bisogna che esista ugualmente e che si possa prendere per le spalle e strappare indietro, per mettere un altro al suo posto”. He responds to the inaccurate or unfavourable images that others have of him with the immediate urge to counter them.

Like Enrico IV, Moscarda recognises the absurdity of his “reality”, but yields to the impulse to devise something “more real” in opposition to it. In this way, he finds himself creating another false identity out of the very desire to escape a former one. As soon as he reflects upon “my self”, immediately his existential contradiction, with its concomitant angst becomes apparent. He feels that a “genuine Vitangelo” must be there, but wherever he looks he cannot find him. Just as when a man sees an oasis in a mirage, and whenever he approaches it, the water and trees vanish; but when he looks again in the distance the oasis reappears. In other words, the dilemma is not resolved, it is regenerated. In Book IV, by means of the donation to Marco di Dio, he intends to commit an act so contrary to his hated image as a usurer that it would be annihilated, and the “true” Moscarda would emerge. (In the same way, Mattia constructed Adriano precisely in order to forge an anti-Mattia.) “Ero … in attesa del miracolo: la mia trasfigurazione, da un istante all’altro, agli occhi di tutti.” But the plan is doomed to fail by its very nature, because it is only an act of substitution: “l’usurajo” becomes “il pazzo”. He does away with one mask only to take up another. But the identity crisis can only be resolved when one ceases to have any identity whatsoever; what Moscarda needs is dissolution, not substitution.

As he decries one persona, the pressure of sakkāyadiṭṭhi compels him to re-construct another on the ruins of its previous foundation. But then the issue becomes more complex. Even as he learns from the failure of opposing one “self” to another, he does not escape the deception, for he continues to conceive of a “Moscarda” even in the act of negation: In the very act of denying his existence, he reinforces the conceit “I am”.xxi He falls into the same trap of Cartesian self-assertion, even though he reaches the opposite conclusion. He cannot extract himself from sakkāyadiṭṭhi merely by concluding “I am not my nose”, “I am not my thoughts”, “I am not myself” or “I am not a usurer”. In each case the deception persists. As the Sabbāsavasutta (Majjhimanikāya 2) states, the puthujjana gets into trouble at every turn, because he cannot think or act without reflecting upon himself; and with every existential question, assertion or negation he sinks deeper into the quicksand:

He improperly reflects: What was I in the past? What will I be in the future? Or, he is a self-questioner about the present: Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This creature before me, whence has it come? Where is it bound?xxii

To him thus in his wrong thinking … the view that ‘there is self for me’ is real and true for him, or the view that ‘there is no self for me’ … xxiii

Sakkāyadiṭṭhi is thus more than just an theoretical error: it is a constant pressure, nourished by both avijjā and taṇhā. To extract oneself from these twin nemeses is especially arduous because, as we have seen, the will to perpetuate the ego (bhavataṇhā) and the urge to satisfy its desires (kāmataṇhā ) go together. Hence, Moscarda cannot fulfil his mission as long as he is still subject to the powerful addiction to sensuality, i.e., to the act of self-generation. Vitangelo cannot have Dida and be a renunciant at the same time, for she is completely rooted in conventional values and to sensual gratification, the lure to live for one’s self, for one’s satisfaction, and for one’s future (i.e., the continuance of pleasurable experience). If, as he says, he is to risk everything, even his life, to find “la via della salute”, there can be no compromise. It was not so difficult for him to renounce ownership of the bank, since it did not seem “his” anyway: for years he merely signed papers and lived off the income without giving any of it a thought. Furthermore, the bank now seems to him the source, if not the symbol of a corrupt way of life, something immoral.

Dida, however, represents a formidable impediment to his emancipation. He is still attached to the pleasure of sleeping with her, which by most standards would be considered completely legitimate. Yet Pirandello often portrays this as a force that blinds as well as binds. In the sex act both the narrator of “La trappola” and Moscarda abandon their resolutions, their better judgement, for the sake of tasting the “dolcezza” that seems so innocent, while it conceals a sinister, malevolent drive: “Era anche lei … un punto vivo in me. Io l’amavo, non ostante lo strazio che mi veniva dalla perfetta coscienza di non appartenermi nel mio stesso corpo come oggetto del suo amore. Ma pur la dolcezza che a questo corpo veniva dal suo amore, la assaporavo io, cieco nella voluttà dell’abbraccio …” (VI,i).

Vitangelo lamented in II, xii that during their lovemaking, Dida was actually committing adultery; but what he does not see so clearly is that even though he feels that he is not present, while she is making love to Gengè she is also solidifying this punto vivo in him. Despite “lo strazio” he experiences as a result of her “infidelity”, he remains “cieco nella voluttà dell’abbraccio”. The submission to the urge for sensual pleasure implies the will to live, to take on form. Thus, in VI, i, as a result of that blind will, he becomes “uno”, “Io”. In both Buddhist and Pirandellian terms this is to invite suffering and death, just as in “La trappola” where “ogni forma è la morte”. In a crucial passage of III, vii he argues that simply existing is a miserable state: “Tempo, spazio: necessità. Sorte, fortuna, casi: trappole tutte della vita. Volete essere? C’è questo. In astratto non si è. Bisogna che s’intrappoli l’essere in una forma, e per alcun tempo si finisca in essa … E ogni cosa, finché dura, porta con sé la pena della sua forma, la pena d’esser cosí e di non poter più essere altrimenti.” The answer to the apparently rhetorical question is, of course, yes: we want to be. But simply wanting to be (bhavataṇhā) necessarily implies the suffering described by Moscarda as “la pena d’esser cosí”. Moreover, we naturally assume that there is no option, no alternative; we do not conceive of a state of not wanting to be, not bound to space and time and feeling.xxiv This, however, is what is meant by the Buddhist nibbāna, which Moscarda eventually attains. According to the Udāna, nibbāna is “the escape from the born, from being, from the made, from the constructed here and now”.

Unfortunately, we are often prepared to take on form for the sake of mundane pleasures. This is the significance of the title of VI, iii, which reads: “Seguito a compromettermi”. Vitangelo says in VI, vi, “Troppo ero già compreso dall’orrore a chiudermi nella prigione d’una forma qualunque.” But ironically, in the very next paragraph, he seriously considers taking on yet another role after the liquidation of the bank, perhaps as a doctor, lawyer or parliamentarian, in order to retain access to the pleasure his wife provides: “Avevo insomma pensato che una di quelle professioni … avrei dovuto prenderla e accettarla come una necessità se Dida, ritornando a me com’io volevo, me n’avesse fatto l’obbligo per provvedere del mio meglio alla sua nuova vita con un nuovo Gengè.” This is a startling idea for someone who, as he puts it, had never worn blinders, never pulled a cart: taking on a profession would enmesh him more than ever in an identity, would imprison him more than ever in form and “la pena d’esser cosí”. He could have fallen again into the trap so easily, but upon further consideration he rightly reasons that his scheme would never work. However, note that it is because Dida would not hear of it, not that he would be unwilling to assume a different Gengè:

Ma … per Dida, nessun nuovo Gengè poteva nascere dal vecchio. Tanto questo vecchio le dava a vedere d’essersi impazzito senza rimedio, se cosí per niente voleva togliersi da un momento all’altro dalle condizioni di vita in cui era vissuto finora felicemente.

E davvero pazzo volevo esser io a pretendere che una bambola come quella impazzisse insieme con me cosí per niente.

In the everyday world of “sane” persons, every action is meant to have a goal, a result, and if one gives up this, it is only in order to obtain that, something of greater value. But in the Pirandellian world, there is nothing, at least nothing tangible, to be gained through renunciation; the protagonist absents himself from the world simply because he realises that it is “not his”, without value, without substance. This brings to mind the words of Professor Umberto Galimberti: “nel congedo perseguito da Siddharta, non esiste commercio tra spogliazione dei beni e acquisizione, ma rinuncia di tutto in cambio di nulla.”xxv Nevertheless, as we shall see, Moscarda’s rejection of everything “per niente” will lead to a positive reality. At this point, however, he does not fully realise what it means to give up all that pertains to his persona. For if that “all” does not include Dida, it is far from complete, as we can see from V, ii, where he says, “avete sempre e soltanto stretto fra le braccia tutto il vostro mondo nella donna vostra” (italics mine).

As he learns in VII, iv, his “povera bambola”, who had provided satisfaction, pleasure and affection, had all along been his enemy, even of his flesh. Within this one chapter, Moscarda uses the word “nemico/a” five times to refer to Dida, and therefore we can hardly exaggerate the importance of the collapse of his ultimate delusion. Likewise, soon after an erotic tension develops in his relationship with Anna Rosa, he finds himself in the company of another enemy. In the very act of offering herself, she tries to kill him: “So che dal letto mi tese le braccia; so che m’attrasse a sé. Da quel letto poco dopo rotolai, cieco, ferito …”. Once again he is rendered cieco by erotic attraction, and thereby subjects himself to death.xxvi

But in Book VIII, once he is finally free of his enemy Dida and the provocations of Anna Rosa, Vitangelo experiences a radical change, a transformation whereby there truly is no longer a Moscarda to be found. The change is apparent in the ecstatic language he uses, even before the oft-quoted final paragraphs. At the end of the novel he is speaking from the experience of what it is to live without an ego. In this way Moscarda reaches the summit of ascetic practice: he is utterly free of infatuation, not just with forms, but also with mental constructions. For the first time in the course of the narrative, he is no longer suffering from the agony of self-questioning, no longer concerned with what will happen to him; he knows happiness for the first time, as opposed to his earlier complacent ignorance or tormented searching. He knows a tranquillity, an unshakeable calm that comes from complete renunciation as opposed to the agitation of taṇhā. As the editors of the Tascabili Economici Newton note: “In Uno, nessuno e centomila … il lucidissimo Vitangelo Moscarda … approda attraverso la via della rinuncia e della solitudine alla conquista di una sofferta autenticità”.xxvii

No longer having aught to do with anything, Moscarda is not tainted by willing and constructing, nor by retaining any concept, any image of self. In Buddhist terms this means that he is now free from kamma, the kind of thought, speech, or action that emerges from the centre towards its circumference, generating more action and reaction. Thus, “he” no longer exists. This is why at this point our protagonist cannot be referred to by his former name:xxviii just as in the case of his predecessor Mattia Pascal, one might as well call him “il fu”, since he no longer corresponds to what was “Vitangelo”, and like Serafino Gubbio, he has no need to speak: “Non volendo piú nulla, sapevo di non poter piú parlare”. Now he abides in another dimension: “io davo tutto, non m’opponevo a nulla, perché remotissimo ormai da ogni cosa che potesse avere un qualche senso o valore per gli altri, e non solo alienato assolutamente da me stesso e da ogni cosa mia, ma con l’orrore di rimanere comunque qualcuno, in possesso di qualche cosa.” Such an utter disengagement from self and personality is the ultimate liberation from dukkha, saṃsāra and form, which can no longer find a footing. Moscarda can say, along with the sages, n’āhaṃ kassaci kiñcanaṃ tasmiṃ na ca mama katthaci kiñcanaṃ n’atthi: “I am not anyone whosoever, nothing whatsoever applies to me, nothing whatsoever is here.”

His achievement consists in nothing less than doing away with the entire process of thinking as we know it, which entails conceiving, constructing, generalising, particularising and so on. His mind apprehends phenomena as they are, without papañca, i.e., the “thought proliferation” of the puthujjana : “E tutto, attimo per attimo, è come è … Cosí soltanto io posso vivere, ormai … Impedire che il pensiero si metta in me di nuovo a lavorare, e dentro mi rifaccia il vuoto delle vane costruzioni” (italics mine).xxix Moscarda has gone a step further than his predecessor Gubbio: he refuses not just to speak, but to think—the ultimate release, because “constructive thinking” is the most subtle form of the will to be. His state of mind is often described in vague terms such as “mystical” or “pantheistic”, but for our reading it indicates something very specific; it is the attainment of arahantship:

That ‘Knowing One’ who is fully emancipated … is also called ‘one who delights in non-proliferation’ … The data of sense experience … never interfere with the sublime quietude reigning within the inner recesses of his mind. Freedom from ‘papañca’ is the hall-mark of the emancipated one … The ‘muni’ [the emancipated sage] is silent not only when he does not speak; he is silent even when he does

Thus, at the end of the novel, Pirandello depicts an entirely different dimension, a sentient state without “being”. If this is kept in mind, then his extraordinary—and controversial—“non-conclusion” to the book becomes accessible; if not, several assumptions about the protagonist which are no longer valid will persist. In sum, the former Moscarda is no longer someone like us, or even a “someone” at all; but rather, one “thus-gone”, like a fire burnt out, unbound from its fuel, to use a Buddhist simile. So, to interpret his liberated state according to the norms of conventional experience would be like applying English-standard wrenches to metric standard nuts and screws, and then wondering why they do not fit. This is why some readers do not take Pirandello at his word when he said that the novel expressed the “lato positivo” of his work, and so do not appreciate the full impact of Moscarda’s triumph over himself. For them, the protagonist ends up either mad or at best defeated, because by the final section of his narrative he is alone and owns nothing.xxxi

But our reading reflects a major force in Pirandello’s work. Vitangelo Moscarda is one of several protagonists who, for the same reasons, “opt out” of social mores and obligations. He, along with Mattia Pascal, Serafino Gubbio, Fausto Bandini and others rejects money in favour of simplicity, company in favour of solitude, and society in favour of nature in order to embrace an ascetic life. With all these predecessors in mind, it seems improbable that Pirandello evinced an affinity for depicting a descent into madness or the progression of an “inetto” to successive levels of failure when he composed Uno, nessuno e centomila. Rather, is it not more likely that the novel —as he himself claimed—represents the positive side of his work, the portrayal of the startling possibilities of living outside of conventional society and also beyond the spatial and temporal boundaries of the self? If this sounds fantastic, let us consider our author’s way of life. If we can believe him, it was more than just transient and abstemious—it was also perceived from this other dimension, detached and aloof from the ways of ordinary men: “Io non vivo, se non come da lontano, questo tempo che passa e mi sembra che non mi tocchi piú e non sia piú per me.” xxxii

As we consider Pirandello’s major works and these excerpts from his correspondence, we must also call into question the long-held assumption that our author had no philosophy, or in other words, “Pirandello diffida delle soluzioni, ad esse preferisce i problemi.”xxxiii Clearly he narrates or dramatises the universal problem, “la pena di vivere cosí” in one protagonist after another. But as in Il fu Mattia Pascal, the “cosí” does not imply a particular set of circumstances: otherwise, the solution would be simple. Instead, the universal problem is in the very nature of being, itself a source of anguish, which is why the Buddha stated, yam kiñci vedayitam tam dukkhasmim ti: “All that which is experienced is suffering.” While Pirandello may not have been a “card-carrying Buddhist”, he did indeed offer a comparable solution to this dilemma. If, like Mattia Pascal, we refuse to assume an identity, and if, like Moscarda, we renounce all our attachments per niente, then we shall be free from anguish.

Many have contended that both the Buddha and Pirandello were pessimists, even nihilists, but this is to ignore the bliss that results from absolute renunciation: the former’s descriptions of nibbāna and the latter’s conclusion to his final novel belie that assertion. Such a misunderstanding can only derive from clinging to “saṃsāric” existence, and to sacrosanct notions of the self. But as Shakespeare reminds us, in words that could have easily have been spoken by Moscarda, contentment only comes from bringing one’s drama to a close:

Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented
…But whate’er I be,
Nor I, nor any man that but man is,
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing.xxxiv

M. John Stella, University of Western Australia


i “Ce roman,” disait-il à Louis Gillet, “sera la clef de toute mon œuvre”. Quoted in Auréliu Weiss, Le Théâtre de Luigi Pirandello (Paris: Librairie 73, 1965), p. 54.

ii From the interview of 5 luglio 1922 in l’Epoca, quoted in Maurizio Guglielminetti, “Le vicende e i significativi di Uno, nessuno e centomila”, Il romanzo di Pirandello a cura di Enzo Lauretta (Palermo: Palumbo, 1976), p. 197, italics mine.

iii As cited in Alfredo Barbina, La biblioteca di Luigi Pirandello (Roma: Bulzoni, 1980), p. 159. For a review of Buddhist influences on the Mahābhārata, see R. C. Zaehner, The Bhagavad-G≤tā (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969).

iv See “Mattia Pascal and the Tragedy of Being”, Yearbook of the Society of Pirandello Studies vol. 15/16 (1996).

v John Forst lists nearly 100 works in German alone published between 1879 and 1929 that were influenced by Indian literature in his Indien und die Deutsche Literatur von 1900 bis 1923 (New York University, 1935). Noting the Buddhist influence on Rilke’s poetry, Forst writes: “Alle diese Gedichte verdanken wir, wie ich glaube, weniger einem buddhistischen Zug in Rildes Wesen, als gerade der allgemeinen Zeitstimmung, die bekanntlich am Buddhismus grossen Gefallen fand. So können diese drei Gedichte als eine Art Tribut bezeichnet werden, den Rilke an seine Zeit gezahlt hat. Diese Feststellung trifft übrigens auch auf viele andere Dichter unserer heutigen Literatur zu” (p. 153).

vi Barbina lists an Italian edition of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung among Pirandello’s collection in La biblioteca di Luigi Pirandello, p. 153. For a discussion of Schopenhauer’s influences on Pirandello, see Chapter 3, “Influssi tedeschi su Pirandello” in Mathias Adank, Luigi Pirandello e i suoi rapporti col mondo tedesco (Aarau: Druckereigenossenschaf, 1948).

vii Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, translated by E.F.J. Payne asThe World as Will and Representation vol. II, Chapter XVII: (New York: Dover Publications, 1966). Henceforth referred to as WWR. In his “Schopenhauer and Buddhism”, Max Lardner writes: “Schopenhauer’s profound grasp of the essentials of the Dhamma is truly astounding.” German Buddhist Writers : an anthology (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1984) pp. 11-12.

viii attapaṭilābhassa pahānāya dhammaµ desemi: “I teach a doctrine whose aim is the abandonment of self” (D≤ghanakāya 9, Poṭṭhapādasutta). All Pāli translations mine.

ix C. W. Huntington and Geshe Namgyal Wangchen, The Emptiness of Emptiness (Delhi: Motilal Bararsidass, 1992), pp. 56-57 and passim: some italics mine.

x Moscarda will continue to question our ability to comprehend his message throughout the novel, as in VI, iii: “ancora una volta dimostrerete di non aver capito niente.” And in III, x he questions our seriousness: “E sono contento che or ora, mentre stavate a leggere questo mio libretto col sorriso un po’ canzonatorio che fin da principio ha accompagnato la vostra lettura, due visite … siano venute improvvisamente a dimostrarvi quant’era sciocco quel vostro sorriso.”

xi As Weiss observes: “Nous sommes tous isolés et nous nous en apercevons souvent. Mais il ne suffit pas de constater le fait comme tel; il faut aussi qu’une révolte débordante arrache à un moment donné le masque, et c’est ce qui caractérise le conflit pirandellien.” Le Théâtre, p. 42.

xii See Johannes Thomas, “Quale crisi di quale ragione?”, in Pirandello e l’oltre, Atti del XXV Convegno Internazionale (Milano: Mursia, 1991), pp. 331-347.

xiii Ibid, p. 343.

xiv As it does in Pāli. In the Buddha’s language the word “takka” means both “the science of logic” and “doubt”, literally “turning and twisting”.

xv “Ciò che ogni uomo compie durante la propria vita non è altro che una costante costruzione del proprio io: ebbene, per Vitangelo tale costruzione si rivela impossibile, ora che ne ha scoperta l’inautenticità. Allora … comincia una determinata e progressiva opera di de-costruzione di sé: egli non ha altra posssibilità … dal momento che ha scoperto che non ha per sé alcuna realtà”. Giovanna Querci, Pirandello: l’inconsistenza dell’oggettività (Bari: Laterza, 1992), pp. 66-67 (italics mine).

xvi Novelle per un anno vol. II (Milano: Mondadori, 1957), p. 718.

xvii Pirandello, Saggi, poesie, scritti varii (Milano: Mondadori, 1973), pp. 152-153.

xviii Pirandello, Novelle per un anno vol. II, p. 716.

xix Pirandello, Maschere Nude vol. II (Milano: Mondadori, 1958), p. 887.

xx Pirandello argues the same point in “La trappola”: “Ma che vuol dire … darsi una realtà se non fissarsi in un sentimento, rapprendersi, irrigidirsi, incrostarsi in esso? E dunque, arrestare in noi il perpetuo movimento vitale, far di noi tanti piccoli e miseri stagni in attesa di putrefazione …”. Novelle per un anno, vol. I, p. 682.

xxi “Il éclate au moment d’un bouleversement douloureux lorsque la nature instinctive reprend ses droits.” Le Théâtre, p. 42. Weiss has perfectly understood the problem: it is precisely when the insubstantiality of the ego is exposed that it reasserts itself most powerfully.

xxii Similarly, our protagonist is a self-questioner about past, present and future: “Li [quei danari] avevo forse guadagnati io col mio lavoro? Averli ora ritirati dalla banca perché non fruttassero altra usura, bastava forse a mondarli di quella da cui erano venuti? E allora che? buttarli via? E come avrei vissuto? Di che lavoro ero capace? E Dida?” (VI,i).

xxiii As we have taken great pains to show, any assertion of self is untenable; but the puthujjana is also wrong if he says, “There is no self for me”, because his words represent only an intellectual speculation, not something truly realised. In the same way Moscarda, whilst talking to Bibì, prematurely concludes that he has totally lost his identity. But as we see later, he has not yet relinquished the “punto vivo” in him.

xxiv “L’unica possibilità di vita, sembra dire Pirandello, sta nell’accettazione delle maschere; si tratterà di una vita alienata e alienante, ma si tratterà pur sempre di vita. Né Mattia Pascal né Vitangelo Moscarda riescono, però ad accettere tale vita: ad essa preferiscono una parvenza di morte.” Querci, p. 70 ( italics mine).

xxv From “Cerchi l’anima? Leggi Hesse”, L’Espresso, 15 aprile 1994, p. 97.

xxvi As he says at the beginning of the next chapter, “io, già cieco nel sentirmi accosto il calore della sua procacissima persona, veramente non avevo avuto né il tempo né il modo d’accorgermi di come avesse fatto a cavare improvvisamente la rivoltella … Cosicché, non parendomi allora ammissibile ch’ella, dopo avermi attratto a sé, avesse poi voluto uccidermi”.

xxvii From the back cover (Roma: 1994, a cura di Italo Borzi e Maria Argenziano). Emphases mine.

xxviii The Buddha declares in Saṃyuttanikāya III, iv (natumhākavagga, 35): “It is by preoccupation with body, feelings, perceptions, mental constructions and consciousness that one acquires a name.”

xxix Benjamin Crémieux also found this passage to be crucial to an understanding of Pirandello’s work as a whole: “L’être humain idéal est aux yeux de Pirandello celui qui a assez d’agilité psychologique et morale pour mettre en forme chaque minute de sa vie, en prendre pleine conscience et renoncer aussitôt après à cette forme, pour reprendre contact avec la vie la minute suivante. La seule vérité réside pour Pirandello dans cet actualisme psychologique!” Henri IV et la dramaturgie de Luigi Pirandello (Paris: Gallimard, 1928), p. 49.

xxx Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda, Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought, (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1971), p. 38. Similarly, Professor Mario Olivieri writes: “Conoscendo, noi non ci liberiamo perché stiamo … contribuendo a costruire con i nostri modelli e le nostre categorie conoscitive il velo di Maja, nel quale dobbiamo restare avviluppati e accecati. Ecco dunque che l’unico modo di uscirne è uscire dalle attività conoscitive … dal vincolo della soggettività e della volontà costruttrice di illusioni. Dimenticarsi per uscire dalla ruota della esistenza e dal ciclo del dolore e del desiderio.” Letter dated 29 aprile 1996.

xxxi Vitilio Masiello contends: “Questa prospettiva panica su cui si chiude il romanzo … presupppone uno scacco esistenziale … perché si disloca al di fuori e al di là delle forme date, storicamente reali e possibili, dell’esistenza umana …”. “L’identità negata”, Belfagor vol. 49, 1994, p. 532. But from a Buddhist viewpoint, this “dislocation” is exactly what constitutes victory, not defeat.

xxxii From Lettere a Marta Abba, p. 376, dated 9-4-30 (some italics mine). Consider also this passage from a 1933 letter to his daughter Lietta: “Non so s’io vada fuggendo la vita, o la vita me. So che mi sento del tutto ‘distaccato’. Vedo la terra remotissima.” Quoted in Diego Fabri, “Pirandello si confida” ll Veltro aprile 1967, p. 141. And in a 1928 letter to Benjamin Crémieux, Pirandello wrote: “j’ai oublié de vivre, oublié au point de ne pouvoir rien dire, mais exactement rien sur ma vie, si ce n’est peut-être que je ne la vis pas, mais que je l’écris.” Quoted in Dominique Cohen-Budor, “Les Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore, ou le refuge dans l’écriture”, Revue des études italiennes vol. 20 (1974), p. 28.

xxxiii Querci, p. 119. Or, according to Oliver Friggeri, the solution to the problem lies in not solving it: “Il profondo discorso di Pirandello non ha chiusura perché anche nella sua conclusione assume il carattere di una nuova interrogazione … Il dramma continua.” “Pirandello: una visione religiosa dell’infinito” in Pirandello e l’oltre, p. 310. And, according to Giuseppe Petronio, Pirandello and others posed questions that they were incapable of solving: “E’ questo, anzi, uno dei caratteri essenziali del decadentismo … l’analisi dell’uomo in termini non storici ma esistenziali … Il che significa, poi, che questi scrittori—fossero in Italia Svevo e Pirandello … erano cosí invischiati nella cultura e nelle ideologie decadenti, che potevano sí analizzarle e denunziarle, ma dal dietro, incapaci di uscirne o di additare un rimedio.” L’attività letteraria in Italia (Palermo: Palumbo, 1976), pp. 826-827.

xxxiv Richard II: V, v.