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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

One, No One,
and One Hundred Thousand

Luigi Pirandello

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To purchase One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand

Title: One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand
Author: Luigi Pirandello
Genre: Novel
Written: 1926 (Eng. 1990)
Length: 218 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand - US
One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand - UK
One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand - Canada
Un, personne et cent mille - France
Einer, Keiner, Hunderttausend - Deutschland
Uno, nessuno e centomila - Italia
  • Italian title: Uno, nessuno e centomila
  • Translated and with an Introduction by William Weaver
  • Previously translated by Samuel Putnam as One, None and a Hundred-Thousand (1933)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : enjoyably consuming identity-questioning rabbit-hole

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times . 15/12/1990 Herbert Mitgang

  From the Reviews:
  • "Trying to explain a Pirandello plot is like trying to catch a tiger by the tail or walking with Vulcan on the lava of Mount Etna: dangerous. Put it this way: One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand is Pirandellian." - Herbert Mitgang, The New York Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand is narrated by Vitangelo Moscarda, who is both one and many -- and that's his problem. It hasn't been a problem, but when, one morning, his wife points out that his nose tilts slightly to the right he is floored by the discovery of this long-unnoticed (by him) flaw. His wife doesn't help by immediately pointing out that that's hardly his only flaw, but the tilted nose was enough to set in motion the mega identity-crisis that then unfolds -- and the consequences.
       Moscarda is a twenty-eight-year-old man of leisure. His father ran a bank, and has left him controlling interest in it, but Moscarda is not involved in the business, leaving it to others and living comfortably off the income. He is apparently something of a dilettante, having dabbled in various studies but never seeing them through ("I studied in various fields to a fairly advanced point, before I dropped them" -- including three years studying medicine). Indeed:

I followed all paths. But when it came to advancing, I wouldn't advance. I would pause at every step; I took care to circle every pebble I encountered, first distantly, then more closely; and I was quite amazed that others could pass ahead of me paying no heed to that pebble, which for me, meanwhile, had assumed the proportions of an insuperable mountain, or rather a world where I could easily have settled.
       This mountains-out-of-molehills approach will also mark what become his new obsessions, as he now comes to question the very fundamentals of his identity: he had always seen himself one way, but now realizes he didn't see his true self. Not even close, he thinks, if he hadn't even noticed his flawed nose all these years ..... Suddenly he realizes that that man in the mirror is, in fact, a stranger. It dawns on him:
     Many times I had happened to encounter casually in the mirror the eyes of someone who was looking at me in the same mirror. I didn't see myself in the mirror, and was see; and similarly, the otehr didn't see himself, but saw my face and saw himself watched by me.
       What it boils down to is:
     Still, there is no other reality outside of this, the momentary form we manage to give to ourselves, to others, to things. For you my reality is in the form you give me; but it is reality for you, not for me; your reality, which for me is the form I give you; but it is reality for me and not for you; and for myself I have no other reality except in the form I can give myself. How ? By constructing myself, in fact.
       As he draws the consequences of his new-found understanding, he sees it applying universally -- even close to home. His wife calls him Gengè, and he realizes the Gengè she loves is a creation of her mind -- quite different from the Gengè he sees himself as. He even grows jealous:
not of myself, gentlemen, but of someone who wasn't I, a fool who had come between me and my wife; not like an empty shadow, no -- please believe me -- because he made me, on the contrary, a shadow me !, appropriating my body to make her love him.
       This identity crisis -- of him and everyone seeing themselves and each other in myriad different ways, a mutual misapprehension at the most basic level of understanding of the self and the other -- becomes all-consuming. He sees the entire world, and everyone in it (himself included), through this dizzying kaleidoscopic lens.
       When he doesn't like the widely-held public image of himself in his bank-role -- Moscarda the usurer -- he first tries to counter-act and subvert it, before finally attacking the root cause, and trying to blow up the bank itself, as it were. Not surprisingly, there's soon a growing movement from interested parties, threatened by his actions, to have him declared incompetent. Unsurprisingly, too, his wife, missing the Gengè she was in love with -- the creation of her mind she'd always been able to see Moscarda as --, leaves him. And another woman, after he explains his theory of reality, perception, and identity to her, resorts to even more drastic action, driven to it: "by the instinctive, sudden horror of the act into which she was about to feel drawn by the strange fascination of everything I had said to her" -- a reaction he (and the reader) can hardly fault her for.
       Moscarda's close examination of the self (and the other(s)) is, of course, also an exercise in self-destruction. Naturally, it overwhelms him:
     But what other did I have inside me, except this torment that revealed me as no one and as a hundred thousand ?
       Pirandello's novel is philosophical and metaphysical, a close examination of the fundamental question of how we and others see (and delude) ourselves about ourselves (and others). The narrator is torn:
The capacity for deluding ourselves that today's reality is the only true one, on the one hand, sustains us, but on the other, it plunges us into an endless void, because today's reality is destined to prove delusion for us tomorrow; and life doesn't conclude. It can't conclude. Tomorrow if it concludes, it's finished.
       Eyes opened by his tilted nose, Moscarda is unable to embrace the delusion any longer -- and so he tumbles on and on into the void. Pirandello presents this existentialist crisis quite entertainingly, too, but it is a dark fall.
       A playful, meditative novel, enjoyably seeing its narrator consumed by his obsession.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 September 2018

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One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand: Reviews: Luigi Pirandello: Other books by Luigi Pirandello under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Luigi Pirandello, best known for his plays, lived 1867 to 1936. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934.

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© 2018-2022 the complete review

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