One, No One and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello took a long time to get through, even at 160 pages of very short chapters. (There are 63 chapters in the book, which is translated by William Weaver.)
The story has an unreliable narrator, which is either part of the problem or part of the fun, depending on one’s personal tastes I suppose. (I like an unreliable narrator now and then, myself.) The narrator of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand, Moscarda, Genge to his wife, has come to the realization that no one knows who he really is. Everyone he knows sees him in such a different light, that if they were to describe him to each other, none of them would know who was being discussed. In fact, Moscarda himself no longer recognizes himself in their eyes at all. He has even begun to question his own interpretation of who he is. The man he sees in the mirror is not someone he recognizes anymore. Confused? So was I, but then so is the narrator.
Moscarda’s relationship with his wife sums things up fairly clearly. Moscarda’s wife calls him Genge, and has created a version of Moscarda that she loves. Genge is handsome, caring, dotes on her, is a bit absent-minded, but very, very loving–her ideal husband. The novel’s central conflict comes from Moscarda’s realization that the Genge his wife has been in love with has nothing to do with him. In fact, he becomes jealous of the man she thinks she is kissing when she kisses him. Who is this Genge that his wife loves? Not Moscarda. When he finally tells his wife that she does not know the real him, and tries to reveal the his true self to her, she finds she does not want Moscarda at all. She loves Genge and wants him back. So she leaves him.
This is not an easy situation to get one’s head around. The fact that the narrator may be the clearest thinker in his village or may be going slowly crazy, does not make the book any easier to follow. Still, I enjoyed the struggle. The situations Moscarda ends up in are often comic and suited my sense of humor, at least what I think my sense of humor is. That makes One, No One & One Hundred Thousand a love/hate book. I expect more people will hate it than love it, but there are probably many people out there who’ll find it has much to say to their experience. Maybe 100,000 people, maybe just the one, me. After all, if you live long enough, there will surely come a morning when the face you see in the mirror is just not the same one you saw the day before.
This review makes me want to re-read this book. I first published this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. back in the early autumnof 2008. I’ve been slowly migrating my old reviews over to this new site.