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One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand

No name. No memory today of yesterday’s name; of today’s name, tomorrow. If the name is the thing; if a name in us is the concept of every thing placed outside of us; and without a name you don’t have the concept, and the thing remains in us as if blind, indistinct and undefined: well then, let each carve this name that I bore among men, a funeral epigraph, on the brow of that image in which I appeared to him, and then leave it in peace, and let there be no more talk about it. It is fitting for the dead. For those who have concluded. I am alive and I do not conclude. Life does not conclude. And life knows nothing of names. This tree, tremulous pulse of new leaves. I am this tree. Tree, cloud; tomorrow book or wind: the book I read, the wind I drink. All outside, wandering.


Late Mattia Pascal

Anselmo went on to declare that, alas, human beings are not like the tree which lives without feeling. We are born with a sad privilege—that of feeling ourselves alive. And from this a fine illusion results: we insistently mistake for external reality our inner feeling of life which varies and changes according to the time or chance or circumstance. And for Anselmo this sense of life acts like a little lantern that each carries within, a lantern that makes us see how lost we are and reveals good and evil. This lantern casts a circle of light around us beyond which there is only black shadow. When at the end the light is blown out, will the perpetual night receive us after the brief day of illusion? Or won’t we remain at the disposal of Existence which will merely have shattered our trivial modes of reasoning?




Signora Sirelli [ catching sight of LAUDISI and shaking a finger at him ]. But how is it a man like you, in the presence of such an extraordinary situation, can escape the curiosity we all feel to get at the bottom of this mystery? Why, I lie awake nights thinking of it!

Agazzi. As your husband says, that man's impossible! Don't bother about him, Signora Sirelli.

Laudisi. No, don't bother with me; you just listen to Agazzi! He'll keep you from lying awake tonight.

Agazzi. Look here, ladies. This is what I want -- I have an idea: won't you just step across the hall to Signora Frola's?

Amalia. But will she come to the door?

Agazzi. Oh, I imagine she will! Dina. We're just returning the call, you see . . .

Amalia. But didn't he ask us not to call on his mother-in-law? Hasn't he forbidden her to receive visits?

Sirelli. No, not exactly! That's how he explained what had happened; but at that time nothing was known. Now that the old lady, through force of circumstance, has spoken, giving her version at least of her strange conduct, I should think that . . .

Signora Sirelli. I have a feeling that she'll be awfully glad to see us, if for nothing else, for the chance of talking about her daughter.

Dina. And she really is a jolly old lady. There is no doubt in my mind, not the slightest: Ponza is mad!

Agazzi. Now, let's not go too fast. You just listen to me [ He looks at his wife. ] -- don't stay too long -- five or ten minutes at the outside!

Sirelli [ to his wife ]. And for heaven's sake, keep your mouth shut!

Signora Sirelli. And why such considerate advice to me?

Sirelli. Once you get going . . .

Dina [ with the idea of preventing a scene ]. Oh, we are not going to stay very long, ten minutes -- fifteen, at the outside. I'll see that no breaks are made. Agazzi. And I'll just drop around to the office, and be back at eleven o'clock -- ten or twenty minutes at the most.

Sirelli. And what can I do?

Agazzi. Wait! [ Turning to the LADIES. ] Now, here's the plan! You people invent some excuse or other so as to get Signora Frola in here.

Amalia. What? How can we possibly do that? Agazzi. Oh, find some excuse! You'll think of something in the course of your talk; and if you don't, there's Dina and Signora Sirelli. But when you come back, you understand, go into the drawing room. [ He steps to the door on the left, makes sure that it is wide open, and draws aside the portière. ]. This door must stay open, wide open, so that we can hear you

talking from in here. Now, here are some papers that I ought to take with me to the office. However, I forget them here. It is a brief that requires Ponza's immediate personal attention. So then, I forget it . And when I get to the office I have to bring him back here to find them -- See?

Sirelli. But just a moment. Where do I come in? When am I expected to appear?

Agazzi. Oh, yes! . . . A moment or two after eleven, -when the ladies are again in the drawing room, and I am back here, you just drop in -- to take your wife home, see? You ring the bell and ask for me, and I'll have you brought in here. Then I'll invite the whole crowd in! That's natural enough, isn't it? -- into my office? . . .

Laudisi [ interrupting ]. And we'll have the Truth, the whole Truth with a capital TI

Dina. But look, uncle, of course we'll have the truth -- once we get them together face to face -- capital T and all!

Agazzi. Don't get into an argument with that man. Besides, it's time you ladies were going. None of us has any too much leeway.

Signora Sirelli. Come, Amalia, come Dina! And as ,for you, sir [ Turning to LAUDISI. ], I won't even shake hands with you.

Laudisi. Permit me to do it for you, madam. [ He shakes one hand with the other. ] Good luck to you, my dear ladies.


Agazzi [ to Sirelli ]. And now we'd better go, too. Suppose we hurry!

Sirelli. Yes, right away. Goodbye, Lamberto!

Laudisi. Goodbye, good luck, good luck! [ AGAZZI and SIRELLI leave. LAUDISI, left alone, walks up and down the study a number of times, nodding his head and occasionally smiling. Finally he draws up in front of the big mirror that is hanging over the mantelpiece. He sees himself in the glass, stops, and addresses his image. ]

Laudisi. So there you are! [ He bows to himself and salutes, touching his forehead with his fingers. ] I say, old man, who is mad, you or I? [ He levels a finger menacingly at his image in the glass; and, of course, the image in turn levels a finger at him. As he smiles, his image smiles. ] Of course, I understand! I say it's you, and you say it's me. You -- you are mad! No? It's me? Very well! It's me! Have it your way. Between you and me, we get along very well, don't we! But the trouble is, others don't think of you just as I do; and that being the case, old man, what a fix you're in! As for me, I say that here, right in front of you, I can see myself with my eyes and touch myself with my fingers. But what are you for other people? What are you in their eyes? An image, my dear sir, just an image in the glass! They're all carrying just such a phantom around inside themselves, and here they are racking their brains about the phantoms in other people; and they think all that is quite another thing!