Step 4 of 5
Just myself and my shadow
“Decalcomania” - Rene Magritte - 1966 - Magritte Gallery
Nobody at all. Just myself and my shadow on this earth. I’ve dragged my shadow about, here and there, constantly, never stopping this long before in any one place, never long enough to form a lasting friendship.
This Italian modernist novel is about a man called Mattia Pascal. One day, he decides to leave town for a few days to go where the road will take him. He ends up gambling, and against all odds he wins a fortune. While on the train back to his hometown, he reads the paper and is shocked by what he reads. He learns that he, Mattia Pascal, has been pronounced dead after a waterlogged corpse had been identified as Mattia Pascal. He double-checks the news when he arrives in his hometown and it turns out to be true. Sick and tired of his old life as Mattia Pascal, he decides to start a new life as Adriano Meis. He escapes his old life problems and starts anew with more freedom, hope and a lot of money. However, in an unfortunate turn of events the life of Adriano Meis doesn’t turn out to be the great life that he’d always dreamed about, and he feels lonely. That is when he says: “Nobody at all. Just myself and my shadow on this earth. I’ve dragged my shadow about, here and there, constantly, never stopping this long before in any one place, never long enough to form a lasting friendship”.
Questions about identity, meaning, life and death go on and on in his head as he tries to figure out who Adriano Meis is and how much he also still is Mattia Pascal. The duality about identity that Mattia/Adriano faces is metaphorically explained in the novel using Mattia Pascal’s shadow. The metaphor comes up quite a few times in the novel and always weighs heavily on the thoughts of Mattia Pascal: