I had to take my younger son to the emergency room this past weekend. Luckily, we were able to rule out more serious concerns with exams, but – until we got the good news that all was well – we had many hours to spend in the ER.

I had thrown into my bag the book he’s reading for school, Luigi Pirandello’s Uno, nessuno e centomila (One, No one and One Hundred Thousand).

I’m a big fan of Pirandello’s plays, and often go to see them performed on stage (even struggling through the dialect in which they are often performed), but it was the first time I read this novel.

My son was in pain and in need of a distraction (and we were in for the long haul), so I read aloud to him from Pirandello as we waited.

This is the story of Vitangelo Moscarda who slowly descends into madness after his wife points out that his nose is slightly crooked, bending slightly to the right. Poor Moscarda goes off the deep end after this, realizing that everyone he meets sees him differently from the image he has always had of himself. According to him, we could have one, none or one hundred thousand profiles to those surrounding us.

This is classic Pirandello (1867-1936), who wrote at the turn of the last century and often explores man’s loss of identity and his sense of self in a rapidly changing society. He often delves into madness, as he does in this novel.

Since the ER had its share of mad people that day, my son and I were able to draw some connections in our surroundings to the words Pirandello put on paper almost one hundred years ago. Plus, we managed a large amount of reading in what would have been a very stressful time.

A century late, perhaps, but thanks to Luigi Pirandello for keeping us well occupied in our ER stay – and attuned to all the Vitangelo Mosardas we observed around us.