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"As best exemplified by the works of Pirandello, Svevo, Palazzeschi, and Gadda, Italian modernist fiction is particularly rich in bizarre and ludicrous characters, whose originality is often derided by a uniform society. On the other hand, laughter can also be used by the author (or by the misfits themselves) as a reaction to the levelling pressure of social life - Pirandello's umorismo, Svevo's irony, Palazzeschi's controdolore, and Gadda's satire are all good cases in point. Looked at from this perspective, early 20th-century Italian fiction can set the basis for an innovative reflection on broader comparative themes. What is the role of laughter and individual diversity in international Modernism? How is modernist eccentricity related to the representations of originality in the 18th and 19th centuries, from Sterne to Balzac and Dostoevsky? And what does it tell us about the fear of homogenisation as a crucial aspect of the modern social imaginary? Building on the analysis of a large corpus of short stories and other major works by the Italian authors at issue, as well as on a series of previously undetected intertextual links with the classics of European Realism, this book is the first systematic attempt at answering such questions. Alberto Godioli is Teaching Fellow in Italian at the University of Edinburgh."