Luigi Pirandello 1867 - 1936
Le opere integrali. Riassunti,
Italian author, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1934 for his "bold and brilliant renovation of
the drama and the stage."
Pirandello's works include novels,
hundreds of short stories, and c. 40 plays, some of which
are written in Sicilian dialect. Typical for Pirandello is
to show how art or illusion mixes with reality and how
people see things in very different way - words are
unrealiable and reality is at the same time true and false.
Pirandello's tragic farces are often seen as forerunners for
theatre of the absurd.
man will die, a writer, the instrument of creation: but what
he has created will never die! And to be able to to live for
ever you don't need to have extraordinary gifts or be able
to do miracles. Who was Sancho Panza? Who was Prospero?
they will live for ever because - living seeds - they had
the luck to find a fruitful soil, an imagination which knew
how to grow them and feed them, so that they will live for
ever." (from Six Characters in Search of an Author,
Luigi Pirandello was born in Caos, near Girgenti, on the
island of Sicily, which was to be the inspiration of his
"I am a child of Chaos and not only allegorically,"
he said in his biographical sketch. Pirandello's father,
Stefano Ricci-Gramitto, owned a prosperous sulfur mine.
childhood Pirandello spent in modest weath in Girgenti (today
called Agrigento) and Palermo, surrounded by nurses and
servants, and enjoying the adoration of his mother.
teens Pirandello showed literary talents, but he first
planned to study law.
However, his father, intended his son
to become a businessman.
In 1887 Pirandello entered the
University of Rome, from where he was expelled for offending
a Latin professor, and then transferred to the University of
Bonn, Germany, receiving his doctoral degree in Roman
philology in 1891.
Pirandello's dissertation, written in
Germany, dealt with the dialect of his native region.
After having a liaison with his cousin Linuccia, which his
father did not approve, Pirandello started his career as a
writer. "Blessed is he who can stop halfway and before old
age comes on can marry illusion and preserve it lovingly,"
Pirandello wrote in 1887 in a letter of his future plans.
In Rome, where he had settled with a montly allowance from his
father, Pirandello translated Goethe's Roman Elegies,
wrote ELEGIE RENANE (1895), and published two collections of
poetry, and a collection of short stories, AMORI SENZ'AMORE (1894).
In 1898 he became a professor of Italian literature
at a teacher's college for women, and worked there for 24
years. L'ESCLUSA (1901) was Pirandello's first full-length
novel. In the ironical story the protagonist suspects that
his wife is unfaithful and takes her back after the adultery
has actually occurred.
Pirandello had married in 1894 Antonietta Portulano, a
fellow Sicilian and the daughter of his father's business
associate. She suffered mental breakdown in 1904.
condition steadily worsened - she became insane with a
jealous paranoia - the illness deeply influenced
During World War I, both of
Pirandello's sons were captured as prisoners of war.
his wife's illness got worse, Pirandello was forced to place
her in 1919 in a mental institution.
When the collapse of the sulfur mines destroyed the family
business, Pirandello had to turn his writing into a
financially profitable activity.
In 1904 Pirandello gained
his first literary success with the novel IL FU MATTIA
Its antihero, Mattia Pascal, is mistakenly declared
dead. Offered an opportunity to start life over again, he
escapes from his family.
In Montecarlo Mattia wins a
fortune, but his newly found freedom turns sour and he must
return to his hometown, to his past he had hoped to leave
"I can't really say that I'm myself," he thinks. "I
don't know who I am. . . . I am the late Mattia Pascal."
the following decades the questions "who am I?" and "what is
real?" became central in Pirandello's fiction.
E CENTOMILA (1925-26, One, None, and Hundred-Thousand), a
story about husband's descend into madness, owed more to
Freud than Gogol.
His despair starts when his wife comments
a slight defect on his nose - it tilts to the right.
Pirandello started to write plays as early as in the 1880s,
but he first considered the stage insensitive medium
compared to the novel. After 1915, Pirandello concentrated
on the theater and wrote until 1921 sixteen dramas.
RAGIONE DEGLI ALTRI (1915) was Pirandello's first three-act
play. It did not gain much understanding, but through the
performances of the actor Angelo Musco (1892-1937) his work
started to attract attention.
His ideal female lead
Pirandello found in Marta Abba, for whom he wrote several
plays, among them DIANA E LA TUDA (1926, Diana and Tuda),
L'AMICA DELLE MOGLI (1927, The Wives's Friend), and COME TU MI VUOI (1930,
As You Desire Me). Pirandello also engaged
her for his own company, the Teatro d'Arte di Roma, and formed a relationship with her, documented in
Pirandello's Love Letters to Martha Abba (1994).
COSI È (SE VI PARE) (Right You Are - If You Think You Are),
published in 1918, marked Pirandello's interest in the
examination of the relativity of truth. The story was about
a woman whose identity remains hidden and who could be one
of the two very different people.
SEI PERSONAGGI IN CERCA
D'AUTORE (1921, Six Chracters in Search of An Author) asked
the question, can fictional characters be more authentic
than real persons, and what is the relationship between
imaginary characters and the writer, who has created them. Six Characters in Search of an Author consists of
In rehearsal preparations of a
theatrical company are interrupted by the Father and his
family who explain that they are characters from an
unfinished dramatic works.
They want to interpret again
crucial moments of their lives, claiming that they are "truer"
than the "real" characters.
"How can we understand each
other if the words I use have the sense and the value I
expect them to have, but whoever is listening to me
inevitably thinks that those same words have a different
sense and value, because of the private world he has inside
himself too. We think we understand each other: but we never
do," says the Father.
He tells that he has helped his wife
to start a new life with her lover and the three
illegitimate children born to them.
The Wife claims that he
forced her into the arms of another man.
accuses the Father for her shame - they met before in Mme
Pace's infamous house, and he did not recognize her. She was
forced to turn to prostitution to support the family.
Son refuses to acknowledge his family and runs into the
garden. He shots himself and the actors argue about whether
the boy is dead or not. The Father insists that the events
The Producer says: "Make-believe?! Reality?! Oh,
go to hell the lot of you! Lights! Lights! Lights!" and The Stepdaughter escapes into the audience laughing maniacally.
Six Chracters in Search of An Author created a
scandal when it was first performed in Rome, but it was
hailed as a masterpiece in Paris, innovatively produced by
Georges Pitoëff. G.B. Shaw praised it as the most original
ENRICO IV (1922, Henry IV, known in the United
States as The Living Mask), premiered in Milan, received
much better reception.
The play told about a man who has
fallen from his horse during a masquerade and starts to
believe he is the German emperor Henry IV. To accommodate
his illness his wealthy sister has placed him in a medieval
castle surrounded by actors dressed as eleventh-century
courtiers. The nameless hero regains his sanity after twelve
years, but decides to pretend he is mad.
With the trilogy Six Characters in Search of An Author,
in which the characters of the title are called into
existence by a writer, CIASCUNO A SUO MODO (1924) and QUESTA
SERA SI RECITA A SOGGETTO (1930), Pirandello revolutionized
the modern theatrical techniques.
A second trilogy, LA NUOVA
COLONIA (1928), LAZZARRO (1929), and I GIGANTI DELLA
MONTAGNA (1934, The Mountain Giants) moved from the limits
of truth-telling to the reality outside of art. The
Mountain Giants was left unfinished. It portrayed a
magician, who lives in an abandoned villa. A theatrical
company decides to perform at a celebration given by the 'Giants
of the Mountain'.
The barbaric audience tears two of the
actors to pieces and kills one of the directors of the
Pirandello once said: "I hate symbolic art in which the
presentation loses all spontaneous movement in order to
become a machine, an allegory - a vain and misconceived
effort because the very fact of giving an allegorical sense
to a presentation clearly shows that we have to do with a
fable which by itself has no truth either fantastic or
direct; it was made for the demonstration of some moral
truth." (from Playwrights on Playwriting, ed. by Toby
Pirandello's central themes, the problem of
identity, the ambiguity of truth and reality, has been
compared to explorations of Henrik Ibsen and August
Strindberg, but he also anticipated Beckett and Ionesco.
of the earliest formulations of his relativist position
Pirandello presented in the essay 'Art and Consciousness
Today' (1893), in which he argued that the old norms have
crumbled and the idea of relativity deprives "almost
altogether of the faculty for judgment."
A central concepts
in his work is "naked mask", referring our social roles and
on the stage the dialectic relationship between the actor
and the character portrayed.
In Six Characters the
father points out, that a fictional figure has a permanence
that comes from an unchanging text, but a real-life person
may well be "a nobody". Pirandello did not only restrict his
ideas to theatre acting, but noted in his novel SI GIRA
(1915), that the film actor "feels as if in exile - exiled
not only from the stage, but also from himself."
1923 Pirandello requested membership in the Fascist party
and obtained Mussolini's support in founding the National
Art Theatre of Rome (Teatro d'Arte di Roma).
company was closed in 1928 on grounds of financial problems.
In 1934 Pirandello's libretto for Gian Francesco Malipiero's
opera The Fable of the Changeling was criticized by
the Fascist authorities. Pirandello had first seen in
Mussolini a man committed to the facts rather than theory,
but later he described Mussolini as "as top hat, and empty
top hat that by itself cannot stand upright".
critical towards the regime, he did not support the
Ethiopian invasion by Italy.
Pirandello died in Rome on
December 10, 1936.
Pirandello's influence can be seen on such European and
American writers as Jean Anouilh, Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel
Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, Eugene O'Neill, and
Edward Albee. In Latin America, Jorge Luis Borges's
questioning of the nature of identity have much in common
with Pirandellian themes.
Several of Pirandello's works have
been adapted into screen, including As You Desire Me
(1932), starring Greta Garbo, L'homme de nulle part
(1937), based on the novel The Late Mathias Pascal
and directed by and Pierre Chenal. Kaos, directed by
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1984), was based on the author's
four Sicilian stories.
For further reading: Characters and Authors in Luigi
Pirandello by Ann Caesar (1998); Luigi Pirandello,
1867-1936, His Plays in Sicilian by Joseph F. Privitera
(1998); Luigi Pirandello: The Theatre of Paradox, ed.
by Julie Dashwood (1997); Ars dramatica: Studi sulla
poetica di Luigi Pirandello by Rena A. Lamparska (1997);
Understanding Luigi Pirandello by Fiora A. Bassanese,
James N. Hardin (1997); Pirandello & Film by Nina
Davinci Nichols, et al (1995); A Companion to Pirandello
Studies, ed. by John Louis Digaetani (June 1991);
Moments of Selfhood by James V. Biundo (1990); Luigi
Pirandello by S. Bassnett-McGuire (1983); Luigi
Pirandello: an Approach to his Theatre by O. Ragusa
(11000); Dreams of Passion: The Theater of Luigi
Pirandello by R, Oliver (1979); Introduzione alla
critica pirandelliana by A. Illano (1976);
Pirandello: a Biography by G. Giudice (1975);
Pirandello fascista by G.F. Vené (1971); Luigi
Pirandello by G. Giudice (1963); L' arte di Luigi
Pirandello by F. Puglisi (1958); Playwrights on
Playwrighting, ed. by Toby Cole (1961); Luigi
Pirandello by L. Ferrante (1958); Luigi Pirandello
by L. Baccalo (1949); L' Uomo segreto by F.V.
Nardelli (1944); L'opera di Luigi Pirandello by M. Lo
Vecchio Musti (1939) - Suomeksi Pirandellolta on käännetty
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