1934 : Luigi Pirandello

1934 : Luigi Pirandello

“for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art”

Born

:

June 28, 1867

Place of birth

:

Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

Died

:

December 10, 1936

Place of death

:

Bosio, Rome, Italy

Occupation

:

Dramatist, Author

Nationality

:

Italian

Notable award(s)

:

Nobel Prize in Literature 1934

Biography:

Born on June 28, 1867 in Villaseta of Cavusu, now known Xaos (in any case the etymology of this place, according to the same Pirandello, derived from the Greek word Kaos). In the twentieth century Cavusu / Xaos has become an “against” or suburb of the Sicilian city of Girgenti, why it is prevalent in many texts are given as the birthplace city of Agrigento, and even the neighboring city Porto Empedocle. Luigi Pirandello was the son of Caterina Ricci-Gramitto and Stefano Pirandello, a businessman garibaldino middle class but illustrious descent, investor in the industry sulfide. Both Pirandello as the Ricci-Gramitto were heavily antiborbonicos and actively participating in the movement “Il Risorgimento”, for the democratic unification of Italy. Stefano came to participate in the famous adventure of a thousand, according to Garibaldi at the battle of Aspromonte while Caterina, who barely had thirteen years, due to emigrate with his father to Malta where he had been sent into exile by the reigning Bourbon monarchy. The feelings of disappointment that their parents (especially Caterina) coined after the establishment of unification and its subsequent and traumatic reality, Pirandello draw much of the emotional atmosphere that characterized his writings, especially the novel The old and young. It is also possible that the sense of betrayal and resentment inculcate in the young Luigi the disparity between ideals and reality that stresses in his essay L’Umore ( “The humor”).

Like many children of that time, Pirandello received his basic education in their own homes. Became fascinated by the fables and legends of magical tone that his mentor Maria Stella used to narrate. At the precocious age of twelve wrote his first tragedy. At the insistence of his father enrolled in a technical school education supplemented it with the study of humanities in the gym, for which I felt much more affinity. His childhood was spent between Girgenti (now Agrigento), and Porto Empedocle on the seafront. After being victims of fraudulent schemes the family moved to Palermo in 1880. It was in Palermo where he finished the lyceum, is engaged in the reading of nineteenth-century Italian poetry, especially writers like Giosue Carducci and Graf, began writing his first poems and fell in love with her cousin Lina. During this period begins the first signs of serious contrast to what would separate from his father when Luigi found some correspondence which suggested the existence of an extramarital relationship from Stefano. The young Pirandello began to move closer emotionally to his mother, a relationship which would be transformed into a real reverence that point would have its summit, after the death of Caterina in the deep pages of the novel with COLLOQUIA i Personaggi 1915. His love for his cousin, initially viewed with displeasure, he was suddenly taken very seriously by the family of Lina, who demanded that Luigi abandoned his studies to dedicate himself fully to the administration of family investment in the business of sulfur, so that young people might get married soon. In 1886, during a vacation, Luigi visited sulfur mine in Porto Empedocle and began working with his father, this experience was essential to his work, and their views would be reflected in stories like Il Fumo, Ciaula scopre the Moon, Old and youth. The marriage, which seemed imminent, was postponed and Pirandello enrolled at the University of Palermo in the Departments of Law and Letters. On the campus of the university cultivated the friendship of young ideologues as Enrico La Loggia, Giusseppe De Felice Giuffrida and Francesco De Luca. From there going on in 1887 to the University of Rome, where he stars in a serious incident with a teacher, so it is forced to leave the House of Studies. He moved to Bonn where the doctor on March 21, 1891 with a thesis in German which deals with the Sicilian language. Soon he returned to Italy. On January 27, 1894 in Girgenti marries Maria Antonietta Portulano. The same year published his first book of short stories, Amores without love. Since 1897 teaches Italian literature at the Higher Institute of Teachers. A cataclysm caused irreparable damage in the mine sulfur in which his father had invested its assets and dowry of Maria Antonietta, which will cause serious economic difficulties and a heavy depression. In 1904 published his novel The late Mathias Pascal, possibly based on that traumatic experience, which was a huge success, to be quickly translated into several languages.

Works:

Works in Italian:

Poetry:

  • Mal giocondo, 1889

  • Pasqua di Gea, 1891

  • Elegie renane, 1895

  • La Zampogna, 1901

  • Fuor di chiave, 1912

Short Fiction:

  • Amori senza amore, 1894

  • Quand’ero matto, 1902

  • Beffe della morte e della vita. – 2 vol. – 1902-1903

  • Bianche e nere, 1904

  • Erma bifronte, 1906

  • La vita nuda, 1910

  • Terzetti, 1912

  • Le due maschere, 1914

  • La trappola, 1915

  • Erba del nostro orto, 1915

  • E domani, lunedi, 1917

  • Un cavallo nella luna, 1918

  • Berecche e la guerra, 1919

  • Il carnevale dei morti, 1919

  • La rallegrata, 1922

  • Lo scialle nero, 1922

  • L’uomo solo, 1922

  • La mosca, 1923

  • In silenzio, 1923

  • Tutt’e tre, 1924

  • Dal naso al cielo, 1925

  • Donna Mimma, 1925

  • Il vecchio dio, 1926

  • Il viaggio, 1928

  • Candelora, 1928

  • Una giornata, 1937

Novels:

  • Il fu Mattia Pascal, 1904

  • Il turno, 1902

  • Suo marito, 1911 – (Republished as Giustino Roncella nato Boggiolo in Tutti i romanzi, 1944)

  • I vecchi e i giovani, 1913

  • Si gira, 1916 – (Revised as Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore, 1915)

  • Uno, nessuno e centomila, 1926

Plays:

  • Scamandro, 1909

  • Se non cosi, 1917 – (Republished as La ragione degli altri in L’innesto, 1921)

  • Liola, 1917

  • All’uscita, 1917

  • Pensaci, Giacomino!; Cosi e (se vi pare); Il piacere dell’onesta, 1918

  • Il giuoco delle parti; Ma non e una cosa seria, 1919

  • Lumie di Sicilia; Il berretto a sonagli; La patente, 1920

  • Tutto per bene, 1920

  • Come prima, meglio di prima, 1921

  • L’innesto, 1921

  • Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, 1921

  • Enrico IV, 1922

  • La signora Morli, una e due, 1922

  • L’uomo, la bestia e la virtu, 1922

  • Vestire gli ignudi, 1923

  • La vita che ti diedi, 1924

  • L’altro figlio, 1925

  • La giara, 1925

  • Sagra del Signore della Nave, 1925

  • Cece, 1926

  • All’uscita; Il dovere del medico; La morsa; L’uomo dal fiore in bocca, 1926

  • L’imbecille, 1296

  • L’amica delle mogli, 1927

  • Diana e la Tuda, 1927

  • La nuova colonia, 1928

  • Lazzaro, 1929

  • di uno o di nessuno, 1929

  • Come tu mi vuoi, 1930

  • Questa sera si recita a soggetto, 1930

  • Trovarsi, 1932

  • Quando si e qualcuno, 1933

  • Non si sa come, 1935

  • L’innesto; Sogno (ma forse no); L’amica delle mogli; La morsa; La signora Morli, una e due, 1936

  • Ma non e una cosa seria; Bellavita; La patente; L’altro figlio; Liola; O di uno o di nessuno, 1937

  • All’uscita; La nuova colonia; Lazzaro; La favola del figlio cambiato; I giganti della montagna, 1938

Non Fiction:

  • Laute und Lautentwickelung der Mundart von Girgenti, 1891

  • Arte e scienza, 1908

  • L’umorismo, 1908

Collections:

  • Opere di Luigi Pirandello – Milan: Mondadori, 1956-1960 – 6 vol.

  • Tutti i romanzi – Milan : Mondadori, 1973. – 2 vol.

  • Maschere nude –Milan: Mondadori, 1986-1993. – 2 vol.

  • Novelle per un anno – Milan : Mondadori, 1986-1990 – Milan : Mondadori, 1986-1990 – 3 vol.

  • Tutto il teatro in dialetto – Milan : Bompiani, 1993

Works translated into English:

  • Six Characters in Search of an Author in Three Plays / translated by Edward Storer – New York : Dutton, 1922

  • Three Plays – New York : Dutton, 1922

  • Each in His Own Way, and Two Other Plays – New York : Dutton, 1923

  • The Late Mattia Pascal / translated by Arthur Livingston – New York : Dutton, 1923

  • The Outcast / translated by Leo Ongley – New York : Dutton, 1925

  • Shoot : The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator / translated by Scott-Moncrieff – New York : Dutton, 1926

  • The Old and the Young / translated by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff – 2 vol. – New York : Dutton, 1928

  • The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello / edited by Arthur Livingston – New York : Dutton, 1928

  • Alas You Desire Me / translated by Samuel Putnam – New York : Dutton, 1931

  • Horse in the Moon : Twelve Short Stories / translated by Samuel Putnam. – New York : Dutton, 1932

  • Tonight We Improvise / translated by Samuel Putnam – New York : Dutton, 1932

  • One, None, and a Hundred Thousand / translated by Samuel Putnam. – New York : Dutton, 1933

  • The Naked Truth and Eleven Other Stories / translated by Arthur and Henrie Mayne – New York : Dutton, 1934

  • To Find Oneself / translated by Marta Abba – New York : S. French, 1943

  • No One Knows How / translated by Marta Abba – New York : S. French, 1949

  • The Wives’ Friend / translated by Marta Abba – New York : S. French, 1949

  • Naked Masks / edited by Eric Bentley – New York : Dutton, 1952

  • The Mountain Giants and Other Plays – New York : Crown, 1958

  • The Rules of the Game; The Life I Gave You; Lazarus / edited by E. Martin Browne. – Harmondsworth, U.K . : Penguin, 1959

  • Short Stories / translated by Lily Duplaix – New York : Simon & Schuster, 1959

  • Diana and Tuda / translated by Marta Abba – New York : S. French, 1960

  • Right You Are! (If You Think So), All for the Best, and Henry IV / edited by E. Martin Browne – Harmondsworth, U.K . : Penguin, 1962

  • To Clothe the Naked, and Two Other Plays / translated by William Murray. – New York : Dutton, 1962

  • The Merry-Go-Round of Love and Other Stories / translated by Frances Keene – New York : New American Library, 1964

  • The Late Mattia Pascal / translated by William Weaver – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1964

  • Pirandello’s One-Act Plays / edited by William Murray – Garden City, N.Y. : Anchor, 1964

  • Cap and Bells / translated by John and Marion Field – New York : Manyland Books, 1974

  • On Humor / translated by Antonio Illiano and Daniel P. Testa – Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 1974

  • Tales of Madness : a Selection from Luigi Pirandello’s Short Stories for a Year / edited and translated by Giovanni Bussino – Brookline Village, Mass. : Dante University of America Press, 1984

  • The Late Mattia Pascal / translated by Nicoletta Simborowski – London : Dedalus, 1986

  • Tonight We Improvise; and “Leonara Addio!” / translated by J. Douglas Campbell and Leonard G. Sbrocchi – Ottawa : Canadian Society for Italian Studies, 1987

  • Tales of Suicide : a Selection from Luigi Pirandello’s Short Stories for a Year / edited and translated by Giovanni Bussino – Boston : Dante University of America Press, 1988

  • One, No One and One Hundred Thousand / translated by William Weaver – New York : Marsilio, 1990

  • Pirandello’s Major Plays / translated by Eric Bentley – Evanston, Ill. : Northwestern University Press, 1991

  • The Sounds of the Girgenti Dialect and Their Development / translated by Giovanni Bussino – New York : Peter Lang, 1992

  • The Rules of the Game / translated by David Hare – Bath, U.K. : Absolute Classics, 1993

  • Her Husband / translated by Martha King and Mary Ann Frese Witt. – Durham, N.C. : Duke University Press, 2000

Awards:

1934: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Per Hallstrom, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, on December 10, 1934

The work of Luigi Pirandello is extensive. As an author of novellas he certainly is without equal in output, even in the primary country of this literary genre. Boccaccio’s Decameron contains one hundred novellas; Pirandello’s Novelle per un anno (1922-37) has one for each day of the year. They offer much variation in subject matter as well as in character: descriptions of life either purely realistic or philosophically profound or paradoxical, as often marked by humour as by satire. There are also creations of a jaunty poetic imagination in which the demands of reality give way to an ideal and creative truth.

The common feature of all these novellas is the effortless improvisation that gives them spontaneity, elan, and life. But since the limited scope of the novella demands a particularly strict composition, we also find the result of improvisation. In his hurried treatment of the subject Pirandello may soon lose control, without any concern for the overall impression. Although his novellas reveal much originality, they are hardly representative of the accomplished master; this is readily apparent when one notes the many motifs which were later employed in his dramatic work.

Nor do his novels mark the zenith of his literary achievement. Although his early novels were imbued with the same ideas with which he made his profoundly original contribution to the modern theatre, he reserved the definitive shaping of these ideas for the theatre.

In the short survey that is possible here, we can mention only one of these novels in which a distinctive feature of his concept of our times, his disgust and fear of materialism which mechanizes life, appears most strongly. The novel is Si gira (1916) [Shoot!], titled after a technical term of the cinema, Shoot one. The expression warns the actors when the shooting of a scene begins. The narrator is the one who shoots, that is, the cameraman of a large film industry. He finds a special meaning in his work. For him, life with all its good and evil is reduced to the material of images mechanically produced for a thoughtless pastime; it has no other purpose. The photographic apparatus becomes a demon which swallows everything and unrolls it on the film reel, thus giving it an outward appearance of reality, an appearance which is, in essence, spiritual death and emptiness. Our modern existence revolves and runs with the same lifeless speed, completely mechanized as if it were destroyed and annihilated. The author’s attitude is expressed with extreme intensity. The mere plot is devastating enough.

That is the background of Pirandello’s dramas, limited as they most often are to purely psychological problems. The bitterness of our present era must have had much influence on the plays’ pessimistic philosophy even if this philosophy is based on the author’s nature.

Maschere Nude (1918-21), the title he gave to his collection of plays, is difficult to translate because of its complexity. Literally this expressions means naked masks, but masks usually indicates a bare surface. In this case, however, the word is applied to the disguise which hides one from others and from one’s self and which signifies to Pirandello the form of the selfa surface with an unfathomable being behind it. Veiled masks, analyzed and dissolved with penetrating clarity: this is the portrayal of human beings in his dramas – men are unmasked. That is the meaning of the phrase.

The most remarkable feature of Pirandello’s art is his almost magical power to turn psychological analysis into good theatre. Usually the theatre requires human stereotypes; here the spirit is like a shadow, obscurity behind obscurity, and one cannot decide what is more or less central inside. Finally one racks his brains, for there is no centre. Everything is relative, nothing can be grasped completely, and yet the plays can sometimes seize, captivate, and charm even the great international public. This result is wholly paradoxical. As the author himself explained, it depends on the fact that his works arise out of images taken from life which have passed through a filter of ideas and which hold me completely captive. It is the image which is fundamental, not, as many have believed, the abstract idea disguised afterwards by an image.

It has been said that Pirandello has but a single, idea, the illusory nature of the personality, of the I. The charge is easy to prove. The author is indeed obsessed with that idea. However, even if the idea is expanded to include the relativity of everything man believes he sees and understands, this charge is unfair.

Pirandello’s dramatic art did not at first break with general literary tendencies. He treated social and ethical problems, the conflict between parenthood and the social structure with its inflexible notions of honour and decency, and the difficulties that human goodness finds in protecting itself against the same adversaries. All this was presented in morally as well as logically complicated situations and ended either in victory or defeat. These problems had their natural counterpart in the analysis of the I of the characters who were as relative as the idea against which they were fighting.

In several of his plays it is the idea others have of a personality and the effect they experience from it which becomes the principal subject. Others know us only as we know them, imperfectly; and yet we make definitive judgments. It is under the atmospheric pressure of these judgments that the consciousness of one’s self can be changed. In Tutto per bene (1920) [All For The Best] this psychological process is carried to its conclusion. In Vestire gli ignudi (1923) [To Clothe the Naked] the motif is turned upside down and assumes a moving tragic character. A lost life, an I, no longer finding anything in itself, desires death but, turning entirely to the outside, has a last pathetic wish to have a proper shroud in the beautifying idea which others have of its former being. In this gripping play even Iying appears by its anguish as a kind of innocence.

But the author does not stop here; several of his plays deal with the lie in the world of relativity and examine with a penetrating logic how more or less criminal this lie is. In La vita che ti diedi (1924) [The Life I Gave You] the right to unreality receives beautiful and great expression. A woman, having lost her only son, no longer has anything which holds her to life; yet the very violence of the blow reawakens in her a strength which dispels death, as light dispels darkness. All has become shadows; she feels that not only herself but all existence is such stuff as dreams are made of. In her heart she guards both the memory and the dream, and now they are able to surpass all other things. The son to whom she gave life, who always filled her soul, fills it still. There no void is possible; the son cannot be removed. He remains in her presence, a form she cannot grasp; she feels him there as much as she is able to feel anything. Thus the relativity of truth has taken the shape of a simple and sublime mystery.

The same relativity appears as an enigma in Cosi e (se vipare) (1918) [Right You Are (If You Think You Are)]. The play is called a parable, which means that its singular story makes no pretensions to reality. It is a bold and ingenious fabrication which imparts wisdom. The circumstances of a family, recently settled in a provincial city, become intolerable to the other inhabitants of the town. Of the three members of the family, the husband, the wife, and the mother-in-law, either the husband or the mother-in-law, each otherwise reasonable, must be viewed as seized with absurd ideas about the identity of the wife. The last speaker always has the final say on the issue, but a comparison of the conflicting statements leaves it in doubt. The questionings and the confrontation of the two characters are described with great dramatic art and with a knowledge of the most subtle maladies of the soul. The wife should be able to resolve the puzzle, but when she appears she is veiled like the goddess of knowledge and speaks mysteriously; to each of the interested parties she represents what she must be in order for that person to preserve his image of her. In reality she is the symbol of the truth which no one can grasp in its entirety.

The play is also a brilliant satire on man’s curiosity and false wisdom; in it Pirandello presents a catalogue of types and reveals a penetrating self-conceit, either partially or completely ridiculous, in those attempting to discover truth. The whole remains a masterpiece in its own right.

The central problem in the author’s dramatic work, however, is the analysis of the I – its dissolution in contrary elements, the negation of its unity as illusory, and the symbolical description of the Maschere nude. Thanks to the inexhaustible productivity of his mind, Pirandello attacks the problem from different sides, some of which have already been mentioned.

By sounding the depths of madness, he makes important discoveries. In the tragedy of Enrico IV (1922) [Henry IV], for example, the strongest impression comes from the struggle of the personality for its identity in the eternally flowing torrent of time. In Il giuoco delle parti (19191) [The Rules of the Game] Pirandello creates a drama of pure abstractions: he uses the artificial notions of duty to which members of society can be subjected by the force of tradition with resolute logic for an action completely contrary to expectation. As by a stroke of a magic wand, the game of abstractions fills the scene ith an extremely captivating life.

Sei Personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) [Six Characters in Search of an Author] is a game similar to that described earlier and at the same time its very opposite; it is both profoundly serious and full of ideas. Here unrestrained creative imagination rather than abstraction dominates. It is the true drama of poetic creation; it is also the settling of accounts between the theatre and truth, between appearance and reality. Moreover, it is the half-despairing message of art to the soul of a ravaged age, of fragmentary scenes both fulminating and explosive. This flood of violent feeling and superior intellectuality, rich in poetry, is truly the inspiration of genius. The world-wide success of the play, which proves that it has to some extent been understood, is as extraordinary as the piece itself There is neither the necessity nor the time to recall its magically startling details.

The sceptical psychology on which Pirandello has based his remarkable production is purely negative. If it were adopted by the general public with the same naivete with which new and bold ideas are generally received, it would indeed entail more than one risk. But there is no danger that this will happen. It applies itself to purely intellectual realms and the general public scarcely follows it there. If by chance someone might be persuaded that his I is a fiction, he would soon be convinced that in practice this I does possess a certain degree of reality. Just as it is impossible to prove the freedom of the will, which is however constantly proved by experience, so the I manifestly finds means to make itself remembered. These means are gross or subtle. The most subtle of them perhaps consists in the faculty of thought itself; among others, the thought which wants to annihilate the I.

But the analytical work of this great writer retains its value, especially if compared to several other things to which we have been treated in our time. Psychological analysis has given us complexes, which have spread immense pleasure and joy. They have even been worshipped as fetishes by apparently pious minds. Barbarous fetishes! To a person with some visual imagination, they resemble seaweed entangled in the water. Small fish often hover before this seaweed meditating until, their heads clear at last, they sink into it and disappear. Pirandello’s scepticism protects us from such adventures; furthermore, he can help us. He warns us not to touch the delicate tissue of the human soul in a coarsely dogmatic and blind manner.

As a moralist, Pirandello is neither paradoxical nor destructive. Good remains good, and evil, evil. A nobly old-fashioned humanity dominates his ideas about the world of men. His bitter pessimism has not stifled his idealism; his penetrating analytical reason has not cut the roots of life. Happiness does not occupy a large place in the world of his imagination, but what gives dignity to life still finds enough air to breathe in it.

Dear Dr. Pirandello – Mine was the difficult task of presenting a concise synopsis of your profound literary work. Although such a brief sketch is hardly adequate, I have carried out my charge with pleasure.

May I now ask you to receive from His Majesty the Nobel Prize in Literature, of which the Swedish Academy has deemed you worthy.

Book(s):

Il fu Mattia Pascal

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