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Pirandello, Luigi

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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(1867-1936) Italian playwright and author whose prolific career began with poetry – Mal Giocondo ["Unhappy Joy"] (coll 1889) – and continued with a large amount of short fiction, beginning with Amori senza Amore (coll 1894). Many of his circa 400 stories and sketches, many of them Contes-Cruels [for this term, plus entry on Pirandello with fantasy linkings, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], are set in Sicily, and render starkly a vision of Sex and marriage in terms of psychic and physical Tortures. Some of the tales assembled in Tales of Madness: A Selection from Luigi Pirandello's Short Stories for a Year (coll trans Giovanni R Bussino 1984) have fantastic content; but most of his fiction is set desolately in this world, as are all his novels, even Si gira ... (Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio Operatore) (1916; trans C K Scott Moncrieff as Shoot!: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio Cinematograph Operator 1926), an extremely early metaphysical exploration of the nature of the film experience (see Cinema; Perception). His last novel, Uno, nessuno e centomila ["One, No One and One Hundred Thousand"] (1925-1926 Fiera Letteraria; 1926), can conventionally be understood as metaphor-based, but perhaps more interestingly can be read as presenting a theatrical confrontation of Doppelgangers, who as an ensemble fail to add up to a portrait of the protagonist.

Pirandello remains most famous for his forty-four plays, several of which are readily describable as Modernist exercises in Fantastika; most were first printed in an ongoing, frequently revised sequence, sometimes comprising individual titles later assembled into larger volumes, all under the overall title Maschere Nude ["Naked Masks"] (1920-1949) [for further details, and full translation details for plays throughout, see Checklist below]. The greatest – certainly the most famous – of these is probably Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (performed 1921; 1921; trans Edward Storer as Six Characters in Search of an Author in Three Plays coll 1922); it is a seminal exploration of the relationship between art and reality – between mask and the naked self – which cannot be understood in any simple terms as fantasy, though supernatural elements join in the affray. Six characters – who have some ghost-like characteristics – invade rehearsals for an already written Pirandello drama in search of an author, as they have been abandoned halfway through their own story by the author who originally created them. The resulting tragicomic interplay between actors and characters becomes indissolubly confused, for reality is simultaneously evanescent and fixed in art; within the drama itself, the author never appears, the Godgame is declined.

Further dramas of interest include: All'uscita (performed 1922; 1949; trans Blanche Valentine Mitchell as At the Exit in The One-Act Plays of Luigi Pirandello coll 1928 US), a Posthumous Fantasy; La nuova Colonia (performed 1928; 1928; trans Marta Abba as The New Colony 19--), in which an Island Utopia founders through sexual jealousies and greed, the island in the end sinking literally into the sea; Lazzaro ["Lazarus"] (performed 1929; 1929), a Posthumous Fantasy in which a repressive puritan loses his faith through dying, experiencing nothingness there, and is then reborn through an sf-like medical intervention (see Medicine); Quando si è qualcuno (performed 1933; 1933; trans Marta Abba as When One is Somebody 1956) in which a famous multi-tasking writer is literally metamorphosed by his fame into stone; La favola del figlio cambiato ["The Changeling"] (1933; performed 1934;), a political Satire, composed as libretto for opera by Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973); and I giganti della montagna (1931-1932 var mags; performed 1937; 1938; trans Marta Abba as title play in The Mountain Giants and Other Plays 1958; new trans Charles Wood 1993), a complex unfinished drama set in a mountain Keep or Edifice [for Edifice and Posthumous Fantasy above see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], whose grotesque inhabitants interact with a troupe of travelling players, demanding that they perform something other than Pirandello's own The Changeling for the mysterious, unseen giants (see Great and Small) who require servile entertainments and who tear apart those who do not please them. But the actors cannot fulfil the needs of the gods, and their chief is duly dismembered. It is difficult not to understand the play as an anxious foretelling just this side of World War Two of things to come, and as a revelation of the true monstrousness of the Fascist regime to which, with testy hauteur, he had attempted to be loyal. Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934. [JC]

Luigi Pirandello

born Càvusu, Girgenti, Sicily, Italy: 28 June 1867

died Rome: 10 December 1936

works (highly selected)



Again highly selected: translations are separately listed when possible, rather than concentrated as omnis, for convenience. The Maschere Nude ["Naked Masks"] series designation was incorporated on Pirandello's instructions into original printings of individual plays (as well as to assembled editions) beginning in 1920 with Tutto per bene ["All for Good"] (not listed below). Most of the first twenty-five volumes were published by R Bemporad; all subsequent volumes, beginning in 1929 with Lazzaro [see Checklist below], were issued by A Mondadori.

  • Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (Florence, R Bemporad and Figlio, 1921) [play: first performed 10 May 1921 Teatro Valle, Rome: in the publisher's Maschere Nude series of Pirandello releases: pb/nonpictorial]
  • All'uscita (Florence, Italy/R Bemporad and Figlio/Milan, Italy: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1926) [play: in coll containing added short plays: first performed 29 September 1922 Teatro Argentina, Rome: in the publisher's Maschere Nude series of Pirandello releases: pb/nonpictorial]
  • La nuova Colonia (Florence, Italy: R Bemporad and Figlio, 1928) [play: first performed 24 March 1928 Teatro Argentina, Rome: in the publisher's Maschere Nude series of Pirandello releases: binding unknown/]
    • The New Colony (no place given: publisher unknown, 19--) [play: trans by Marta Abba of the above: binding unknown/]
  • Lazzaro: Mito in tre atti ["Lazarus: a Myth in Three Acts"] (Milan, Italy: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1929) [play: first performed 9 July 1929 Theatre Royal, Huddersfield, Yorkshire: in unpublished English trans by C K Scott Moncrieff: in the publisher's Maschere Nude series of Pirandello releases: pb/]
  • Quando si è qualcuno: rappresentazione in tre atti (Milan, Italy: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1933) [play: performed 7 November 1933 Odeon Theatre, Buenos Aires, Argentina: in the publisher's Maschere Nude series of Pirandello releases: pb/nonpictorial]
  • La favola del figlio cambiato ["The Changeling"] (Milan, Italy: G Ricordi and Company, 1933) [opera libretto: score by Gian Francesco Malipiero: first performed 13 January 1934 Braunschweig, Germany as Die Legende von Vertauschten Sohn, trans Hans Redlich: binding unknown/]
  • I giganti della montagna in Maschere nude (Vol X) (Milan, Italy: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1938) [play: written circa 1931-1932: first performed 5 June 1937 Boboli Gardens, Florence: in the publisher's Maschere Nude series of Pirandello releases: binding unknown/]

about the author

  • Susan Bassnett. File on Pirandello (London: Methuen Drama, 1989) [nonfiction: chap: pb/uncredited photo of Pirandello]


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