Pirandello, Luigi (Short Story Criticism)
Pirandello, Luigi 1867-1936
Italian playwright, short story writer, novelist, essayist, and poet.
One of the most important dramatists of the twentieth century, Pirandello was also a prolific writer of short stories. He planned to write a story for each day of the year and to collect them in a series entitled Novelle per un anno, intended to contain twenty-four volumes, each of which would comprise fifteen tales. In all, Pirandello succeeded in completing two hundred and thirty-three stories before his death. Through this vast body of work, he worked out in many variations the quotidian struggles of characters trying to grasp the significance of life. Early in his career Pirandello was associated with a school of regional realist writers, and many stories are set in the author's native Sicily, with vividly rendered landscapes of sun-baked fields and oppressive sulphur mines. Yet Pirandello's short stories often have a tinge of irony and absurdity as well as an intellectual complexity that sets them apart from the work of typical realist writers. The preoccupations of Pirandello's characters are generally cerebral, and the action of the stories often hinges less on action or a climactic event than on the significance of a word or gesture. Pirandello was awarded international acclaim for the philosophic probing of his plays, and the same themes are found in his short stories, many of which he subsequently adapted for the stage.
Pirandello was born in Sicily to a prosperous sulphur merchant. Although his father initially sent him to study commerce at the local technical institute, Pirandello lacked interest in the subject and transferred to an academic secondary school, where he excelled in oratory and literature. He began writing at a young age, and by the time he was twelve had produced his first play, Barbaro, with siblings and friends. He also wrote poetry and fiction, publishing his first poem in 1883 and his first story a year later. After graduation, Pirandello attended universities in Palermo, Rome, and finally Bonn, where he earned a doctorate in Romance philology. He then returned to Rome, living on a remittance from his father while trying to establish himself as a writer. Here he became a member of the literary circle of Luigi Capuana. Capuana, along with another well-known Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga, followed the precepts of Émile Zola's Naturalism (verismo in Italian) and attempted through fiction to recreate the people, customs, and landscapes of their native Sicily. Though Pirandello's later theoretical writings show that his thought evolved beyond verismo, landscape remained a striking feature of his narrative works. In 1894 Pirandello's father arranged his marriage to Antonietta Portulano, the daughter of a business partner, and the couple settled together in Rome and had three children. Pirandello published his first book of short stories, Amori senza amore (Loves without Love), in 1894. Two novels followed, L'Esclusa (The Outcast), published serially in 1901, and Il Turno in 1902. Then in 1903 Pirandello suffered a dramatic financial reversal when his father's sulphur mine was destroyed in a landslide and flood. His family wealth was wiped out, and the catastophe pushed his wife into mental collapse. Antonietta never recovered, but became paranoid and delusional. Pirandello initially refused to have her hospitalized, and he took refuge from her irrational abuse by escaping to his study to write.
In 1904 Pirandello published his novel Il fu Mattia Pascal (The Late Mattia Pascal) to great acclaim, as well as a volume of short stories. More short story collections followed in 1906, 1910, 1912, 1914, and two in 1915. He also published an important critical work L'umorismo (On Humor) in 1908, and three more novels by 1916. Pirandello began to have success with his dramas also. His first full-length play was performed in 1915, and two Sicilian dialect plays, Pensaci, Giacomino! (Think It Over, Giacomino!) and Liolà, were successfully produced the next year. More plays were staged in the following years, including two which were adapted from his short fiction, Cosí è (se vi pare) (Right You Are (If You Think So)) and La patente (The License). Pirandello's reputation swelled enormously in 1921 with the Rome performance of his play Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (Six Characters in Search of an Author). With this play and Enrico IV (Henry IV) Pirandello came to international fame. Pirandello joined the Fascist Party in 1925 and received government sponsorship to form the Art Theatre of Rome. This company toured throughout Europe and America with productions of his plays. The Art Theatre dissolved in 1928, and Pirandello's plays suffered decreasing popularity. In 1934 Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, while that same year a Fascist claque booed his La favola del figlio cambiato (The Fable of the Changeling) off the stage in Rome. He continued to write short stories up until his death in 1936.
Major Works of Short Fiction
In all his work Pirandello probes the conflicts between reality and appearance, the individual and society, art and life. Influenced by verismo, Pirandello's early fiction unceremoniously exposes the lives of villagers—miners, clerics, olive farmers, an old man captured by bandits, distressed brides and widows—and highlights salient features of Sicilian society: strict Catholicism, an uncompromising code of honor, well-defined social roles, and an underlying violent temperament. He skillfully described the landscape and inhabitants of Sicily in a naturalistic style while simultaneously commenting on the paradoxical and contradictory aspects of life and the restrictions of social identity. Later stories are more overtly philosophical. "Canta l'epistola" ("He Who Chants the Epistle") describes a youth who, after losing his faith in God, develops pantheistic love for a blade of grass. The enormity of the universe and the folly of ordinary people are described through the eyes of the boy, whose behavior—incomprehensible to others—leads to his death. Other stories, such as "War" from The Medals, and Other Stories, are masterpieces of dialogue, with little physical description or narration. The verbal interplay of the characters is so highly developed that Pirandello was able to fashion plays out of some short stories with only minor alterations. The fiction from Pirandello's last years differ from his earlier work. Pirandello toured the world with his theater company, and some later stories are set outside his native Italy, most notably in New York. His very last stories are also surreal and metaphysical. In the story "All'uscita" ("At the Gate"), the dead souls of a philosopher and an obese man converse. The philosopher, as in life, philosophizes, and the stout man too is still interested in the preoccupations of his former life. In Pirandello's last story, "Una giornata" ("A Day"), the narrator lives an entire life in a single, bewildering day, from a strange birth in a train station to old age and death in a dusty armchair. In these final stories Pirandello abandoned his preoccupation with factual reality to explore psychological and metaphysical issues.
Pirandello achieved fame because of his plays, and his reputation still rests principally on his dramatic works. The majority of critical studies since his death have concentrated on his plays, yet he was a popular short story writer in Italy in his day. Many of his stories were first published in daily newspapers, where his novels were also serialized. His short fiction began to appear in English in the 1930s, when his international reputation as a play-wright increased interest in his career. However, no new English translation has appeared since 1965. Pirandello wrote enough for two careers, one as a playwright, one as an author of fiction, and the immense success of his dramas is at least partially responsible for the relative neglect shown his short stories by general readers.
Amori senza amore [Loves without Love] 1894
Beffe della morte e della vita [Jests of Death and Life] 1902
Quand'ero matto [When I Was Mad] 1902
Bianche e nere [White and Black] 1904
Erma bifronte [The Two-faced Herma] 1906
La vita nuda [Naked Life] 1910
Terzetti [Tercets] 1912
Le due maschere [The Two Masks] 1914
Erba del Nostro Orto [Grass from Our Garden] 1915
La trappola [The Trap] 1915
E domani, Lunedi [And Tomorrow, Monday] 1917
Un cavallo nella Luna [Horse in the Moon] 1918
Berecche e la guerra [Berecche and the War] 1919
Il carnevale dei morti [The Carnival of the Dead] 1919
Novelle per un anno. 15 vols. [A Story for Every Day of the Year] 1922-37
*Horse in the Moon 1932
*Better Think Twice about It, and Twelve Other Stories 1933
*The Naked Truth, and Eleven Other Stories 1934
*The Medals, and Other Stories 1939
Short Stories 1959...
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SOURCE: "Stories from Pirandello," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1623, March 9, 1933, p. 164.
[In the following review, the critic extols the collection Better Think Twice about It.]
Thirteen stories from Signor Pirandello's vast output of tales are included in [Better Think Twice about It]. Almost all of them are scenes of Sicilian life, humorous or tragic; and one would have been glad to see some of the other stories, which are equally characteristic and contain many germs of Signor Pirandello's later plays. Nevertheless, this small selection illustrates his mastery of the short story, the queer twist of his humour and the grimness of his tragedy.
Except for the immortal "La Giara," it is not likely that any of these stories are well known in England: in its English dress, however, that comic tale of the avaricious farmer and the old jar-mender who riveted himself up in the oil-jar does not preserve its raciness quite so well as the two tales of husbands and wives, "The Call to Duty" and "The Quick and the Dead." Both are contes drolatiques discreetly told, but the latter is more than a mere anecdote. It tells how a skipper came into port to find a crowd awaiting him with the news that his first wife, who had been reported drowned three years before at Tunis, had come home alive. In the interval the skipper had married her sister, who was about to bear him a...
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SOURCE: "The Short Stories of Pirandello," in The New York Times Book Review, September 9, 1934, p. 2, 12.
[In the following review, Hutchison judges the collection The Naked Truth "truly great, " asserting that Pirandello conveys the messages of his stories very subtly.]
The twelve stories which comprise [The Naked Truth, and Eleven Other Stories] have been selected from the series by Luigi Pirandello called Novelle per un Anno. In adopting what is the title of the second piece as a caption for the collection the translators chose wisely. Signor Pirandello has long been occupied with that illusive matter, truth; discussing the concept from various angles, probing for reality, studying effects. As You Desire Me, as those who saw the play, or the cinema based on the play, will recall, was an ingenious and intensely human dramatization of a highly metaphysical question—namely, what is one's real self? There is less of metaphysical in this dozen of stories than lies behind the play; the tales seem rather to concern themselves with the effect of truth and, still more often, the absence of truth.
It might be argued, therefore, that the collection has a moral purpose, as, indeed, seems to be the case. But Pirandello is an artist, in fact, a consummate artist; if each piece seems to have its separate moral, and to participate in the moral common to them all, there...
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SOURCE: "Luigi Pirandello, 1934 Nobel Prize Winner," in New York Herald Tribune Books, January 6, 1935, p. 3.
[In the following review, Hart hails Better Think Twice about It as a testament to Pirandello's skill as a short story writer, ]
It is probably to the Nobel Prize judges that we owe most of our thanks for getting another batch of Pirandello stories so soon after the appearance of that superb collection The Naked Truth, but a very special bow should be reserved for the publishers, the translators, or whoever selected the contents of [Better Think Twice about It]. The prestige of a literary prize winner can be counted on—for a short time—to bring a certain section of the public running to buy whatever is issued over his name, no matter how inferior and unrepresentative it may be, and more than one publisher has gathered his rosebuds by delving hastily into the past work of the author of the hour and coming forth with whatever his hand touches first. But the publishers have played fair with Pirandello and with old Pirandello enthusiasts and their reward certainly ought to be a whole new host of converts. When I say that the level of these stories is as high as that of The Naked Truth I am making a statement that should work two ways, for any one who has read the former collection will want to get this one and any one who hasn't will want to rectify the error after...
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SOURCE: "Pirandello, Novelist and Short-Story Writer," in Luigi Pirandello, revised edition, John Murray, 1937, pp. 94-126.
[An educator and critic who specialized in the Romance languages, Starkie is best known for his tales of gypsy life, drawn from his own experiences living among them in Europe. In the following excerpt, he provides an overview of Pirandello's short fiction.]
[In the early stage of his literary career, Pirandello could have been classified] as a regional writer interpreting and expressing the customs and mode of life of the inhabitants of his native Sicily. But Pirandello was not fated to continue treading the path of Verga or even Capuana. He soon turned away from describing the folk and its primitive passions, and began to examine morbid psychological problems such as present themselves in the crowded lives of our soul-tormented twentieth century. The rural communities of Sicily with their simple village life did not give Pirandello the opportunity which he ceaselessly demands, of expressing his own torturing doubts and fears; he was not satisfied, as Verga was, with the objective description of character. Pirandello regards each of his characters as a symbol ready to express the distracting ideas that agitate his mentality. He seems perpetually to ask the question, "What is character? Does it exist?" When he looks at an individual he sees him in duple, triple or quadruple, and so...
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SOURCE: A review of The Medals, and Other Stories, in The New York Times Book Review, May 14, 1939, p. 7.
[In this review, Hutchison praises The Medals, and Other Stories, noting that Pirandello's work is distinct from that of other short fiction writers. ]
Strange and eerie, as is everything written by Luigi Pirandello, fabricator of that compelling drama Six Characters in Search of an Author, and of As You Desire Me, which also was put upon the screen, this new culling [The Medals, and Other Stories] from his two hundred short stories is as provocative as all that has gone before. For this winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is not kin to any other writer of fiction, either in the past or in the present. He belongs to no school; his works, whether short or long, whether plays or stories, cannot be pigeon-holed. Pirandello is neither realist nor romanticist. He defies all labels. He does, however, belong very definitely in a certain category of philosophy, although he writes so disarmingly that the reader is conscious at first only of having been immensely entertained.
Put briefly, Pirandello is an idealist in the strictest academic sense. He outdoes Kant himself. He does not pretend to know, and does not care, whether there is a Dingan-sich, a "Thing-in-itself," as Kant averred. But he does insist, as did the Sage of Koenigsberg, that...
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SOURCE: "Italy and England Appear in New Fiction," in The New York Herald Tribune Books, May 21, 1939, p. 6.
[A highly respected American literary critic, Kazin is best known for his essay collections The Inmost Leaf (1955) and Contemporaries (1962), and particularly for On Native Grounds (1942), a study of American prose writing since the era of William Dean Howells. In the following review of The Medals, and Other Stories, he finds the stories for the most part tiresome. ]
Luigi Pirandello spent the first half of his life looking at Italians from a classroom, and the last half giggling at them from Olympian heights. Olympus is not in the Fascist atlas; and that was his good fortune. By identifying all men as freaks, he was saved from feeling for them as citizens of Italy. But this appearance of remoteness, of finding all systems equally vain and damnable in the sight of eternity, was not a form of escape. Pirandello might often have resembled Noel Coward, but he could never have been a Bernard Shaw.
What Pirandello had was a gift of capturing not the great things that men cannot reach, but the little things they will not see. The short end of the telescope became his access to reality. It was as if he had walked so long under the legs of men that the things they betrayed became more important than the principles they declared. This gave him at once his...
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SOURCE: "Pirandello in Retrospect," in Italian Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, Winter, 1958, pp. 19-47.
[Poggioli was an Italian-born American critic and translator. Much of his critical writing is concerned with Russian literature, including The Poets of Russia: 1890-1930 (1960), which is one of the most important examinations of that literary era. In the following excerpt, Poggioli discusses the Italian author Giovanni Verga as the literary progenitor of Pirandello. ]
During the period between the end of the last century and the first World War, two great Italian novelists, and one of them undoubtedly the greatest, were islanders: the Sicilian, Giovanni Verga, and Grazia Deledda from Sardinia. While the best known authors of their generation were striving, often in vain, to approximate universality either by withdrawing from life entirely or by offering their readers refined and frequently false quintessences of life, Verga and Deledda achieved universality almost without conscious effort, by turning toward what to others seemed too humble and restricted a form of existence.
Those who wished to ape Europe or Paris succeeded in being merely provincial. But these two writers, each of whom had no thought but for his own island, amply asserted his full right to enter into the temple of Weltliteratur. They had encompassed universal values by stressing their own regionalism. In...
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SOURCE: Introduction to Short Stories by Luigi Pirandello, translated by Lily Duplaix, Simon and Schuster, 1959, pp. vii-xiv.
[In the following excerpt from an essay written in 1958 as an introduction to the collection Short Stories, Keene perceives Pirandello's stories to be about the human condition.]
Before Pirandello ever wrote a play, he wrote poetry and short stories. The form his thoughts took at their grandest and most expressive—as in Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV—was clearly foreshadowed in the dramatic juxtapositions which characterize his stories, and the tone of the plays at their best has the thin, pure echo of poetry. Thus to know and not merely to skim the works of this uniquely thoughtful dramatist a reader should have access to a fair cross-section of the short stories.
Easier said than done, for Pirandello wrote over three hundred and sixty-five short stories (he once told French critic Benjamin Crémieux that there was "a fair choice of extras for Leap Year"). Collections have been made and will continue to be made since the opera omnia remains untranslated. This book gives an organically sound, perceptive choice and, while not pretending to offer any final distillation, includes stories representative of Pirandello's major themes.
"Obsession" is not too strong a word to describe Pirandello's...
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SOURCE: "Some Words for a Master," in The New Republic, Vol. 141, No. 2341, September 28, 1959, pp. 21-4..
[A longtime editor of the leftist magazine Dissent and a regular contributor to The New Republic, Howe is one of America's most highly respected literary critics and social historians. He has been a socialist since the 1930s, and his criticism is frequently informed by a liberal social viewpoint. In this review of the 1959 collection Short Stories, Howe relates Pirandello's work to nineteenth-century realism. ]
About half a year ago, when a collection of Pirandello's stories appeared in English, I began to read them casually and with small expectations. Like other people, I had once looked into a few of his plays and been left cold; had accepted the stock judgment that he was clever theatrically but lacking in literary range and depth; and had disliked him because of his friendliness to Italian Fascism.
Two or three stories were enough to convince me that here, beyond doubt, was the work of a master. Not all the stories in[Short Stories by Pirandello] are first-rate; some show the marks of haste or fatigue, others are finger-exercises in which Pirandello plays with his main themes yet does not fully release them. But even in the slightest of these twenty-two stories—only one had previously been translated into English—there is that uniqueness and...
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SOURCE: "The Near Tragic," in The Commonweal Vol. LXXI, No. 1, October 2, 1959, pp. 28-9.
[In the following review of Short Stories, Seldin identifies qualities that distinguish Pirandello's successful short fiction from his weaker stories. ]
Most volumes of short stories involve for the reviewer a built-in hazard in that space forbids the particular comment and justice the general. However, these twenty-two stories [in Short Stories by Pirandello] mitigate the difficulty because Pirandello's preoccupation in them, as in his plays and novels, is remarkably constant. Human experience, as he saw it, is at best ironic, at worst not quite tragic, but rather frustrating. For men, who need to communicate, are unheard, misunderstood or, when grasped a little too well, made vulnerable to those who wish them ill.
The stories gain their force from the fact that the anguish their characters endure comes through human acts, willed acts proceeding from motives not fully understood and leading to consequences not entirely foreseen. Pirandello's people, then, are fully men and women, not mechanisms subject to drives nor pawns in the clutches of the doomsters. This is true even of the Sicilian stories in which environment, the impoverished land pockmarked and contaminated by sulphur mines, plays a significant role. In "Fumes," for instance, Don Mattia destroys the green hill he loves to...
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SOURCE: "Pirandello between Fiction and Drama," translated by Glauco Cambon, in Pirandello: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Glauco Cambon, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967, pp. 83-90.
[Leo was a leading German scholar of Romance literature. In the following excerpt from an essay that was originally published in Romanistiches Jarbuch in 1963, he compares the short story "Mrs. Frola and Her Son-In-Law, Mr. Ponza" to its stage adaptation, Right You Are (If You Think So), while asserting that Pirandello's short fiction is more artistically powerful than his dramas. ]
. . . In . . . L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù (Man, Beast and Virtue) we [can see] how the poetical sense of a work of narrative fiction vanished once that work was adapted for the stage, to make room for theatrical animation: the play had not grasped in its essence the short story from which it was derived. In . . . "O di uno o di nessuno" ("Either of One or of No One"), we [can see] that the relevant play, confined as it was to the dramatic genre's only form of speech, i.e., direct discourse, could not do justice to the rich expressive resources of narrative fiction, which include silence, though on the other hand, thanks to the unity of time which is more germane to theater than to a tale the play in question managed to fulfill the structural unity of a given theme much better than the source story had.
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SOURCE: "1910-16. Renewal," in The Structural Patterns of Pirandello's Work, Odense University Press, 1972, pp. 90-121.
[In the following excerpt, Moestrup highlights some of the most significant stories written by Pirandello between 1910 and 1916, a period that the critic perceives as the middle phase of Pirandello's career as a short fiction writer. ]
SHORT STORIES 1910-1916
The short stories of this period will be divided into [separate] groups: first the seven which, by reason of their quality, are superior to the rest; then four that are of almost as high a quality; then the short stories which, though of less aesthetic value, contain important clues as to attitudes and ideas. . . .
Because he has lost his faith, Tommaso Unzio [in "He Sings the Epistle" (1911)] has left the seminary where he was studying. He thus deprives himself of an annuity, which had been given him by an uncle, conditional on his making a career in the church. Tommaso is now without resources and is disapproved of by his family. His father even uses violence in an attempt at giving Tommaso his faith back, and he spends as little time at home as possible. He wanders about in the countryside around his hometown, which is situated on the slopes of Monte Cimino in the north of Latium. On the rare occasions on which he meets people, they make fun of the naïve young man and get him to repeat...
(The entire section is 8508 words.)
SOURCE: "Pirandello's Haunted House," in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. X, No. 3, Summer, 1973, pp. 235-42.
[An Italian-born American educator and critic specializing in Italian literature, Ragusa is the author of Narrative and Drama: Essays in Modern Italian Literature from Verga to Pasolini (1976) as well as book-length studies on Pirandello, Giovanni Verga, and Alessandro Manzoni. In this essay, she explicates Pirandello 's ghost story "Granella 's House " as a commentary on the limits of reason and science. ]
Richard Kelly's recent "The Haunted House of Bulwer-Lytton" (Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 8) calls to mind Pirandello's "La casa del Granella," a story first published in 1905 and which later became part of Pirandello's short story summa, Novelle per un anno. It appears to have been translated into English twice, once with the title of "Granella's House" and the second time as "The Haunted House." Aside from inclusion in collections of Pirandello stories published in the United States and England, it also found its way into Strange to Tell, an anthology subtitled "Stories of the Marvelous and Mysterious," edited by Marjorie Fischer and Rolfe Humphries.
As the second English title reveals, "La casa del Granella" is a ghost or mystery story with at least some of the conventional ingredients of the genre. But early as it came in his career, it...
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SOURCE: "The Jests of Love and Death," in The Mirror of Our Anguish: A Study of Luigi Pirandello's Narrative Writings, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978, pp. 108-22.
[An American educator and critic, Radcliff-Umstead is the author and editor of numerous studies of Romance literature. In the following excerpt, he analyzes some of Pirandello's later short stories, to which the critic attributes a distinctly mythic quality. ]
Several of Pirandello's final novelle—written during the years of his most intense theatrical activity—reveal a desire to evade everyday reality in a higher plane of experience. What was examined in earlier tales like "Quand'ero matto" of 1901 as an escape into insanity became a mythic realm that the novelistic characters longed to enter. The dream world of these later tales recalls the higher reality that the contemporary school of French surrealists wished to explore. Like the poet Paul Eluard, the Italian author endeavored to recreate the death of the ego in a mirror (Eluard's "mirroir sans tain"), which absorbs the conventional personality image. Along with the surrealist school Pirandello accepted the coexistence of contradictory entities within the human psyche. Just as the surrealists turned to the clinical research of Charcot on hysteria, Pirandello had earlier found confirmation in the theories of Marchesini and Binet on the contradictions and multiplicity...
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SOURCE: "Life and Form in Pirandello's Short Prose: An Existential Atmosphere," in Revista/Review Interamericana, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1979-80, pp. 615-21.
[In the following essay, Finch perceives in Pirandello's short fiction a tension between the spontaneity of life and the boundaries—both social and psychological—that humans impose upon themselves. ]
It would be difficult to determine what influence if any Pirandello had on the modern existentialists. However, there can be no doubt that he must be considered a precursor of the modern literary men who propound this philosophy. Thomas Bishop and Erminio G. Neglia both note that Pirandello exemplifies much of the chaos, anxiety, grief and absurdity so central to existential thought [Bishop, Pirandello and the French Theater, 1960; Neglia, Pirandello y la dramática rioplatense, 1970]. Pirandello himself has said [in his essay "On Humor"] that "life is a changing equilibrium, a continuous awakening and slumbering of feelings, tendencies and ideas. It is an incessant fluctuation between contradictory terms, an oscillation between opposite poles: hope and fear, truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, right and wrong, and so on." Even Sartre praised Pirandello as one of the world's most important dramatists, saying that he was well ahead of his times in much of his writings [Sartre, "A Paris et Ailleurs," Les Nouvelles...
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SOURCE: "A Remark on Silence and Listening," in Oral Tradition, Vol. 2, No. 1, January, 1987, pp. 288-95.
[In the following excerpt, Valesio closely examines the short story "Canta l'epistola."]
One of the least known among the many short stories that Luigi Pirandello published in literary magazines around the turn of the century and started issuing in book-length collections from 1901 on is the one titled "Canta l'Epistola" ("He-who-intones-the-Epistle"), a phrase which is the nickname of the defrocked seminarian who is the hero of the little story.
Tommasino, who because of his change of heart has become an object of scorn and ridicule for his father and for the other inhabitants of his village, leads a chaste and solitary life, a life for which the term "contemplation" could be used—with the specification, however, that Tommasino's experience is not a systematically religious one (he has left organized faith), but an asystematic way of looking at, listening to, things.
In the course of his musings, Tommasino concentrates his attention on one single blade of grass, growing wild near a little abandoned church, in a hilly spot he regularly visits in his walks. It is not that he takes care of it in an active way (watering it, for instance): he simply follows its life, rejoicing in its growth and duration. But one day a young lady passes by, sits in that spot and,...
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SOURCE: "Pirandello's Notion of Time," in Canadian Journal of Italian Studies, Vol. 12, Nos. 38-9, 1989, pp. 26-31.
[In the following excerpt, Chomel discusses Pirandello's treatment of the theme of time in several of his short stories. ]
The Pirandellian man, trapped in the flux of time, condemned to endure an incessant chain of transformations, vainly tries to resist time and fix himself in a lasting form. Institutions, traditions, social masks, even prejudices and hypocrisy are but devices he uses in his attempt to stop the flow of time. The time motif punctuates Pirandello's writings from the poetic beginning to the last plays, in different forms and various degrees of intensity. . . .
The novelle, being the result of direct observation of life, communicate to the reader a peculiar sensation of immediacy and authenticity. They are instantaneous pictures of a chaotic reality, inhabited by a variety of individuals caught in a particular moment of their struggle with life. Although in the majority of the novelle the word "time" is not even mentioned, the narrative structure always points to one of the many facets that mirror the same vision of time. Usually, the characters in the novelle appear on the scene with a very light baggage of past memories and disappear without having the chance to manifest their conscious intentions. From the rapid sketch the author draws, we know just...
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SOURCE: "Pirandello's Short Story 'La Rosa' as a Work of Art," translated by Giovanni R. Bussino, in Canadian Journal of Italian Studies, Vol. 12, Nos. 38-9, 1989, pp. 67-73.
[In the following essay, Rauhut analyses the structure, theme, and literary devices of Pirandello's story "The Rose. "]
Because of its significant human value, Pirandello's short story "La rosa" ("The Rose"), first published in La Lettura in November 1914, merits an aesthetic analysis.
For the sake of orientation I will summarize the plot. Lucietta, the twenty-year-old widow of Loffredi (a journalist who was murdered), lives alone with her two children and has to face the problem of supporting herself and them. By winning a competition, she succeeds in obtaining the position of telegraph operator in the small town of Pèola. In the drowsy village the attractive young woman becomes a stimulating element. From the very beginning Fausto Silvagni, the thirty-five-year-old town secretary, courts her. She accepts his invitation to the local club's annual ball. The ball provides the unfortunate woman with a happy and thrilling evening, which she enjoys in all innocence, while the young men of the town press around her with passionate interest. When the rose she is wearing in her hair falls to the floor, it is picked up and returned to her, and she is told to present the flower to a man of her choice. The erotically...
(The entire section is 3470 words.)
SOURCE: "Luigi Pirandello as Writer of Short Fiction and Novels," in A Companion to Pirandello Studies, edited by John Louis DiGaetani, Greenwood Press, 1991, pp. 344-67.
[In this excerpt, Radcliff-Umstead employs two examples, "The Journey" and "Happiness," to illustrate his assertion that Pirandello 's focus in his stories is "the failure or success of his fictional characters to reach an accord with life. "]
Before his death Pirandello hoped to write a novella for each day of the year and to gather them in the series Novelle per un anno (Stories for a year). By 1937, the year after the writer's death, fifteen volumes had appeared in print. In all the author succeeded in completing 233 tales. The earliest story dates from his seventeenth year, and the final surrealistic dream stories belong to the last five years of the writer's life. Before being included in volumes, many of the tales originally appeared on the story page of major daily Italian newspapers like Milan's Corriere della sera as well as the provincial Giornale di Sicilia. The writer directed his stories to a reading public of the professional and semi-professional middle class, for whom the novellas were intended as little mirrors of their aspirations and frustrations.
In composing his tales, Pirandello had behind him the long Italian narrative tradition of novelistic art that arose in the late...
(The entire section is 3152 words.)
SOURCE: "Nature as Structural-Stylistic Motive in Novelle per un anno," in A Companion to Pirandello Studies, edited by John Louis DiGaetani, Greenwood Press, 1991, pp. 385-95.
[In the following essay, Vitti-Alexander maintains that a symbolic connection exists between Pirandello's characters and nature as it is depicted in his stories.]
In the preface to Six Characters in Search of an Author, Pirandello calls himself a philosophical writer because he aims to give his "figure, vicende, paesaggi" (characters, vicissitudes, landscapes) a universal value, a "patricolare senso della vita" (a particular sense of life). Driven by a "profondo bisogno spirituale" (a profound spiritual need), he continually probes, dissects, and analyzes everything, be it man, vicissitude, or nature.
This [essay] shows how nature in the Pirandellian short stories does not stand alone, for a "paesaggio" (landscape) is not presented "per il solo gusto di descriverlo" (for the simple reason of a mere description). Rather, it acts within the limits of narration, as a structural motive, almost always a catalyst for the action of the characters. In several short stories, the character finds the only possibility of development—that is, escaping his present predicament—through a specific reference to nature. In other stories, nature becomes an important tool for emphasizing the characters, and in so...
(The entire section is 5096 words.)
SOURCE: "Women's Marginality and Self-Obliteration in Some of Pirandello's Novelle," in Forum Italicum, Vol. 27, Nos. 1-2, Spring-Fall, 1993, pp. 204-13.
[In the following excerpt, Di Paolo assesses Pirandello's characterizations of women in his short stories, finding them stereotypical and limited in variety. ]
When reading Pirandello's novelle (and his other works as well), we become more and more convinced that his female characters convey traditional myths, which can broadly be so identified: woman as Flesh, as Nature, as Muse. Under these categories we encounter images of women in a variety of roles common to a male-dominated tradition. The most common among them are those of mother, caretaker, and fallen woman. Consequently, I intend to discuss here some novelle not only because they are important in themselves, but because, more than others, they illustrate modes of discourse in which both narrator and narratee are, in one way or another, engaged in some kind of gender-inflected dialogue. These novelle have a common theme—the marginality of women. As we shall see, women are outsiders, "escluse," totally dependent upon men for support and approval.
Let us first examine "La veste lunga." The narrative perspective of this story—as well as that of the others to be discussed here—is third-person limited (also called selective omniscience), and the...
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Guidice, Gaspare. Pirandello: A Biography, translated by Alastair Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975, 221 p.
Abridged translation of the standard critical biography.
Aste, Mario. "Two Short Stories of Pirandello: Their Sources and Their Relationship to the Essay Umorismo." Perspectives on Contemporary Literature 1 (1981): 64-72.
Traces two fables by Pirandello to several literary and folklore sources, and considers the fables in light of Pirandello's philosophy of humor as it is detailed in L'umorismo.
Brooks, Cleanth, and Warren, Robert Penn. "Luigi Pirandello: 'War.'" In their Understanding Fiction, Meredith Corporation, 1959, pp. 155-58.
Brooks and Warren analyze Pirandello's short story "War," which is also translated and reprinted here.
Jepson, Lisa. "Filling Space: The Trauma of Birth in Pirandello's Existential Novelle." Italica 68, No. 4 (Winter 1991): 419-33.
Perceives psychological and existential imagery in Pirandello's short stories. Jepson states: "Pirandello's novelle offer a unique portrayal of the phenomenological struggle to construe meaning and secure freedom despite the physical and psychological limitations the human condition imposes upon the individual."
May, Frederick. An...
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