Luigi Pirandello was born on June 28, 1867, at Villa del Caos in Girgenti (now Agrigento), Sicily, and moved to Palermo with his family when he was fourteen. Son of an owner of sulfur mines, Pirandello entered into an arranged marriage in 1894 with Maria Antonietta Portulano, the daughter of one of his father’s business associates. Their first son, Stefano (named after Pirandello’s father), was born a year later; Lietta, a daughter, was born in 1897, and Fausto, a son, in 1899. In 1903, when his father’s mines were flooded and Pirandello’s assets were lost, his wife suffered a shock that progressed into paranoia, finally necessitating her confinement in a nursing home (where she remained for forty years). Until 1919, however, when he consented to the transfer, Pirandello cared for his wife at home, an experience that undoubtedly stimulated the writer’s preoccupation with the distinctions between sanity and madness.
Pirandello was a well-educated man, who studied at the universities of Palermo, Rome, and Bonn. In 1891, he completed a dissertation on his native Sicilian dialect, receiving the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Bonn. In 1898, he accepted a position as a professor of Italian at a normal school, Istituto Superiore di Magistero Femminile, in Rome. Ten years later, he was given that institution’s chair in Italian language.
Pirandello published his first poems as early as 1883; he wrote his first play, “Gli uccelli dell’alto” (birds that fly), in 1886; his first novel, L’esclusa (The Outcast, 1925) in 1901; and he published his first collection of short stories, Amori senza amore (loves without love), in 1894. Until the early 1920’s, Pirandello’s work was known primarily in Italy. He gained international recognition, however, with performances of Six Characters in Search of an Author in Rome, London, New York City, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin between 1921 and 1924. Also active as the first director of the Teatro d’arte di Roma, Pirandello toured Europe, North America, and South America between 1924 and 1928. Pirandello’s frequent travel was followed by residences in Paris and Berlin and by a period of intense creativity. Two years before his death of pneumonia in Rome on December 10, 1936, Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.