Luigi Pirandello

Luigi Pirandello (lwē´jē pērändĕl´lō), 1867–1936, Italian author, b. Sicily. One of the great figures in 20th-century European theater, Pirandello was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature. After an extensive education, he began in the 1890s to write poetry and short stories, many of which reflect his interest in Sicilian folklore. In 1897 he became professor of Italian literature at the Normal College for Women in Rome. Before achieving fame Pirandello had many difficult years. Lack of public recognition, the failure of his father's mining business, and the 14-year-long insanity of his wife may account in part for the pessimism of his work. Pirandello wrote seven novels, among them Il fu Mattia Pascal (1904, tr. The Late Mattia Pascal, 1923) and I vecchi e i giovani (1913, tr. The Young and the Old, 1928), as well as nearly 300 short stories. His fame rests primarily, however, on his intellectual and grotesquely humorous plays. He began writing for the theater during World War I and from that time until his death produced more than 40 dramas. By 1924 his plays were being performed in most of the great cities of the world. The best known include Così è, se vi pare (1917, tr. Right You Are If You Think You Are, 1922), Il piacere dell'onestà (1917, tr. The Pleasure of Honesty, 1923), Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921, tr. Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922), Enrico IV (1922, tr. Henry IV, 1922), and Come tu mi vuoi (1930, tr. As You Desire Me, 1931). The grim humor of his plays flows from their central theme—the shattering search to distinguish between reality and illusion. Reality he saw as an intangible, and what is taken for reality as a series of illusions. Since truth was not ascertainable, man was condemned to live in moral and cultural confusion, or even anarchy. These alienated beliefs may partly explain Pirandello's acceptance of Mussolini as a man of order. Pirandello's works are influential models for later existential drama.

See studies by W. F. Starkie (3d ed. 1965); O. Büdel (2d ed. 1969), R. Matthaei (tr. 1973), A. Paolucci (1974), D. Radcliff-Unstead (1978), O. Ragusa (1980), and A. Caputi (1988).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Characters and Authors in Luigi Pirandello
Ann Hallamore Caesar.
Clarendon Press, 1998
FREE! Three Plays
Luigi Pirandello.
E. P. Dutton, 1922
Librarian’s tip: Includes "Henry IV," "Six Characters in Search of an Author," "Right You Are! (If You Think So)"
The Mountain Giants and Other Plays
Luigi Pirandello; Marta Abba.
Crown Publishers, 1958
The Drama of Chekhov, Synge, Yeats, and Pirandello
F. L. Lucas.
Cassell, 1963
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Right You Are: Cosai Ae (Se Vi Pare)
Luigi Pirandello; Eric Bentley.
Columbia University Press, 1954
Studies from Ten Literatures
Ernest Augustus Boyd.
C. Scribner's Sons, 1925
Librarian’s tip: "Luigi Pirandello" begins on p. 159
Varieties of Consciousness in Pirandello's Henry IV
Fairchild, Terry.
Studies in the Literary Imagination, Vol. 34, No. 2, Fall 2001
High Points in the History of Italian Literature
Domenico Vittorini.
David McKay, 1958
Librarian’s tip: "Pirandello as I Saw Him" begins on p. 254 and "Pirandello and the Concept of Reality" begins on p. 268
Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot
Raymond Williams.
Chatto & Windus, 1952
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "Luigi Pirandello"
World Drama from Aeschylus to Anouilh
Allardyce Nicoll.
Harcourt Brace, 1950
Librarian’s tip: "The Teatro Grottesco: The Predecessors of Pirandello" begins on p. 700
Guide to Great Plays
Joseph T. Shipley.
Public Affairs Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "Six Characters in Search of an Author" begins on p. 502
Theatrical Directors: A Biographical Dictionary
John W. Frick; Stephen M. Vallillo.
Greenwood, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Luigi Pirandello" begins on p. 309
Dictionary of Italian Literature
Peter Bondanella; Julia Conaway Bondanella; Jody Robin Shiffman.
Greenwood Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Luigi Pirandello" begins on p. 454
Living Authors: A Book of Biographies
Stanley Kunitz; Dilly Tante.
H. W. Wilson, 1935
Librarian’s tip: "Luigi Pirandello" begins on p. 323
Pirandello and Alfau
Zangrilli, Franco.
The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring 1993
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