Characters and Authors in Luigi Pirandello

Characters and Authors in Luigi Pirandello

Characters and Authors in Luigi Pirandello

Characters and Authors in Luigi Pirandello

Synopsis

Luigi Pirandello is best known in the English-speaking world for his radical challenge to traditional Western theatre with plays such as Six Characters in Search of an Author. But theatre is just one manifestation of his experiments with language which led to a remarkable collection of novels, short stories, and essays as well as his work for a film industry then in its infancy. This study, which is based on the view that Pirandello's writings are most fruitfully discussed in a European context, takes as its starting-point the author's belief in the primacy of the literary character in a creative process which is necessarily conflictual. The book argues that all Pirandello's characters are engaged in a continual performance which transcends the genre distinction between narrative and dramatic forms. In this performance it is the spoken word in which the characters invest most heavily as they struggle to sustain an identity of their own, tell their life-stories, and assert themselves before their most prominent antagonist, the author himself.

Excerpt

Luigi Pirandello is known primarily in the English-speaking world for his contribution to modern European drama with plays such as Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore and Enrico IV. What is less well known is that he was also a prolific writer of essays, poetry, short stories, novels, and even film-scripts: indeed he himself believed that writing for the stage was no more than a temporary aberration which would not long delay his return to narrative.

Studies of Pirandello's work in English have usually given priority to his plays, choosing to read his other writings as an apprenticeship for his vocation as dramatist. In recent years in his native Italy on the other hand, there has been a keen awareness of the innovative nature of his narrative writing as a whole and in particular of his short stories and novels.

I set out in this book with the intention of discussing Pirandello's work across the genres without giving any one practice a special weighting. He was a restless writer who not only experimented with different literary forms, but who also refused to allow himself to be coerced into respecting the limits of any one genre. The concept of the 'well-made' work, be it novel, play, or essay, was abhorrent to him. From his earliest work as a student in Bonn through to his last years as an international celebrity and Nobel prize winner he detested rules, canons, anything that sought to define and by that definition contain the impulse of the creative moment. It soon became evident that the force driving the work forward was the character him- or herself. It also became clear that the relationship as Pirandello presented it between author and character was not a happy one, being neither mutually supportive nor collaborative. More often than not authors and characters-- and anybody else involved in the creative process--were shown to be at each other's throats. Frustrations, recriminations, and incomprehension are the hallmark of the relationship, one that concerns not only characters and their authors but extends to . . .

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