Right You Are – Luigi Pirandello

Day 52 of Colourisation Project – June 28

Luigi Pirandello, was born on this day in 1867, in Agrigento, Sicily, Italy.  Pirandello was not only one of Italy’s leading playwrights but also a novelist and short-story writer. In 1934 he was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Pirandello’s work is impressive by its sheer volume. He wrote over 50 plays, seven novels and several collections of short stories. He is perhaps best remembered for three surrealistic plays that question the nature of truth: Six Characters in Search of an Author (1922), Enrico IV or Henry IV (1922), and Right You Are (If You Think You Are) (1927).

At Rome University, Pirandello studied philology and at Bonn in March 1891 he received his Doctorate in Romance Philology with a dissertation on the dialect of Agrigento: Sounds and Developments of Sounds in the Speech of Craperallis.Luigi Pirandello

       Photographer unkown – 1934 Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Although an arranged marriage in 1894 with Antonietta Portulano gave him financial independence, allowing him to live in Rome and to write, the sense of tragedy and disillusionment so imbued his works is primarily the result of a trail of personal tragedies.

After the wipe-out of the family’s fortune in a flood and the birth of their third child, Pirandello was forced to earn his living not only by writing but also by teaching Italian at a teacher’s college in Rome. His wife developed a persecution mania after suffering a mental breakdown and became so violent that she should have been institutionalized.

Instead Pirandello kept her at home for seventeen years during which her mania manifested itself in a frenzied jealousy of Pirandello and the terrorisation of their three children.  Their daughter, so affected by her mother’s illness attempted to take her own life but failed when the old revolver she used failed to fire.

It was not till 1919, with the financial success of his plays, that Pirandello’s torment ended when he was able to afford to send Antonietta to a private sanitarium. Naturally these tragedies and circumstances had a profound effect on Pirandello and his writing. Generally portraying Italian middle-class society it is not by accident that the recurring themes of madness, illusion, reality, truth and isolation persist in many of his plays.

In 1924 Pirandello founded his own drama company, the Art Theatre of Rome, which traveled extensively, putting on shows throughout Italy, France, Germany, and South America. Pirandello also worked closely with filmmakers in his later years. A Hollywood adaptation of Pirandello’s play As You Desire Me (1930) appeared in 1932 with Greta Garbo as one of its stars.

Pirandello died alone at his home in Rome on 10 December 1936. His Roman apartment, was subsequently declared a national monument and houses the Centro di Studi Pirandelliani.

The Italian government gave him a state funeral in spite of instructions for his funeral that specifically stated:

“When I am dead, do not clothe me. Wrap me naked in a sheet. No flowers on the bed and no lighted candle. A pauper’s cart. Naked. And let no one accompany me, neither relatives nor friends. The cart, the horse, the coachmen, e basta (and enough). Burn me. And let my body, as soon as it has been consumed, be dispersed, because I want nothing, not even ashes, to be left of me.”

Since the Catholic church opposed cremation and the Fascist Party refused to allow him a pauper’s death his wishes were ignored.

__________________________

“Whatever is a reality today, whatever you touch and believe in and that seems real for you today, is going to be – like the reality of yesterday – an illusion tomorrow.” Luigi Pirandello

 

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