Pirandello, strangely enough! | Daily News

Pirandello, strangely enough!

A collection of varying types of narratives come to be translated into English from Italian sources as far back as 1959. The collection was titled as ‘Short Stories by Pirandello’. The translator happened to be Lily Duplaix. The work by the Italian creative writer Luigi Pirandello (1867 – 1936) came to be so well discussed in the literary circles of the English reading world that the writer becomes the recipient of the covetous Nobel award for literature in 1934.

Though the printed book is moth-eaten in places its contents can still be read with a sensitive sense of re-reading and fascinating literary insights of a great creative writer. Pirandello is well known for his play ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’. The Sinhala version as recreated by the late dramatist Sugathapala de Silva as Harima Badu Sayak too became a tremendous house-packed success during the sixties.

Anguish and hope

Short stories by Pirandello are grouped by himself into four categories: Sicilian Tales, Tales of Humour and Irony, Tales of Frustration and Tales of Anguish and Hope. Followed by these groups, a chronology with Italian titles and sources are recorded. These details may be quite useful for a scholar of comparative literary studies.

The introduction to the collection by Comparative Literature Professor Francis Keene from the New York University is an attempt to intersperse the creative skills and insights of Pirandello with the intention of helping the reader to follow the trail of the development of the narrative lines as compared with great masters of the art like Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Guy de Maupassant. Accordingly, the reader comes to know that before Pirandello ever wrote some of his popular plays; he had written quite a number of poems and short stories then known as tales.

It is recorded that during his lifespan of 79 years, he has written 360 short stories belonging to the cited categories. A reader of the collection of short stories come to know that the segmenting the tales into the group is not easy.

Human conditions

The grouping comes as a common phenomenon for the creative writer, Pirandello, had been experimenting on a philosophy of his own presented as studies in human conditions. Once Pirandello said that all he writes from time to time had been examined by himself as self-centred judgements. As such, to know the creative skills of Pirandello is not to skim the works of this uniquely thoughtful creator but to dive deep into the experiences embedded.

Professor Keene points out that Pirandello resembles the user of a kaleidoscope where he was the viewer. The prism is the man’s nature. His identity turned, apparently at will, its many facets toward the beholder. One has to perceive the function of a kaleidoscope as used metaphorically in the context. It is the function of seeing quite a number of experiences on the part of the viewer. Professor Keene’s interpretation into the creative function of Pirandello depends predominantly on the selection of at least one creation from each of the sections.

Initially, a reader could pick up a narrative like the one titled ‘Cinci’, where the writer sensitively portrays the behaviour pattern of a young boy in early adolescence whose loneliness natural at that age is compounded by the wretched circumstances in which he and his mother live. The story does not begin or end in the conventional sense of plotting. Instead remains in the episodic form.

Human existence

The selection that comes from the second section is titled ‘The Rose’. The central experience takes the theme of human frustration to still another level of human existence. The young widow named Signora Lucietta is shown as caught like a fly in amber in the alien town where she has gone on to earn a living. Perhaps undeservedly she is drawn into a tragedy which she seems to take a living condition.

The character of Lucietta is portrayed nevertheless as a widow perceives what the true sense of tragedy is. Her mix with the males in the town help her feel that she is like a rose handed over, but at the same time fades and thrown into a corner. In the creative process, it is believed as Keene observes Pirandello shared Thoreau’s view that nearly all of us ‘lead lives of quiet desperation’.

And again like Thoreau, he found that the epitome of man’s self-torture was most often achieved in cities. This phenomenon is well clarified in the section on the ‘Sicilian Tales’. It is observed in the section on ‘Tales of Frustration’ the layers of meanings adduced to the concept of frustration laid down.

Pirandello underscores the inevitability of the human frustration via human conditions such as the concepts of discomfort, displeasure and discontent. Pirandello believes that it is endemic in human existence. Two good examples could be cited as the narrative titled ‘Such is Life’ and ‘The Wreath’. In the story titled as ‘Fumes’, the reader is made to feel the threatening pollutions such as the presence of Sulphur Mines. The chemical reactions become a threat.

Natural resources

The acrid stench of the burning stuff and the peculiar devastation its extraction from the earth wreaks not only on the land but also on the lives of those who seek to exploit that land. The mines in the context are shown as profit-making natural resources that are at the same time disastrous to human existence, resulting in various disasters.

As a reader, I felt that factors such as frustration at various levels, a depiction of the encroaching age, perpetual loneliness, misunderstanding the meaning of death are recurrent themes. They are branded as ‘la condition humaine’. The forms of expressions take varying ranges of human experiences.


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