A biography of the Italian dramatist

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 124.

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TOWARD the close of 1934, when the Swedish Academy of Literature in Stockholm looked around to see what man in the field of literature had produced the most distinguished work of an idealistic tendency, their choice fell on Luigi Pirandello, an Italian novelist and playwright, native of Sicily.

Luigi Pirandello spent the first nineteen years of his life uneventfully in Sicily. When he was nineteen he went to Rome to study at the university, and in 1891 went to Germany where he presently received a degree in Philosophy and philology from the University of Bonn.

Pirandello wrote novels and short stories during some thirty years before he began writing for the stage. For the most part they created no great stir even in his native Italy. Some critics claim that the reason for the lack of interest in Pirandello's writings in inherent in the stories themselves; others, that the lack of recognition was due to the fact that he was a genius a quarter-century ahead of his time.

Probably the best known of his novels is The Late Mattia Pascal which appeared in 1904. It is the story of a man who shams death, then tries in vain to begin life anew in a different atmosphere and under another name. Pirandello's short stories have been gathered together in one volume under the title, Novelle per un Anno . . . a collected edition of 365 short stories, one for every day of the year.

With his dramatic work Pirandello sprang suddenly into the fame that was denied his strictly literary efforts. The play that first brought him to prominence, both in Italy and in foreign countries, was Six Characters in Search of an Author. In this play he introduces the design with which all his subsequent plays deal to a greater or lesser extent . . . the ambiguous relationship between reality and belief. Six Characters, however, is more than the expounding of a theory; it is likewise more than just a "trick" play. It is a dramatization of the artistic process of creation, whether for the stage or the novel.

Other Pirandello plays well known to the literati if not to the general public are: Right You Are, Henry IV, Tonight We Improvise, Each in His Own Way, Liolà, and As You Desire Me. In 1934, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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