Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Pirandello, Luigi

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(1867-1936) Italian writer and dramatist whose prolific career began with poetry – Mal Giocondo ["Unhappy Joy"] (coll 1889) – and continued with a large amount of short fiction. Many of his circa 400 stories are set in Sicily: a grim sense of the tortures men and women put themselves through when sex and marriage are concerned expresses itself in Conte-Cruel mode. Some of the tales assembled in A Character in Distress (coll trans 1938 UK) are fantasy; but most of his fiction is set desolately in this world, as are all his novels, even Si gira ... (Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio Operatore) (1916; trans C K Scott Moncrieff as Shoot!: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio Cinematograph Operator 1927 UK), an extremely early metaphysical exploration of the nature of movie Reality.

LP remains most famous for his 44 plays, several of fantasy interest and most were first printed in an ongoing, frequently revised sequence of collected volumes published under the overall title Maschere Nude ["Naked Masks"] (1919-1949). The greatest is probably Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921; trans Edward Storer as Six Characters in Search of an Author in Three Plays coll 1922 UK), a seminal exploration of the relationship between art and RealityMask and naked self – which cannot be understood in any simple terms as fantasy, though supernatural elements enter the fray. Six characters – who have some Ghost-like characteristics – invade rehearsals for an already written LP drama in search of an author, as they have been abandoned halfway through their Story by the author who originally created them. The resulting tragicomic interplay between actors and characters becomes indissolubly confused, for reality is simultaneously evanescent and fixed in art; within the drama itself, the author never appears, the Godgame is declined.

Further dramas of interest include: All'uscita (performed 1922; 1949; trans Blanche Valentine Mitchell as At the Exit in Pirandello's One-Act Plays coll 1928 US), a Posthumous Fantasy; Lazarus (1929), in which a repressive puritan loses his faith through dying, experiencing posthumous nothingness, and being reborn; Sogno, ma forse no (1929 La Lettura; trans Samuel Putnam as Dream, But Perhaps Not 1930 This Quarter), in which Dream and reality loop; Quando si è qualcuno (1933; trans Marta Abba as When Someone is Somebody in The Mountain Giants and Other Plays coll 1958 US), in which a famous writer is literally metamorphosed (> Metamorphosis) by his fame into stone (> Bondage); La favola del figlio cambiato ["The Changeling"] (1933), a political Satire; and I giganti dell montagna (1931-1932 var mags; 1938; trans Marta Abba as title play in The Mountain Giants and Other Plays), a complex unfinished drama set in a mountain Edifice whose grotesque inhabitants interact with a troupe of travelling players, demanding that they perform something other than LP's own The Changeling for the mysterious, unseen, Giants who require entertainment and who tear apart those who do not please them. But the actors cannot fulfil the needs of the gods, and their chief is duly dismembered. [JC]

Luigi Pirandello


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.