Luigi Pirandello

Pirandello, Luigi (1867-1936), Italian writer and Nobel laureate, who is considered the most important Italian dramatist of the period between the two world wars.Pirandello was born on June 28, 1867, in Agrigento, Sicily, and educated at the universities of Rome and Bonn. He taught Italian literature at the Normal College for Women, Rome, from 1897 to 1921, when his growing reputation as a writer enabled him to devote himself entirely to a literary career. He became internationally known in 1921 through his play Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author 1922) and was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize for literature.

Pirandello died on December 10, 1936, in Rome.Pirandello's writings, of which his plays are the most outstanding, deal mainly with people of the lower middle class, such as teachers, boardinghouse proprietors, and clerks. He is concerned with philosophic ideas, such as that humans, because of the conflict within them between instinct and reason, are doomed to an existence full of grotesque inconsistencies; that specific actions are not right or wrong in themselves, but only in the way we regard them; and that an individual has not one definite personality but many, depending on how that person appears to the people with whom he or she comes in contact.

Without faith in any fixed standards of ethics, morality, politics, or religion, characters in Pirandello's tales and plays find reality only in themselves, and then discover that they themselves are unstable and inexplicable phenomena. Pirandello expressed his deep pessimism and his pity for the confusion and suffering of the human condition in humorous terms. The humour is, however, singularly grim and disturbing. The laughter it excites comes from the embarrassing, sometimes acutely painful, recognition of the absurdities of existence.

Pirandello was an important innovator in stage technique. Ignoring the canons of Realism, he made free use of fantasy to create the effect he wanted. He exerted great influence in liberating the contemporary theatre from outworn convention, paving the way for the existentialist pessimism of Anouilh and Sartre, as well as for the absurdist comedies of Ionesco and Beckett and the religious verse-drama of Eliot.

Among Pirandello's other plays are The Pleasure of Honesty (1917; trans. 1923), Right You Are If You Think So (1917; trans. 1922), Henry IV (1922; trans. 1922), and As You Desire Me (1930; trans. 1931). He also wrote the short-story collection Better Think Twice About It (1933; trans. 1935) and the novel The Outcast (1901; trans. 1925).