Luigi Pirandello – the Instrument of Creation
“Well, if you want to take away from me the possibility of representing the torment of my spirit which never gives me peace, you will be suppressing me: that's all. Every true man, sir, who is a little above the level of the beasts and plants does not live for the sake of living, without knowing how to live; but he lives so as to give a meaning and a value of his own to life.” – Luigi Pirandello: Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921.
It has often been said that tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, most comedies seem to arise out of tragedies. The late stand-up comedian Richard Pryor is an excellent example of this phenomenon. For years he regaled audiences, both black and white, with tales of his childhood in the slums of Peoria, Illinois. Audiences would regularly howl with laughter at his stories of living in bone-crunching poverty, abuse at the hands of his elders, substance abuse and trying to avoid falling into the “tender mercies” of street gangs. One has to wonder, though, how many people would think all this funny if it happened to them, or how many others laughed simply because it was better than crying.
Tragedy, therefore, while lamentable, can also be a source of inspiration for those fortunate enough to be born with the creative spark that allows them to put feelings into words and convey their meaning to others. This has been done not just with the genre of Comedy, but Drama as well (among others). The subject of this article is one such man. One who, in spite of the various tragedies that overshadowed his life, put pen in hand and gave the world some of its more memorable literature, as well as helping to reshape modern theater.
Luigi Pirandello was born on June 28, 1867 in the town of Kaos (Chaos), a poor suburb of the town of Girgenti (now Agrigento), Sicily. Unlike the bulk of his fellow Sicilians, Pirandello was blessed with being born into a fairly wealthy family. His father, Stefano, owned a prosperous sulfur mine. His mother, Caterina Ricci Gramitto, descended from a family of professionals.
Ironically, the first of the many tragedies that would overshadow Luigi’s life occurred six years prior to his birth: the destruction of his homeland, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Stefano had participated with Giuseppe Garibaldi in the Expedition of the Thousand, and eventually took part in the Battle of Aspromonte, at which Garibaldi was taken prisoner by the forces of the infamous Enrico Cialdini. Caterina, in the meantime, had been forced to flee with her father to Malta, where he had been exiled by the collapsing Bourbon monarchy. Continue reading