venerdì 13 febbraio 2009

'The Modern World: Ten Great Writers' - Episode 8: L. Pirandello - answers

During the film, actors play excerpts from Pirandello's theatrical works. You can find them online. PirandelloWeb presents the text of Right You Are (If You Think You Are) (1917), Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) and Henry IV (1922), in English.

1. “Burn me. As soon as my body has been burnt, the ashes might be thrown in the wind for I want nothing, not even my ashes, to remain. But if this cannot be done, the funeral must be taken in Sicily.”
2. Pirandello was born near Agrigento, a town in southern Sicily.
3. Pirandello described himself as “A son of Kaos [Chaos]”.
4. Six Characters in Search of an Author and Henry IV.
5. Pirandello’s wife went to an asylum.
6. The main ideas: a. nothing is true either in theatre or in life; b. human identity is instable; c. we cannot communicate with each other because it is impossible for one person even to know how another thinks and feels; d. we do not plan our lives. We simply improvise our way through it; e. so called reality is in fact an illusion.
7. Ionesco and Harold Pinter.
8. Pirandello belongs to philosophical writers.

9. According to Sciascia, “without Sicily, Pirandello cannot be explained. (…) Sicilians are people with a sharp and suspicious nature, people made for argument. Pirandello took them from reality and transferred them into fantasy.”
10. Theatre is a public trial of human actions as they really are but it is set in that other reality that it turns a realm which the poetic imagination has created as both an example and a warning for our confused everyday lives.
11. Sciascia thought spirituality is of considerable importance in Pirandello’s works. His treatment of characters is at the same time realistic and fantastic.
12. ‘What author can say how and why a character is born in his imagination?’ Several years before the play, the writer had the inspiration to bring a family in his house. It should be able to find in them a subject for a magnificent novel. Later, he concluded he could not find a meaning, anything with universal value. So, he did all he could to forget them. They were looking for an author. Suddenly, he saw a way to present this highly strange fact of an author who refuses to allow his characters to live.

13. A father, a stepdaughter, a mother, a son, and two other children.
14. The father left the mother because he thought she would be happy with another man. She had three other children by him. After the other man’s death, she returned to her husband, but she found out that her daughter had some kind of sexual encounter in a brothel with the father.
15. "How can we understand each other if the words I use have the sense and the value I expect them to have, but whoever is listening to me inevitably thinks that those same words have a different sense and value, because of the private world he has inside himself too. We think we understand each other: but we never do," the Father says.
16. Life is always moving and changing, and Form fixes it.
17. In a short story by Borges, when the Arabian philosopher Averroes translating Aristotle’s Poetics got to the words ‘comedy’ and ‘tragedy’, he did not know how to translate them because he had no conception of theatre. Afterwards he went outside and saw children playing and women talking, and he had an intuition of what theatre might be. Pirandello is a bit like this, too. Pirandello reinvented theatre as though he came from Islam, too. It is as if he seized theatre from the indiscriminate flux of life. The characters are and are not. It is all a game of appearance and reality.

18. The character in front of a glass is Laudisi.

"Laudisi. So there you are! [He bows to himself and salutes, touching his forehead with his fingers.] I say, old man, who is mad, you or I? [He levels a finger menacingly at his image in the glass; and, of course, the image in turn levels a finger at him. As he smiles, his image smiles.] Of course, I understand! I say it's you, and you say it's me. You -- you are mad! No? It's me? Very well! It's me! Have it your way. Between you and me, we get along very well, don't we! But the trouble is, others don't think of you just as I do; and that being the case, old man, what a fix you're in! As for me, I say that here, right in front of you, I can see myself with my eyes and touch myself with my fingers. But what are you for other people? What are you in their eyes? An image, my dear sir, just an image in the glass! They're all carrying just such a phantom around inside themselves, and here they are racking their brains about the phantoms in other people; and they think all that is quite another thing!
[The BUTLER has entered the room in time to catch LAUDISI gesticulating at himself in the glass. He wonders if the man is crazy. Finally he speaks up.]
Butler. Ahem! . . . Signor Laudisi, if you please . . . Laudisi [coming to himself]. Uff!
Butler. Two ladies calling, sir! Signora Cini and another lady!
Laudisi. Calling to see me?
Butler. Really, they asked for the signora; but I said that she was out -- on a call next door; and then . . .
Laudisi. Well, what then?
Butler. They looked at each other and said, "Really! Really!" and finally they asked me if anybody else was at home.
Laudisi. And of course you said that everyone was out!
Butler. I said that you were in!
Laudisi. Why, not at all! I'm miles and miles away! Perhaps that fellow they call Laudisi is here!
Butler. I don't understand, sir.
Laudisi. Why? You think the Laudisi they know is the Laudisi I am?
Butler. I don't understand, sir.
Laudisi. Who are you talking to?
Butler. Who am I talking to? I thought I was talking to you.
Laudisi. Are you really sure the Laudisi you are talking to is the Laudisi the ladies want to see?
Butler. Why, I think so, sir. They said they were looking for the brother of Signora Agazzi.
Laudisi. Ah, in that case you are right! [Turning to the image in the glass.] You are not the brother of Signora Agazzi? No, it's me! [To the BUTLER.] Right you are! Tell them I am in. And show them in here, won't you?
[The BUTLER retires.]"(Right You Are (If You Think You Are), Act 2)

19. Pirandello studied in Rome and Bonn.
20. Working conditions in the sulphur mines were terrible in those days. The workers would leave home at sunrise and walk many kilometres before arriving at the mine. Once there, they would descend many hundred metres underground. There, the heat was suffocating and they worked naked. There were no safety regulations in the mines. Accidents and breakdowns were frequent and often ended in the death of workers. And the managers, the people who ran the mines, grew rich.
21. Pirandello’s father was one such manager. He owned a sulphur mine in Aragona.
22. At some point the mine flooded. This was the ruin of the Pirandello family because the dowry of Pirandello’s wife was also lost in the disaster.
23. As a result of the disaster the wife had a stroke. Nervous illness and madness followed.

24. “I see an old lady, whose hair is dyed, and completely smeared with some kind of horrible ointment; she is all made-up in a clumsy and awkward fashion and is all dolled-up like a young girl. I begin to laugh. I perceive that she is the opposite of what a respectable old lady should be. Now I could stop here at this initial and superficial comic reaction: the comic consists precisely of this perception of the opposite. But if, at this point, reflection interferes in me to suggest that perhaps this old lady finds no pleasure in dressing up like an exotic parrot, and that perhaps she is distressed by it and does it only because she pitifully deceives herself into believing that, by making herself up like that and by concealing her wrinkles and gray hair, she may be able to hold the love of her much younger husband […] then I can no longer laugh at her as I did at first […] from the beginning perception of the opposite, reflection has made me shift to a feeling [sentiment] of the opposite”. (Pirandello, On Humor).
25. Pirandello said, ‘Mussolini gave Italy a sense of reality.’
26. According to Sciascia, Pirandello became a Fascist after being an anti-Parliamentarian. He did not respect Parliament. He believed that Parliament represented a phoney democracy, not an actual one. Hence, when it was announced that the Fascists were going to suppress Parliament and set up a dictatorship, Pirandello believed that here laid the salvation of Italy.
27. According to Sciascia, you cannot say Pirandello’s works are right-wing. His works are revolutionary. But on the other hand his life was more reactionary than revolutionary.
28. The play is about a man who has fallen from his horse during a masquerade and starts to believe he is the German emperor Henry IV. To accommodate his illness his wealthy sister has placed him in a medieval castle surrounded by actors dressed as eleventh-century courtiers. The nameless hero regains his sanity after twelve years, but decides to pretend he is mad.

29. Pirandello is not a symbolist.
30. Henry’s lamp is in a sense the light of individual consciousness in a dark and chaotic world.
31. Questions Pirandello asks are unanswerable. They are the following: what is the meaning of life? What is truth? How do we know anything for certain?

32. For a long time Pirandello had been considered a pessimist but he is not. He is not even a nihilist since in the spiritual activity which torments him and which animate his world there is an incessant desire to create. He feels a sense of joy in creating the ground beneath the feet of his characters.
33. Pirandello attempted to create an Italian National Theatre. This project failed.
34. Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934.

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