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Luigi Pirandello- Nobel Prize Winner for Italy 1934

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1937) was a novelist, short story writer, poet and of the leading dramatists of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. His works were the precursor of the theatre of the absurd for English writers and his influence on literature of the twentieth century was felt over many continents.
His works are still being studied both in Italy in Italian and have been translated into many languages.

Born 28 June 1867, into a middle class family with a father who owned a sulfur mine, he was given private schooling at home andthen attended secondary school in Girgenti (now Agrigento),Sicily and later Palermo. This was followed by studies in Philology at theUniversity of Rome and he went on to receive his Doctor of Philosophy Degree in 1891 from the University of Bonn, Germany with a dissertation studying the dialect of his native region in Sicily. During this period of study, he published two volumes of poetry
and a collection of short stories, Amori Senz?Amore (Loves without Love)1894.
His first novel L'Esclusa (The Outcast)1893 was serialized in a Rome newspaper in 1901.

From 1897-1922, he was Professor of Aesthetics and Rhetoric at the Real Instituto Di Magistere Femminile in Rome. He had an arranged marriage with Antonietta Portulano, a fellow Sicilian and daughter of another Sulfur merchant in 1894 with whom he then had three children over the next five years. However after eight years she suffered a nervous breakdown.

In the same year of his marriage he published Il Fu Mattia Pascal (The Late Mattia Pascal) which established his literary reputation.
His wife progressively became more mentally unbalanced and developed a jealous paranoia and this illness deeply influenced his writing. One of his recurring themes was the problem of identity, where the self only exists in relation to others.

After 1915, Pirandello entered the world of theater and wrote sixteen plays over the next six years, an amazing feat in itself with Sei Personaggi In Cerca D?autore (Six characters in Search of An Author) 1921 being praised by George Bernard Shaw(famous English playwright), as the most original play ever!
His family tragedy worsened with his two sons being taken prisoners of war in World War I and his wife was finally committed to a mental institution in 1919, after Pirandello did
all he could for her for fifteen years. His personal suffering was expressed in dramatic form. His characters became the vent for all his personal questions about life and indentity.

Society was shown up in public for all the absurdities of social forms and customs in Maschere Nude(Naked Masks),Cos? ? Se Vi Pare (Right You Are If You think You Are) 1918.
Pirandello challenged his audience with ironic humour and wit, only the laughter is a somewhat embarrassed laughter about the sad masquerades we have to perform to hide our true identities. What is real and who am I without this masquerade? Which of us is brave enough or made enough to drop the mask?? These are all the jagged questions and conflicts that Pirandello presented to the stage between the world wars.

In 1923 Pirandello requested membership in the Fascist party to obtain Mussolini?s support in founding the National Art Theatre of Rome (Teatro d? Arte di Roma). Disappointingly the company closed five years later due to lack of funds. In 1934 the year of his nobel laureate, he wrote a libretto for an opera which was criticized by the Fascist authorities.

In his Nobel Prize Banquet Speech, Pirandello spoke the following words:-
?For the success of my literary endeavours, I had to go to the school of life???.The constant attention and deep sincerity with which I learned and pondered this lesson revealed humility, a love and respect for life that were indispensable for the assimilation of bitter disillusions, painful experiences, frightful wounds, and all the mistakes of innocence that give depth and value to our experiences.?.I would gladly believe that
this Prize was given not so much to the virtuosity of a writer, which is always negligible, but to the human sincerity of my work.?

Professor G?ran Liljestrand of the Caroline Institute remarked before Pirandello?s speech:-
?Society is a higher unit of life than the individual; it has a greater complexity and involves adjustments of different kinds. The conflicts arising from the necessity of such adaptations have been the subject of Mr. Pirandello's work. At present the problems concerned call for investigations along other lines than those followed by medicine and the other sciences. Mr. Pirandello, at once philosopher, poet, and dramatist, has been able to understand and describe different phases of human mentality. He has studied its changes in disease and their subtle relations to the normal mind. He has penetrated deeply into the obscure borderland between reality and dream. We honour him as one of the great masters of dramatic art!?
From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz,
Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

Luigi Pirandello died in Rome on 10 december,1936. In his will
he requested that his ashes ?be walled up in one of the rough
stones of the countryside of Girgenti where I was born.?

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