Venturing forth today, I found the above biography of Luigi Pirandello at Goodwill.
My first encounter with Pirandello was in college. For my “History of the Theater” class, I chose to write a paper on him (I also wrote a paper on Genet – both papers are long lost). Pirandello caught my attention with Six Characters in Search of an Author, which we read for class.
Learning more about him at the time, I discovered that a large number of his plays deal with the notion of subjective reality and the fluidity of identity.
This was in large part to his wife being mentally unstable. She was convinced that he was cheating on her, even when he finally chose to stop leaving the house in order to convince her of his fidelity. Nothing he could do would satisfy her, and the accusations took their toll on him. He finally realized that there were multiple “Luigi Pirandellos” – the Pirandello that he knew, who was faithful to his wife, and the “cheater” Pirandello that was equally real for her. You can see this realization influence Six Characters, but also his plays Henry IV, Right You Are (If You Think You Are), and more.
This being the pre-Internet days of the late 1980s, finding works by, and about Pirandello was not easy at the college I attended in rural Pennsylvania. I honestly don’t recall if I’d used this book as a source for my paper or not (this edition is from 1967), but I do remember that the plays I had available to me were pretty restricted to the collection Naked Masks. It would seem that some of his fiction is now available in translation, as well as his plays. I could have sworn that I had a copy of Naked Masks, but it would appear that I no longer do. Perhaps I shall revisit him in the near future.
My reasons for this are not entirely nostalgic (though I did love his plays). In the intervening years, I found myself in a relationship with someone who reminded me very much of what I know of Pirandello’s wife. My ex had a classic case of Borderline Personality Disorder, and I suspect the same may have been true for Mrs. Pirandello as well. Re-reading him from a more directly informed perspective should yield some interesting insights.