PSA The Journal of the Pirandello Society of America, 01-12-2006, Giuseppe Faustini
Elio Providenti’s most recent study on Luigi Pirandello is one of significant critical scrutiny and inquiry into the man and his writings. The attentive and authoritative Pirandello scholar succeeds in penetrating the Agrigentino’s mind-set by probing into his psychological state, artistic influences, creativity and ingenuity. In his introductory remarks, Providenti informs us that he has accepted the task of faithfully transcribing a series of imagined nocturnal conversations with the illustrious writer who, according to Providenti’s conceit, appeared to him unexpectedly during four consecutive winters of the new millennium. The critic’s purpose and rationale for these "conversations" with the 1934 Nobel recipient are clearly stated in his introduction: that is, “a colpire le false opinioni e le poco attendibili interpretazioni che molti di noi suoi indegni esegeti, avevamo indebitamente e sconsideratamente seminato”. Providenti’s nine nocturnal conversations with Pirandello, which commence on the celebrated night of December 31, 1999, and conclude on the night of February 2,2002, are clear, wellstructured, captivating and creatively written in the best tradition of the romantic periodo. The critic’s life-long study of Pirandello’s life and opera omnia is comprehensible and unequivocally accurate, critically rigorous and sound in its approach and analysis.
Providenti’s original and creative study is not a Pirandello biography, nor is it a traditional criticaI reading, it is rather an intellectual history of the author’s life and writings that deeply explores the author’s mental processes and analyzes his thoughts, ideas and literary initiatives. As a scholar and skillful reader of all of Pirandello’s writings, Providenti sets out to redefine, correct and redirect the established criticaI record of Pirandello scholarship. This resourceful critic clarifies several details which are frequently misrepresented in Pirandello scholarship. Interestingly, by allowing Pirandello to speak for himself - through these imaginary confessional conversations - Providenti provides the author with a platform in which he can converse freely about himself: his thoughts and passions, aspirations and influences, anguish and pleasures, attractions and replusions. In this manner, the critic empowers the author to amend the critical literature that has often been handed down erroneously through generations of readers and scholars. Faced with the numerous Pirandellos
in circulation today, Providenti corrects the critical record by putting forth the “uno” while eliminating the “centomila”. In these conversations, Pirandello reveals a tormented life full of anguish and misgivings while also disclosing details of his inner personal and artistic self, from his formative years to his latter years with Marta Abba. By serving as Pirandello’s erudite interlocutor, Providenti arms the Nobel author with the last word. Just as Dante cleverly allows his characters to correct the record and have the last word, so Providenti’s modus operandi provides a forum for an intellectual and personal voice of the author of Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore.
Pirandello begins the first, and shortest, of the nine imaginary nocturnal conversations by discussing the scandal surrounding his death due to his last testament and cremation, followed with the accidental placement of his ashes in a forgotten urn ill the Verano cemetery in Rome (where it remained until its final burial in Agrigento, ten years after his demise). Of particular importance here is the reference to the writings of Nikolaus Franz Lenau, whose Faust influenced the aspiring poet from the time of his university years in Bonn. The second conversation, lasting five nights from January 17-21, 2000, centers primarily on the author’s early years of study, focusing on his student sojourn in Bonn, his relationship with Jenny Schulz Lander, his academic and personal life, and his readings and early compositions. “Lenau”, the third conversation, is a thorough examination of Pirandello’s Germanic literary influences and it offers direct textual connections and references to his writings: i. e., Goethe, Heine, Schiller, and above all, Lenau, from whom he gathered the lesson of modern man’s angst and pessimism. It is precisely Lenau’s Faust which most directly influenced Pirandello, as is evident ill his criticaI essay Arte e coscienza d’oggi. Pirandello’s fourth (“Se...”) and fifth (“Rocco e le due famiglie”) conversations center on the critical importance of the short story, and his familial relationships with the Pirandello (paternal) and the Ricci-Gramitto (maternal) families. In particular, Pirandello singles out his interactions with his maternal uncle Rocco, referred to as his “padre amorosissimo” (p.62). These conversations are couched within the historical setting of the decadent terza Roma. Pirandello’s longest conversation (VI: “Amici e maestri”)
is a detailed analysis of his writings and literary relationships. Among his professional mentors Pirandello singles out Monaci, Ascoli, Capuana, and finally, Cantoni, with whose guidance Pirandello developed his own theory and use of l’umorismo (p. 89). In this chapter, Pirandello gives prominence to his literary friends and journals at the fin-de-siècle. Pirandello’s literary coterie can be best understood within the context of his short-lived journal Ariel, in which the author expressed his literary manifesto based on “sincerità” and “spontaneità” (p. 81). Sei personaggi, the subject of Pirandello’s seventh conversation, focuses on his familial and artistic developments leading to the birth and growth of his theatrical works. In his penultimate conversation, Pirandello addresses his intensely personal and artistic relationship with Marta Abba, and his encounter with Italian and European theatrical worlds. Pirandello discloses many details about his travels, especially his extensive sojourn in Berlin and Paris, and expresses his personal and intellectual views on numerous writers, politicians, as well as actors of the stage and the cinema. Pirandello’s last conversation (IX: “Non conclude”) takes pIace at night at exactly two minutes after 2 AM on the second day of the second month of the year 2002: an almost perfect palindrome. Pirandello gives additional details about his last years and he addresses a number of his writings, especially those unfinished texts, such as the novel Adamo ed Eva and the inconclusive ending of I giganti.
The nine imaginary conversations with Pirandello are documented by almost fifty pages of exhaustive notes, commentary, and bibliographic references. These notes accompany the conversations, almost page by page, in order to give the reader more detailed and in-depth clarification, as well as further documentation and bibliographic citations. The volume concludes with a comprehensively detailed index of all names, titles and character treated within the conversations as well as in the notes. This Pirandello study is best suited for both the scholar and the student who will acquire a more intimate and updated understanding and appreciation for the multifaceted man and his writings. Elio Providenti has written an originaI and definitive study on the life and writings of Luigi Pirandello. This study is scrupulously accurate, informative, attentive to details and, above all, interesting and captivating.