Sicily and Pirandello


























































































It is impossible to comprehend Pirandello if you don’t realize what the particular world of Sicily is like, a world Pirandello is entirely part of.

This land, considered “a nation inside an island”, has always lived its history divided from the rest of Italy, because it’s geographically “separate” and economically more backward than the North of Italy.
However, this little part of Italy developed its own culture that we can’t find in the rest of the country. This culture came out from the history of Sicily.
From the Greek to the Norman invasions, from Bisanzio and the Arabs to the Spanish domination, the Sicilians have absorbed all these different cultures until 1860, when they joined the Italian kingdom.
But the cultural richness is offset by the poverty, the dramatic situation of abandonment that makes South the “black sheep” of the Italian state.
Is his opera Pirandello “desecrates” the fake myths, he reveals the problems of common men inn their difficult relationship whit the society.

Sicily was a privileged point of view to catch the contradiction of living with all its unsolved social problems.

Sicily has preserved, as a reward to this great writer, the
house where Luigi Pirandello was born, in Agrigento countryside. Walking along the small path near Pirandello’s house, it is possible to find the secular pine tree under which Pirandello had pleasure in thinking, painting, and writing letters. And here he was buried, like he had written in his will.

But, without any doubt, the greatest particularity of Pirandello’s House is in its library, that is now a multimedia centre of documentation about the Sicilian playwright, and where are kept a lot of documents divided in monographies, rarities and newspapers.
There are also some interesting unpublished documents, given by the heirs of Pirandello.



Sicily in Pirandello's literature. 


The hard connection that a writer establishes with his land is an important aspect that facilitates to better comprehend the production and the thought of an artist. The cultural education of an artist is, in fact, strongly influenced by the social environment where he grows up, that determines his future choices.

If this is true for the most important Italian writers, like Dante, Parini, Foscolo and Leopardi, we have to give a particular regard to the Sicilian writers and the connection with their land, Sicily, an island that has always been apart from the rest of Italy, not only for geographic factors, but also for a different historical and cultural development. The liaison between Sicilian writers and their land is very strong.

There is a particularity that characterizes all the most important Sicilian writers, from Verga to Sciascia: an absolute mistrust in the society and, for someone, in the progress. Sicily has been a land of foreign dominations, where the conquerors acted an exploitation policy, renouncing, in this way, to every effort towards development. From this position of  backwardness it will never come out, stopped also by the heavy burden of the last century: the Mafia. 


But Sicily is also the land of an immense culture, of the great pride of its people, who always find the ironic side in life disgraces.

All these aspects are also in Pirandello’s literature. The Sicilian society was, for Pirandello, a cross section of the human society. In a deforming mirror Pirandello sees reflected backwardness, prejudices, superstition. Pirandello analyses a middle class society (on the contrary, Verga looks at the humble people’s world) empty of contents, where the only ideal is to appear, covering up their own nature. In Pirandello, we can catch an unmerciful ability of analysis, that leads up to a humorous interpretation of life and reality; such a humour could be caught out from his “sicilianity”.


The works of Pirandello are an inexorable criticism of human society. Many novels of Pirandello are set in Sicily. One of these, is “I vecchi e i giovani” (“Old and young people”).

I vecchi e i giovani is a historical novel that comes out from the dark pessimism of the author about the destiny of his land, it is full of characters belonging to different social classes who live the difficulties and the contradiction of the fall of ideals during the passing  from the generation of Risorgimento to the Italian reunification one.

The novel speaks about the events of some characters, from the city of Agrigento, during a very difficult period for the young Italian republic: the first Giolitti’s government, upset by economic problems and the revolt in Sicily (Fasci siciliani). In Agrigento people are waiting for the election of a parliamentarian; the political campaign is very hard, but folks look at the voting with indifference, because “nobody had trust in the institution, nor he had never had. The corruption was tolerated, like a chronic pain”. After some events in the life of the different characters, the ending and the message of the novel is explained by the words of an old man, Don Cosmo, spokesman of the author: “Only one thing is sad, my darlings, to have understood the game! I say the game of this unclean spirit that everyone has and that has fun in representing us as reality, and that soon shows us as an illusion. We have to live, that is delude ourselves”. The message of the novel is inserted, therefore, in the delusion of a land, Sicily, for the Risorgimento and for the reunification Italy, that didn’t bring any changes in the Sicilian society.


Another typical aspect of Sicily comes to light in the most important Sicilian writers: the sense of resignation that stops every effort of changing in the society. This is pronounced in Verga’s short stories, but we can see it also in “Il giorno della civetta “(“The day of  the hoot owl”), written by Leonardo Sciascia in 1961, where a policeman from the north of Italy used to resolve his investigation with rationality, but when he runs into the absurd Sicilian situation he can’t even resolve a clear and evident case of murder, committed by the Mafia.

Sicily is ,therefore, a land rich of literary ideas, an island that fascinates for its own contradictions.  


Story of Sicily


Agrigento: temples valleyThe first historical testimonies of this region date back to Greek writings; in the Odyssey there are some references to this land when Homer writes about Polyphemus the Cyclops or about Scilla and Cariddi (the current  Messina Strait). The most important findings of Greek settlements are visible in the surroundings of Agrigento in the famous “Valle dei Templi” (Temples' Valley) one of the biggest archaeological sites in Italy.


In the end of the 9th century Sicily was conquered by Muslim troops: there was a division between the island and the rest of Italy that suffered Barbarian incursions.

In Sicily, therefore, a  “Muslim economic revolution” developed, that led up to a wide money circulation (unlike the rest of Italy that was suffering an economic crisis).

After a period of battles, the islamisation  became more permissive with Christians; Palermo became an Islamic capital and it reached the spleandour of Baghdad and Cordova.

Sicily was re-conquered almost two centuries later by  Frederick II’s army, so re-entering into the Norman culture. He enacted a christianisation opera that erased every sign of the Islamic period.

During the reign of Frederick II Sicily became an important cultural centre and it tested the modern state politics.

With the death of Frederick II  the Svevian domination ended and it was substituted by the Angioin dynasty then by the Aragones one, under which Sicily remained until 18th century, when the Borbonic reign established. In 1860 Sicily was admitted into the Italian State.

Immediately a gap with the rest of Italy occurred: during the passage from the feudal social organization to the new social system, a power vacuum was created; this void will be compensated by some criminal organizations that will be melted into the Mafia.

Already in this period the Mafia could exert its political influence but, it will be only after 1945 (after the collaboration with the US army for the liberation of Sicily), that the Mafia establishes a commitment with the party in power, the DC (Christian Democracy), that will be engaged to impede the approval of some anti-Mafia laws.

During these years there will be hundreds of victims caused by the Mafia, among these, in addition to many policemen, there are also reporters and judges. One of these great crimes will be the assassination of the judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in the early 1990s, who were approaching to the top of the organization, the so called “cupola” in Italian, and were going to defeat it. After their sacrifice the airport of Palermo is dedicated to their memory. Almost all the killers have been condemned to the life sentence, but the instigator and the powerful politicians have been almost always discharged. In these last years the organization has lost much of its power. The vertex, the so called “cupola”, has been almost totally defeated, but still remains some resistance, toward witch we must keep alert.


 by Francesco Di Pietro, Alessio Tosco, Marco Colabucci