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
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
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
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
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There are also some interesting unpublished documents, given by the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
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
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
Sicily is ,therefore,
a land rich of literary ideas, an island that fascinates for its own
Story of Sicily
The 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Di Pietro, Alessio Tosco, Marco Colabucci