“The Man of Brimstone”, son of Chaos. Luigi Pirandello protagonist of a novel-biography


By John

And it took a writer, with the courage and sensitivity of a woman, to tell the inner life, look inside the Pirandello man, with a novel, «The man of sulfur» (Bompiani)for which Silvana La SpinaSicilian tota even if born in Padua from a Venetian mother and a Sicilian father, says she feels the load of responsibility to compete with a genius whose bibliography is immeasurable.

“Does the novel work in your opinion?” the writer asks me as soon as we start talking. «Yes», ​​I reply, because to me, as a reader, this novel in which La Spina approaches the giant Pirandello with audacity and trembling seems like a “photographic” adventure of the gaze and of the intellect: almost to stop light and shadow which in life as in all of Pirandello’s production stand in binary opposition, signifying appearance and reality, conscious and unconscious, suspension and epiphany, always a mask.

«If Sciascia was the noble father of so much literature, an inexhaustible and always current master, the only great one in the world, after Dante, is Pirandello, represented for his theater all over the world – says La Spina -, and when the theater lives in times of crisis, what to do? Pirandello takes to the scene again and again. Initially I wanted to tell the story of two excellent lives, two brilliant fathers, Einstein and Pirandello, starting from their meeting in New York, then I left Einstein aside and concentrated on Pirandello, but the only way to talk about it was to try to to restore on paper, with the force of the novel, what bubbled, magmatic, under the crust of sulfur of this child of Chaos».

A deposit to explore, with full archives, endless essays, the very rich web, hence the decision to explore the man, rational and passionate at the same time, one of the contradictions that have marked his life and that of his family. «I documented myself – continues the writer – I had started with the maternal family, the Ricci Gramittos, artists and intellectuals, in a backward Girgenti, while Stefano Pirandello’s merchant family conquers well-being with the sulfur mines that spring up everywhere. Both Garibaldian families, eager to act in history. And it is no coincidence that Luigi was born into this middle-class Risorgimento family, cultivating the desire to emerge, even if as a child he grew up frustrated, as if he was born prematurely and carried this sign for the rest of his life».

La Spina begins his novel-biography (a genre, he says, favored by the English-speaking world and less widespread in Italy), when, in 1887, after a flashback on his birth, twenty-year-old Pirandello finds himself in Rome to study and establish himself as an artist . He has already written poems, plays, some stories. Of course, they are not like those of D’Annunzio, the glory of the moment, towards which he feeds and will feed an ill-concealed envy, which leads him not to appreciate D’Annunzio’s Byzantine Rome, nor that of Umbertine ministerial corruption and political scandals. Here, «the craving for glory, success, and money, is what Pirandello has always pursued – adds La Spina – , his seemed to me a story of “effort” up to the end, tormented and interesting, so I wanted look inside the family, the tender relationship with the mother and the not always easy one with the father who does not fully understand this “artist” son, his sister Lina who would have liked to become a painter but was “fimmina” and therefore “immolated” to the reasons for the marriage of convenience, Luigi’s unfinished loves, a certain distrust of women who for him are sorceresses, witches from whose snares he should beware. And then, after the German parenthesis (with Jenny, his love of the moment) and the wide-ranging studies that increase that blaze called Art, the only thing that really feeds him and lights him up, the marriage with which system” with a “picciotta” suitable for him, the rich Antonietta Portulano, with whom he has a passionate and at the same time conflictual relationship. And therefore his children, who also have a complicated relationship with this cumbersome father ».

Of course, from this novel the man Pirandello, always disappointed, always with too many ambitions and ambiguities, from the possible failed love relationship with the charming cousin Vittoria, ill-married in Rome and who introduces him into the Roman salons, up to the one-way story with the young Marta Abba, doesn’t really come out well. But La Spina was interested in recounting the Sicilian, with his prejudices and his genius, his restlessness and distrust of the female writers of the time (think, says La Spina, of that envious rancor towards Grazia Deledda, before him and a woman win the Nobel!), its contradictions, however very fruitful, aimed at pursuing that universal meaning of life so desperately sought by all Pirandello’s characters. «Which impose themselves not so much with narrative, with that grotesque that in the time of D’Annunzio’s pleasure rejected the reader, but with the theater and the theater’s ability to represent the world, enjoying the hoped-for success but which does not give man peace» .