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This article is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

The Neglect of Pirandello John Hope Mason

OPEN any history of modern drama and you will find a chapter devoted to Pirandello. It will not be a very long chapter, not as long as the preceding ones on Ibsen and Strindberg, but it will certainly end by giving Pirandello the accolade of 'immeasurable influence' on the modern theatre, perhaps even calling him 'the most seminal dramatist of our time'. All sorts and conditions of names will be brought in to demonstrate this point and the reader will put down the book eager to see or read the plays of so important a writer.

Disappointment is in store. The plays rarely seem to be performed, only a small number of his works are in circulation; nobody seems to share the critics' enthusiasm. It is, of course, not uncommon for a writer to be praised by the critics and ignored by the public; such a situation is even regarded, by some, as a sure mark of distinction. But in such cases the writer's works are usually available. There is not such a complete disparity between theoretical eminence and practical neglect as there is with Pirandello. Why is this?

Look at the plays themselves, as they are available in the bookshops, and one reason is obvious: the translations. The dead hand of the pedant lies across them, freezing them into rigor mortis, cumbersome dialogue and long-winded speeches that are little related to the action and less to the characters. A literal version of the Italian, ...


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