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PIRANDELLO: A WORK IN PROGRESS Bonnie Marranca AN EXCURSION TO AGRIGENTO An oversize unfinished stone slab marks Luigi Pirandello's grave, settled uneasily beneath the shady umbrella of luxurious pine, and cypress elegance, not far from the sea. "I am a son of Caos," wrote the man who asked to be returned here, naked, his body wrapped in a white sheet. No one could bear to throw his ashes to the wind, as he had wanted, so they are buried here, too. His characteristic play on words was an exercise in double entendre, "Caos" being both the name of the place in Agrigento where he was born, grew up and brought his bride, and which in the end would mark his death, and that of a god who gave his name to the troubled state of the universe. Chaos it is said was first called Janus, the name of the solar god who presided over daybreak, and guarded passageways. He was the two-faced god who could see from any perspective. He could in effect be his own audience ; one side of his face reflected and inverted the image of the other, so that the self could watch itself in the act of seeing. Janus, who presided over the coming to light and the act of going inside, and Chaos, in sum his other face, his double identity-light and darkness-unite in mythological coincidence to define the Pirandellian character, a myth for our time. It would have been difficult for anyone living near the Valley of the Temples that dominate Agrigento not to feel the presence of the gods and their 7 mythologies. Since the sixth century B.C. the temples the Greeks built on a hilltop stage in homage to them have faded into honey-colored ruin before their Sicilian audience. Yes, it would have been difficult to ignore these giants of the mountain who manipulated the fate of the poor puppet mortals who lived on the shaky earth below. The gods are particularly quarrelsome in this part of the world, earthquake country, always coming apart. A landscape unpredictably capable of falling away beneath one's feet, it bears a natural, free relationship to dramatic action. Agrigento: its Latin roots (ager, ground; gens, people) define it as a place where people have a special attachment to the land. Perhaps to words as well. But even that is not enough to explain why Pirandello chose the name "Marranca" for a character in one of his early plays. By what act of fate am I an unrealized character in a drama I did not choose to make? Fated, in quintessential Pirandellian style, to live both the past and present of my character. Alas, Marranca-he had only a last name-was merely a judge's functionary: even dramatic names can signify class distinctions. (Perhaps that is why the Marrancas came to America.) Here I sit, Pirandello at my side, dreaming in his plays that so timelessly color the landscape of drama, so many ruins to wander through, in search of the future. Will the servant act the master, and I now play the judge? Here I am, writing about Pirandello who wrote about Marranca. He knew what a "Marranca" was because he found a name for it. The fictional character lived in his world, and in his imagination. Now Pirandello lives in my world. A fiction in the play of my imagining. I shall have my Pirandello, as he had his Marranca. PIRANDELLO, A WRITER Pirandello has become a forgotten author in American theatre even as his theories on role-playing are so spectacularly realized today in American culture. Lacking a strong tradition of critical discourse on dramatic writing, American criticism tends to link the history of theatre to the history of production rather than dramatic literature. Not suprisingly, Pirandello has been remembered more for his vision as a man of the theatre than as a writer. Yet, he is one of the most original writers the world of letters has ever produced, and perhaps it is only looking backwards from the perspective of contemporary literary ideas that it becomes apparent how he had anticipated , debated, and dramatized the most...


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