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SEPARATED AT BIRTH: Russian Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and Italian Fascist playwright Luigi Pirandello, right?? It would be difficult to imagine two more politically antithetical individuals of the 20th century. However, retrospectively, maybe an enterprising Sicilian mayor provided the link. Or maybe not.
Luigi Pirandello is considered one of the important playwrights of the 20th century. His most famous play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921, is recognized as a precursor of the Theater of the Absurd. Later examples of this genre evolving in post-World War II Europe included Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.
During the 1920s, Pirandello aligned himself with Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini. One biographer quotes Pirandello as saying “I am a Fascist because I am Italian.” Later, another noted his view, “I’m apolitical, I’m only a man in the world…”
Whatever, and whenever, Pirandello’s political views, he won the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature. The nominating committee praised him for “his almost magical power to turn psychological analysis into good theatre.”
The Sicilian town of Porto Empedocle enters our tale as being close to Pirandello’s birthplace, a village called u Càvusu (Sicilian: Chaos?). Today’s Google Map shows a Villaggio Pirandello a couple miles east of Porto Empedocle; there’s a Blu Hotel Kaos identified there. This region is on the Strait of Sicily, which separates Italy from Tunisia and is in the news these days as a dangerous sea route of immigrants to Europe.
Porto Empedocle is named for the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Empedocles, c. 490 – 430 B.C. Nearby Agrigento is known for being one of the leading cities of the golden age of ancient Greece.
However, according to a letter in the London Review of Books, June 2, 2016, it was a Luigi Pirandello link that interested the mayor of Porto Empedocle a few years ago, especially after citizens all but demanded a statute commemorating the playwright.
Alas, though the citizens clamored, no one in town offered to fund this work of art. Fortunately, Porto Empedocle was “twinned” with a Ukrainian town, and, visiting there, the mayor encountered something of a graveyard/dump of discarded Soviet-era statuary.
Many of the statues were of a bald-headed guy with slanted eyes and a short beard, a visage not unlike Pirandello’s.
The mayor asked if he could buy one. He was told he could have as many as he liked, for free.
Thus, with a few sculpted changes here and there, a statue originally of Communist leader Lenin, now identified as Luigi Pirandello, came to reside in the main square of Porto Empedocle.
This is the tale reported in the London Review of Books and also at an English-language Russian website edesknews.com; the latter, complete with a photo of another Lenin statue.
A Baroque Lenin website reports otherwise: This website says the tale of A Statue for Porto Empedocle “seems to have been concocted by the author of Montalbano thrillers, Andrea Camilleri, who is also from Porte Empedocle.”
Camilleri’s popular detective stories feature Chief Inspector Montalbano, a character often likened to Georges Simenon’s Inspector Jules Maigret. Indeed, an article at la Repubblica.it website is titled “Montalbano, Maigret di Sicilia.”
Camilleri and, come to think of it, the Repubblica.it’s Stefano Malatesta share Pirandello’s love of peppering their Italian with Sicilian (a dialect unfathomable by Google Translate).
A Baroque Lenin website attests that “… it is clear from the [Repubblica.it] article this strange trip to Russia (transformed into the Ukraine much later) was purely in the imagination of the writer who found the Pirandello statue ridiculous. A pity, but as they say, ‘Se non e’ Vero, a ben travato….’ ”
Loosely translated, “It may not be true, but it’s a good story.”
Either way. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016