Pirandello Between Spengler and Wittgenstein

Brief notes on a book by Matteo Veronesi

By Emanuele Licastro

University at Buffalo

In 1935, Pirandello complained that “The world of international literary criticism has been crowded for a long time with numerous Pirandellos—lame, deformed, erratic, gruff, insane, obscure and all head and no heart —in whom, no matter how hard I try I cannot recognize myself not even in the slighted degree. The most senseless of these phantoms, I believe, is the one fashioned by Benedetto Croce….” Since then other scholars have focused on various facets of Pirandello’s opus. Moreover, all points of views are necessary—no view without a point of view. Matteo Veronesi’s Pirandello (Naples: Liguori, 2007. Pp. 104) distinguishes itself for its original perspective, succeeding almost in abolishing point of view. Instead of concentrating on one or various facets of Pirandello, Veronesi immerses himself in the author’s pages and, from those pages, he illuminates them and connects them to numerous aspects of the European culture of Pirandello’s time. Or, better, Veronesi aims a floodlight on ideas and nuances at once philosophical, moral and esthetic to which Pirandello both contributed and from which he derived his vision of existence.
The points of contact that the reader discovers in this Pirandello—relationships, correlations, analogies, affinities, allusions to philosophers, essayists and artists—are always valuable and at times surprising. Many pages in this volume provoke very pleasant and unexpected apercus that seduce the attentive reader. She discovers new clues almost as if she were reading a detective novel where many artists and intellectuals appear: such poets as Mallarmé and Montale, such novelists as Chamisso and Henry James not to say both modern psychologists, philosophers and playwrights as well as such figures of classical antiquity as Plato and Seneca.
Furthermore, following the critical vector drawn by the author, the reader is tempted to add—facile inventis addere—to the clear hints adduced by the author other indications perhaps implied by the text: for example, Veronesi’s reference to “Goethean Ideas-Mothers” may evoke Spengler’s identification of Faust ’s Mothers with Plato’s Ideas. In fact, Mephistopheles instructs Faust that Mothers’ “throne [is] outside of place, outside of time.” Moreover, a conceptual atmosphere not lacking of Pirandellian resonances seems to permeate the pages of The Decline of the West where history is defined as an “image, a world-form…in which the becoming dominates the become.” Under the limpid precision of the “form,” the perennial “life” of becoming continues to throb: “becoming always lies at the base of the become.” The fullness of history consists precisely in all that has become: “the world-picture representative of becoming is that which history gives us.” History, like a cast (Spengler’s “stil”), gathers and solidifies; that is, history paradoxically consists in the human, earthly, uneven “imperfection.”
The last pages deal with “the disparity between the contingency of being-there and absolute being“(p. 92) and those about Vitangelo Moscarda discuss in Senecan terms “returning into himself” in order to affirm one’s own individuality by immersing oneself in the Delphic injunction of Know thyself (p. 47). These pages invite the reader to remember Wittgenstein’s confession: “What has history to do with me?” Did he perhaps think of it when a prisoner in Montecasino? This also, metaphorically, “a retreat…in the open country, in a very pleasant place” (!), as Pirandello writes at the end of One, None and a Hundred-Thousand.