cover image Her Husband-CL

Her Husband-CL

Luigi Pirandello, Luigi Pirandello, Pirandello. Duke University Press, $27.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8223-2600-7

The Italian writer Grazia Deledda and her husband, Palmiro Madesani, were apparently the original models for the couple Pirandello rather spitefully anatomizes in this tale, the last of the Nobel-winning playwright's seven novels to appear in English translation. Deledda is largely unknown in this country, but she won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1924 for her novels about her native Sardinia. Her equivalent in Pirandello's novel is Silvia Roncella, who comes from Taranto, exuding provincialism but a certain rural authenticity, too. She is a divided womanDon the one hand, her impulses are deeply conservative and family oriented, but she is also the purest kind of artist, writing out of an organic compulsion. Her husband, Boggiolo, a philistine notary, understands neither side of her character. It is he who persuades her to move to Rome, which is where we first glimpse the couple, at a banquet held in Roncella's honor. Boggiolo is characterized by his innate woolly-headedness and vanity as he sets himself up as his wife's impresario. He tries to entangle Roncella in Rome's literary salon culture, depicted by Pirandello as a series of encounters with egomaniacal hostesses and actresses publicized by effeminate journalists. Pirandello's ironic underscoring is that it is just these efforts that aggravate Roncella's alienation, until finally, acting against her own convictions, she runs away from Boggiolo. Boggiolo's self-blindness has comic possibilities, but Pirandello's sour disapproval of the character eventually diminishes the novel's artistry. Pirandello himself seems to have realized this. After the book was published, in 1911, he did not allow it to be republished in his lifetime. This first English translation will be of most interest to Pirandello specialists. (Nov.)