Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Camilleri and Pirandello

"The rules of the game. Wasn't there a play of the same name by the above-mentioned Pirandello?"
That's from Andrea Camilleri's The Paper Moon, and, if memory serves me well, it's not the only time Camilleri mentions Pirandello. The two were born fifty-eight years apart in the same area of southwestern Sicily, Pirandello in Grigenti (Agrigento), Camilleri in Agrigento's port, Porto Empedocle (which appears under the name Vigàta in Camilleri's Montalbano novels). By various accounts, Pirandello knew Camilleri's grandparents or parents or was even a distant relative.

The mention may also be of thematic interest. Pirandello "is always preoccupied with the problem of identity," and so, in The Paper Moon, is Camilleri's Salvo Montalbano:
He knocked a third time. Still nothing. He turned around, cursing, and was about to descend the stairs when he heard a woman's voice call from inside the apartment.

"Who is it?"

This question is not always so easy to answer. First of all, because it may happen that the person who's supposed to reply is caught at a moment of identity loss and, second, because saying who one is doesn't always facilitate things.

"Administration," he said.
The theme was: During an investigation, does a real policeman take notes or not?
I've also seen Montalbano's favorite olive tree referred to as a Pirandellian element. I haven't read or seen Pirandello's work except in parodies, but it interested me that a playwright and novelist so well-known for his avant-garde narrative technique could be so rooted in his native soil. But then Italo Calvino, that creator of fantastic meta-narratives and member of the Oulipo group, also compiled a pioneering collection of Italian folk tales.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...

And then there was the bit where Ryan O'Neil flirted with his own daughter, Tatum, at a funeral because he didn't recognise her ... or am I thinking of something else?

September 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, tainted love and Greek tragedy are motifs in this novel.

September 23, 2009  
Blogger Simona Carini said...

In a post I wrote a while ago http://briciole.typepad.com/blog/2009/07/novel-food-8-pane.html I mention an article written by Camilleri on the occasion of the unveiling of Montalbano's statue. The article http://www.repubblica.it/2009/04/sezioni/spettacoli_e_cultura/intervista-camilleri/scrive-camilleri/scrive-camilleri.html ends with a reference to one of Pirandello's novels (my translation): It's inevitable: each reader creates his or her own Montalbano. Like any fictional character, Montalbano is, in "pirandellian" way, one, no one and one hundred thousand.

September 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Those links and posts will provide a good bit of this afternoon's reading. And you're right. Giuggiulena is lovely.

September 23, 2009  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, it's interesting that you should bring up the theme of identity in Camilleri's Montalbano novels as the question of identity, and Montalbano's wrestling with it, are explored at some length in the upcoming books. It is quite direct, explicit in the next one, "The Wings of the Sphinx" (to be released in Dec.) so I hope you bring up this topic again.

Simona, I remember reading quite a bit about the Montalbano sculpture competition and the decision-making that went into the final (somewhat controversial) selection. The "identity" of Montalbano that each reader has in his/her mind from reading the novels was thought by many to be too "realistic" -- or, how much does this sculptor's interpretation of the very limited physical description of Salvo provided by Camilleri intrude on our reading of the novels? This intrusion also applies to the image of actor Luca Zingaretti (a sculpture of him as Salvo was, I believe, in the running during the competition at one time) whose interpretation of Salvo inevitably now comes to my mind's eye when reading the novels. It's a happy interpretation, one that Camilleri was a bit dismissive of at first, but he, too, seems to have reconciled himself to the Montalbano/Zingaretti image in the minds of many readers. And certainly in the minds of Italian TV viewers, many of whom have never read any of the novels.

September 23, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, among other things, this focus on identity is a good answer to any reader who might complain of "all that getting-old stuff" in the more recent Montalbano novels. (I have never had some such complaints, but I'm told that some readers have.) Camilerri does not just worry about getting old, he contemplates what aging means for one's sense of self. The explorations are tentative and funny, but I believe they are philosophically serious.

September 23, 2009  

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