Regarded as one of Europe’s great modernists, Pirandello was also a master storyteller, a fine observer of the drama of daily life with a remarkable sense of the crushing burdens of class, gender, and social conventions. Set in the author’s birthplace of Sicily, where the arid terrain and isolated villages map the fragile interior world of his characters, and in Rome, where modern life threatens centuries-old traditions, these original stories are sun baked with the deep lore of Italian folktales. In “The Jar,” a broken earthenware pot pits its owner, a quarrelsome landholder, against a clever inventor of a mysterious glue. “The Dearly Departed” tells the story of a young widow and her new husband on their honeymoon, haunted at every turn by the sly visage of the deceased. The scorned lover, the despondent widow, the intransigent bureaucrat, the wretched peasant—Pirandello’s characters expose the human condition in all its fatalism, injustice, and raw beauty. For lovers of Calvino and Pasolini, these picturesque stories preserve a memory of an Italy long gone, but one whose recurring concerns still speak to us today.
Translated by Virginia Jewiss.