El rostro de Pirandello /The Face of Pirandello

First published in Spanish and English in Urban Configurations, Poligrafa, Barcelona, pp.118-119 and pp.120-1

—And who are you? What do you want?
—We’ve come in search of an author.
—An author? What author?
—Any author, sir.
—Well, there’s no author here because we’re not rehearsing any new play.
—Better still, sir. Then we can be the new play.

Allow me an image: the image of the face of Luigi Pirandello. Now allow me a second image that might explain the first: the image of a man who over a period of months buys several books by Pirandello. At first, he does so just to browse through his dramatic works. Later he purchases a few more books, this time not by Pirandello but about Pirandello. Perhaps to eye the framework. As the weeks go by, every time he takes one of the books from the shelf or puts it back, he stares for a few seconds at the face on the front and back covers of the books. As he goes from the shelf to the table and back again, his attention begins to become fixed, time after time, on the hat the Italian playwright wears in all his photographs.

One day, the man enters a bookshop and buys yet another volume. When he arrives home, he does not open it. He places in on the table next to the others. One photograph after another. Front and back covers of books bought at random. Portraits of Pirandello. It should be said that in none of the photographs does the playwright smile. No smile to mitigate the discomfort of the moment. Better to stare and then leave. Even though he is from Rome and 69 years old.

On the left-hand side of the table, the black-and-white face on the back cover of Sei personaggi…, published by Methuen. The face, in black and white, of a man, first of all: elegant. The moustache and the goatee, both white. The goatee cut slightly to a point, like a walking-stick. It begins just below the lower lip. Well trimmed. It is possible to see his care before the mirror, on certain mornings. The black-and-white face staring fixedly at the camera. A white hat on his head. A hat with a wide sash of black silk. Below: the eyes. Yes. The eyes are always the problem. Wide, rounded below by impeccable round, dark rings. Like the eyes that so attracted Pontormo. Lengthened downwards. In order to be able to trace, from the end of the ring to below the eyebrow, an ellipse in which to situate the forever disconcerted iris. Attentive. Intact in its fascination.

Not Giacometti. Giacometti would have traced the line on the horizontal in order to mark first the cut of the eyelid. The lower eyelid. Twice, with two strokes. The lower one pressed harder, blacker. And next a vertical cut to mark the space between the eyebrows. Not Pontormo. Pontormo would have drawn Pirandello’s eyes in one stroke, hastily. An elllipse embracing the whole contour of the eyelids. The iris floating halfway between and upwards.

On the table. From left to right: the back cover of Methuen Drama. To its right, Mondadori’s 1986 edition entitled Maschere nude. Further to the right, Querci’s essay “The Inconsistency of Objectivity.” Here the hat appears grey, or perhaps it is just that the photograph is grey. Almost in the center of the table another Mondadori edition with is photo caption: “Roma 1906.” The hat is wide brimmed. The left hand inside the pocket of the overcoat. The right cut by the edge of the photo. The moustache and the goatee still black. Just beginning to go grey. The hat. Always the hat as if it were raining. As if it were going to rain.

In this photograph from 1906 the look is still affable. We must wait a few years before the lower eyelid becomes an immense ring. Only a few years. “Ogni forma non deve essere né antica né moderna, ma unica.” A face like an almond. The goatee below, carefully trimmed. The hat. And the rain. Perhaps the hand near the cheekbone on the cover of Borsellino’s essay. But this is anecdotal. Only the rain. The hat. Because it is raining. It is always raining. It is difficult to know how long this heavy, torrential rain has persisted. Perhaps since forever. Falling on an indifferent conversation. It is not raining a little. No. It is raining everything. It is raining on everything that falls hour after hour. Throughout the night on that conversation that is unaware of it. But it is also true that the rain that beats down insistently is indifferent to the conversation. It just falls and falls.

For his reason the hat, “Un cappello di feltro,” in order in appearance to give shade to this face as long as an almond. A hat that traces a shadow over eyes that are all rings.

Let us begin once again. This room. The chair. The table. Ahead, the faces that are front and back covers of books purchased at random, slightly at random. Time and again the face of Pirandello cowered by a hat. In this room, it is raining. Over these books, although they are not wet to the touch, it is raining.

Nothing of fiction. I am speaking of a sleepless rain that falls day and night on a normal conversation. An immutable, fundamental rain, without interpretations. Falling on the shoulders, on the sleeves, towards the hands of a figure who asks another: Have you got the time? A rain that falls on a hat that does not console, but deceives. “I love the moments in which nothing occurs, when for instance a man asks: Have you got a light? This type of situation interests me enormously. Or: What would you like to eat?” Buñuel spoke without hope of absolution. I wanted to make a room like this. Without hope, full of an irrefutable rain. Falling on an indifferent conversation.