Pirandellian Mode in Spanish Literature from Cervantes to Sastre, The

By Wilma Newberry

Hardcover : 9780873950893, 227 pages, June 1973

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Examines Spanish literature through Pirandellian eyes.


This volume is a vision of Spanish literature seen through Pirandellian eyes. Those themes and techniques which Pirandello stamped with his name have actually characterized a segment of Spanish writing from the time of Cervantes. Professor Newberry first examines those writers who preceded Pirandello or could not have felt his influence and then those who acknowledged the Italian's mastery or who wrote in the ambience he created. She emphasizes how old are the Spanish themes that illusion and reality intermingle, that life is fiction and fiction life, that madness is often saner or preferable to sanity. Meticulously she chronicles the Spaniards' use of techniques associated with these themes—the play-within-a-play, the theater that mingles fiction and life, the breakdown of barriers between audience and stage, the autonomous character.

Beginning with Cervantes's Don Quijote, where madness and sanity change the very nature of reality and illusion, she moves forward to Calderón's El gran teatro del mundo and other relevant works between Lope de Vega and Galdós. The author devotes a special chapter to the género chico and particularly the sainetes of Ramón de la Cruz, for these works kept Pirandellian concepts alive during the somewhat infertile eighteenth century. After examining Echegaray, whose romantic works she shows to be only part of his contribution, Professor Newberry turns to Ramón, whom she skillfully links to the cubist school of painting. There follows an extended discussion of Unamuno, particularly his novel Niebla with its famous autonomous character, Augusto Pérez.

The second part of this book deals with those authors aware of Pirandello and his work. Professor Newberry begins with Azorín, whose enthusiasm for and understanding of Pirandello and the tendencies associated with him are greater than those of any other Spanish writer. Her brief examination of the Machado brothers shows how they have taken Pirandello's investigation into being and seeming and translated it into their own terms. Because his most popular work is not Pirandellian, few people have ever observed Pirandellian aspects in García Lorca's writing, but El Público and other works certainly contribute to this book. Casona, on the other hand, is enveloped by what Azorín described as the Pirandellian mist, although Casona's treatment of how reality and illusion intermingle is uniquely his own. Not limiting herself to discussing Grau's El señor de Pigmalion, a play often considered in relation to Pirandello, Professor Newberry brings up three other works that clearly indicate Grau's involvement in these themes and techniques. Indeed, one of his plays even incorporates a character Pirandello rejected, and rarely have Spanish playwrights broken down the barriers between stage and audience so completely as Grau does in Tabarín. Luca de Tena is shown to raise most Pirandellian problems in his plays, but unlike the Italian he systemically rules in favor of life, his conflicts are lighter, and their resolution is happier. Pedro Salinas, the last author Professor Newberry considers at length, is rarely studied as a playwright, but his plays show the characteristic imprint of Pirandello—fiction and reality are confused, there are problems of identity, he uses the autonomous character. Nonetheless, Salinas's basic view of life is diametrically opposed to Pirandello's, for he is filled with love, joy, optimism, and faith in the possibility of clarifying reality. Finally, the author looks at the Arte Nuevo group, particularly Sastre and Palacio, and she also considers Sotelo, who, like the other two, was influenced not only by Pirandello, but also by Thornton Wilder.

Professor Newberry provides a consistently interesting picture of how Spanish literature has always shown great interest in those themes and techniques we have come to call Pirandellian and how it has given them a stamp uniquely its own. In an appendix the author includes a brief discussion of the Spanish works found in Pirandello's study.

Wilma Newberry is Professor of Spanish at the State University of New York at Buffalo.