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Luigi Pirandello: Shoot! (19)
Shoot! (Si Gira, 1926) The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator by Luigi Pirandello. Translated from the Italian by C. K. Scott Moncrieff
We were waiting to-day, beneath the pergola of the tavern, for the arrival of a certain “young lady of good family,” recommended by Bertini, who was to take a small part in a film which has been left for some months unfinished and which they now wish to complete.
More than an hour had passed since a boy had been sent on a bicycle to this young lady’s house, and still there was no sign of anyone, not even of the boy returning.
Polacco was sitting with me at one table, the Nestoroff and Carlo Ferro were at another. All four of us, with the young lady we were expecting, were to go in a motor-car for a “nature scene” in the Bosco Sacro.
The sultry afternoon heat, the nuisance of the myriad flies of the tavern, the enforced silence among us four, obliged to remain together notwithstanding the openly declared and for that matter obvious aversion felt by the other two for Polacco and also for myself, increased the strain of waiting until it became quite intolerable.
The Nestoroff was obstinately restraining herself from turning her eyes in our direction. But she was certainly aware that I was looking at her, covertly, while apparently paying her no attention; and more than once she had shewn signs of annoyance. Carlo Ferro had noticed this and had knitted his brows, keeping a close watch on her; and then she had pretended for his benefit to be annoyed, not indeed by myself who was looking at her, but by the sun which, through the vine leaves of the pergola, was beating upon her face. It was true; and a wonderful sight was the play, on that face, of the purple shadows, straying and shot with threads of golden sunlight, which lighted up now one of her nostrils, and part of her upper lip, now the lobe of her ear and a patch of her throat.
I find myself assailed, at times, with such violence by the external aspects of things that the clear, outstanding sharpness of my perceptions almost terrifies me. It becomes so much a part of myself, what I see with so sharp a perception, that I am powerless to conceive how in the world a given object–thing or person–can be other than what I would have it be. The Nestoroff’s aversion, in that moment of such intensely lucid perception, was intolerable to me. How in the world did she not understand that I was not her enemy?
Suddenly, after peering out for a little through the trellis, she rose, and we saw her stroll out, towards a hired carriage, which also had been standing there for an hour outside the entrance to the Kosmograph, waiting under the blazing sun. I too had noticed the carriage; but the foliage of the vine prevented me from seeing who was waiting in it. It had been waiting there for so long that I could not believe that there was anybody in it. Polacco rose; I rose also, and we looked out.
A young girl, dressed in a sky-blue frock, of Swiss material, very light, with a straw hat, trimmed with black velvet ribbons, sat waiting in the carriage. Holding in her lap an aged dog with a shaggy coat, black and white, she was timidly and anxiously watching the taximeter of the carriage, which every now and then gave a click, and must already be indicating a considerable sum. The Nestoroff went up to her with great civility and invited her to come inside, to escape from the rays of the sun. Would it not be better to wait beneath the pergola of the tavern?
“Plenty of flies, of course. But at any rate one can sit in the shade.”
The shaggy dog had begun to growl at the Nestoroff, baring its teeth in defence of its young mistress. She, turning suddenly crimson, perhaps at the unexpected pleasure of seeing this beautiful lady shew an interest in her with such courtesy; perhaps also from the annoyance that her stupid old pet was causing her, which received the other’s cordial invitation in so unfriendly a spirit, thanked her, accepted the invitation with some confusion, and stepped down from the carriage with the dog under her arm. I had the impression that she left the carriage chiefly to make amends for the old dog’s hostile reception of the lady. And indeed she slapped it hard on the muzzle with her hand, calling out:
“Be quiet, Piccini!”
And then, turning to the Nestoroff:
“I apologise for her, she doesn’t understand. . . . “
And they came in together beneath the pergola. I studied the old dog which was angrily looking its young mistress up and down, with the eyes of a human being. It seemed to be saying to her: “And what do ‘you’ understand?”
Polacco, in the mean time, had advanced towards her and was asking politely:
She turned a deep crimson, as though lost in a painful surprise, at being recognised by some one whom she did not know; smiled; nodded her head in the affirmative, and all the black ribbons on her straw hatnodded with her.
Polacco went on to ask her:
“Is Papa here?”
Yes, once more, with her head, as though amid her blushes and confusion she could not find words with which to answer. At length, with an effort, she found a timid utterance:
“He went inside some time ago: he said that he would have finished his business at once, and now . . . “
She raised her eyes to look at the Nestoroff and smiled at her, as though she were sorry that this gentleman with his questions had distracted her attention from the lady, who had been so kind to her without even knowing who she was. Polacco thereupon introduced them:
“Signorina Luisetta Cavalena; Signora Nestoroff.”
He then turned and beckoned to Carlo Ferro, who at once sprang to his feet and bowed awkwardly.
“Carlo Ferro, the actor.”
Last of all, he introduced me:
It seemed to me that, among the lot of us, I was the one who frightened her least.
I knew by repute Cavalena, her father, notorious at the Kosmograph by the nickname of ‘Suicide’. It seems that the poor man is terribly oppressed by a jealous wife. Owing to his wife’s jealousy he has been obliged to renounce first of all a commission in the Militia, as Surgeon Lieutenant, and one good practice after another; then, his independent work, as well, and journalism, in which he had found an opening, and finally teaching also, to which he had turned in desperation, in the technical schools, as a lecturer on physics and natural history. Now, not being able (still on account of his wife) to devote himself to the drama, for which he has for some time past believed himself to have a distinct talent, he has turned to the composition of scenarios for the cinematograph, with great loathing, ‘obtorto collo’, in order to supply the wants of his family, since they are unable to live exclusively upon his wife’s fortune, and what little they make by letting a pair of furnished rooms. Unfortunately, in the hell of his home life, having now grown accustomed to viewing the world as a prison, it seems that, however hard he may try, he can never succeed in composing a plot for a film without dragging in,
somewhere or other, a suicide. Which accounts for Polacco’s having steadily, up to the present, rejected all his scenarios, in view of the fact that the English decline, absolutely, to hear of a suicide in their films.
“Has he come to see me?” Polacco asked Signorina Luisetta.
Signorina Luisetta stammered in confusion:
“No,” she said… “I don’t think so; Bertini, I think it was.”
“Ah, the rascal! He has gone to Bertini, has he? But tell me, Signorina, did he go in alone?”
Fresh, and still more vivid blushes on the part of Signorina Luisetta.
Polacco threw up his hands and waved them in the air, pulling a long face and winking.
“Let us hope that nothing dreadful is going to happen!”
Signorina Luisetta made an effort to smile; and echoed:
“Let us hope so . . . “
And it hurt me so to see her smile like that, with her little face aflame! I would have liked to shout at Polacco:
“Stop tormenting her with these questions! Can’t you see that you are making her utterly miserable?”
But Polacco, all of a sudden, had an idea; he clapped his hands:
“Why shouldn’t we take Signorina Luisetta? By Jove, yes; we have been waiting here for the last hour! Why yes, of course. My dear young lady, you will be helping us out of a difficulty, and you will see that we shall give you plenty of fun. It will all be over in half an hour. I shall tell the porter, as soon as your father and mother come out, to let them know that you have gone for half an hour with me and this lady and gentleman. I am such a friend of your father that I can venture to take the liberty. I shall give you a little part to play, you will like that?”
Signorina Luisetta had evidently a great fear of appearing timid, embarrassed, foolish; and, as for coming with us, said: “Why not?” But, when it came to acting, she could not, she did not know how . . . and in those clothes, too–really? . . . she had never tried . . . she felt ashamed . . . besides . . .
Polacco explained to her that nothing serious was required: she would not have to open her mouth, nor to mount a stage, nor to appear before the public. Nothing at all. It would be in the country. Among the trees. “Without a word spoken.
“You will be sitting on a bench, beside this gentleman,” he pointed to Ferro. “This gentleman will pretend to be making love to you. You, naturally, do not believe him, and laugh at him. … Like that…. Splendid! You laugh and shake your head, plucking the petals off a flower. All of a sudden, a motor-car dashes up. This gentleman starts to his feet, frowns, looks round him, scenting danger in the air. You stop plucking at the flower and adopt an attitude of doubt, dismay. Suddenly this lady,” here he pointed to the Nestoroff, “jumps down from the car, takes a revolver from her muff and fires at you . . . “
Signorina Luisetta opened her eyes wide and stared at the Nestoroff, in terror.
“In make-believe! Don’t be frightened!” Polacco went on with a smile. “The gentleman runs forward, disarms the lady; meanwhile you have sunk down, first of all, on the bench, mortally wounded; from the bench you fall to the ground–without hurting yourself, please! and it is all over…. Come, come, don’t let us waste any more time! We can rehearse the scene on the spot; you will see, it will go off splendidly … and what a fine present you will get afterwards from the Kosmograph!”
“But if Papa . . . “
“We shall leave a message for him!”
“We can take her with us; I shall carry her myself…. You will see, the Kosmograph will give Piccini a fine present too . . . . Come along, let us be off!”
As we got into the motor-car (again, I am certain, so as not to appear timid and foolish), she, who had not given me a second thought, looked at me doubtfully.
Why was I coming too! What part was I to play?
No one had uttered a word to me; I had been barely introduced, named as a dog might be; I had not opened my mouth; I remained silent . . . .
I noticed that my silent presence, the necessity for which she failed to see, but which impressed her, nevertheless, as being mysteriously necessary, was beginning to disturb her. No one thought of offering her any explanation; I could not offer her one myself. I had seemed to her ‘a person like the rest’; or rather, at first sight, a person ‘more akin to herself’ than the rest. Now she was beginning to be aware that for these other people and also for herself (in a vague way) I was not, properly speaking, a person. She began to feel that my person was not necessary; but that my presence there had the necessity of a ‘thing’, which she as yet did not understand; and that I remained silent for that reason. They might speak, yes, they, all four of them–because they were people, each of them represented a person, his or her own; but I, no: I was a thing: why, perhaps the thing that was resting on my knees, wrapped in a black cloth.
And yet I too had a mouth to speak with, eyes to see with, and the said eyes, look, were shining as they rested on her; and certainly within myself I felt . . .
Oh, Signorina Luisetta, if you only knew the joy that his own feelings were affording the person– ‘not necessary’ as such, but as a thing–who sat opposite to you! Did it occur to you that I–albeit seated in front of you like that, like a thing–was capable of feeling within myself? Perhaps. But what I was feeling, behind my mask of impassivity, that you certainly could not imagine.
Feelings that were ‘not necessary’, Signorina Luisetta! You do not know what they are, nor do you know the intoxicating joy that they can give! This machine here, for instance: does it seem to you that there can be any necessity for it to feel? There cannot be! If it could feel, what feelings would it have? Not necessary feelings, surely.
Something that was a luxury for it. Fantastic things . . . .
Well, among the four of you, to-day, I–a pair of legs, a lap, and on it a machine–I felt ‘fantastically’.
You, Signorina Luisetta, were, with everything round about you, contained in my feelings, which rejoiced in your innocence, in the pleasure that you derived from the breeze in your face, the view of the open country, the proximity of the beautiful lady. Does it seem strange to you that you entered like that, with everything round about you, into my feelings? But may not a beggar by the roadside perhaps see the road and all the people who go past, comprised in that feeling of pity which he seeks to arouse? You, being more sensitive than the rest, as you pass, notice that you enter into his feeling, and stop and give him the charity of a copper. Many others do not enter in, and it does not occur to the beggar that they are outside his feeling, inside another of their own, in which he too is included as a shadowy nuisance; the beggar thinks that they are hard-hearted. What was I to you in your feelings, Signorina Luisetta î A mysterious man? Yes, you are quite right. Mysterious. If you knew how I feel, at certain moments, my ‘inanimate silence’! And I revel in the mystery that is exhaled by this silence for such as are capable of remarking it. I should like never to speak at all; to receive everyone and everything in this silence of mine, every tear, every smile; not to provide, myself, an echo to the smile; I could not; not to wipe away, myself, the tear; I should not know how; but so that all might find in me, not only for their griefs, but also and even more for their joys, a tender pity that would make us brothers if only for a moment.
I am so grateful for the good that you have done with the freshness of your timid, smiling innocence, to the lady who was sitting by your side! So at times, when the rain does not come, parched plants find refreshment in a breath of air. And this breath of air you yourself were, for a moment, in the burning desert of the feelings of that woman who sat beside you; a burning desert that does not know the refreshing coolness of tears.
At one point she, looking at you almost with a frightened admiration, took your hand in her own and stroked it. Who knows what bitter envy of you was torturing her heart at that moment?
Did you see how, immediately afterwards, her face darkened?
A cloud had passed . . . . What cloud?
Luigi Pirandello: Shoot! (19)
kempis.nl poetry magazine
L u i g i P i r a n d e l l o
Quando in croce Gesú l’anima rese,
tutta, per un momento,
su la terra la vita si sospese,
sospese anche l’inferno ogni tormento.
Sisifo che per l’erta maledetta
avea sospinto il masso
fin su l’aspra del colle aguzza vetta,
donde tuttor riprecipita al basso,
fermo, lassú, starsi d’un tratto il vede:
stupefatto, in un oh!
fermo, di sasso, anch’egli resta, e fede
al prodigio prestar non sa, non può.
Si guarda attorno, una e due volte scuote
il macigno che sta;
vi siede e, con le pugna su le gote,
poi domanda a se stesso: – «E or che si fa?» –
Ma sotto, ecco, gli ruzzola il fatale
sasso di nuovo; ratto
balza egli in pie’, lo segue, e: – «Manco male! –
dice. – Almeno cosí, via, m’arrabatto». –
E, mentre sú per l’erta novamente
contro il masso si slancia,
tra le doglie piú là, Tantalo sente
gridare urlare: – «Ahi Dio! Ahi Dio! la pancia!» –
Aggirandosi come una bufera,
satollo, il poveretto,
in quella tregua momentanea s’era
di tutto quanto il suo crudel banchetto.
Ed or gemeva: – «Non lo farò piú!
Beato chi desia
e nulla ottiene mai! Grazia, Gesú!
Sia benedetta la condanna mia!» –
Leggendo la Storia
Sú, allegra, allegra, cara mia! Mi pare
che tu la prenda un po’ troppo sul serio.
Delitti, infamie, sí, senza criterio,
impudicizie da strasecolare;
ma gajo papa era Alessandro Borgia,
tranquillo e ingenuo nelle sue nequizie;
tranne quel della donna, senza vizi, e
sobrio, anzi frugale in mezzo all’orgia.
Ebbe per l’oro, è vero, anima lurca,
ma lo spendeva poi, tutto, tal quale.
Né per un papa infin la vedo male
che andasse a caccia vestito alla turca.
Di piú d’un figlio con Vannozza reo,
diede a Vannozza sua piú d’un marito;
ma l’ultimo, il Canal, bravo erudito:
il Polizian gli dedicò l’Orfeo,
Quanti vitelli con moderna clava
accoppa l’uomo e se li mangia? Orbene,
papa Alessandro, accoppator dabbene,
i suoi nemici, non se li mangiava.
Dunque, non mi seccar! Parole amare,
serio comento a questa fantocciata
della vita? Va’ là. Carta sprecata.
Ridi meglio, narrando, e lascia fare.
Primavera dei Terrazzi
La mia vicina, sul mattin d’aprile,
compresa ancora del tepor del letto,
esce al terrazzo, e al sol primaverile
spiega i tesori del ricolmo petto.
Ella ha piú grazia, la vicina, in quella
acconciatura che le cangia aspetto:
un camicino bianco e una gonnella
di panno lano oscura. La saluto
dal mio poggiolo dirimpetto, ed ella,
lieve inchinando il capo riccioluto,
mi risponde; poi viene al pilastrino,
su cui ride snasato un fauno arguto,
e dice: – «Come mai, caro vicino?
siete voi? sogno ancora? o com’è andata?
qual gallo v’ha cantato il mattutino?» –
Cosí, tra i fior, su la balaustrata,
dei vasi ben disposti e con amore
coltivati da lei lungo l’annata,
un grande anch’ella pare e vivo fiore;
anzi, lei sola, un fiore. A quel giardino,
giro giro, che calci di gran cuore
darei! parmi ogni vaso un cervellino
di moderno romantico poeta
che levi dal suo fango un inno fino
tra il cessin le pillaccole e la creta
per dir che piú non ama e piú non spera
alla stagion che tutto il mondo allieta.
Oh dei terrazzi magra primavera,
sciocca di nuove rime fioritura!
Mi duol che voi, maestra giardiniera,
ve ne prendiate cosí assidua cura.
Codesti fiori dall’olezzo ingrato
non vi sembrano sforzi di natura?
Due tartarughe, intanto, senza fiato,
s’inseguono sui pie’ sbiechi, in amore,
raspando il piano d’asfalto bruciato.
Cara vicina, fatemi il favore
di rivoltarle su la scaglia al sole:
non hanno alcun riguardo, alcun pudore,
brutte rocciose sceme bestiole;
sono lí lí per fare atto villano,
mentre che noi facciam solo parole:
le vedremo armeggiar nel vuoto, invano.
Luigi Pirandello: Poesia
kempis poetry magazine
L u i g i P i r a n d e l l o
L’Occhio per la Morte
Sono stato a veder l’amico morto.
Sta benone. Men brutto (ah, brutto egli era
povero amico!): e quel pallor di cera
e la calma in cui sta da savio assorto,
gli dànno or l’aria mesta e tollerante,
che si sforzò d’avere in vita, e certo
non ebbe. Intanto, che peccato! aperto
gli è rimasto quell’occhio, che in costante
studio lo tenne: or possiam dirlo, credo:
l’occhio di vetro. Orrendo, nella faccia
spenta, quel guardo fiso, di minaccia…
Quell’occhio par che dica ora: – «Io ci vedo!»
kempis poetry magazine
L u i g i P i r a n d e l l o
LE NUBI E LA LUNA
La nuvolaglia va stracca, raminga,
e or si sparpaglia ed ora si raduna,
quasi un soffio aspettando che la spinga
a far del bene altrove. Tutta bruna
d’acqua la terra e paga s’addormenta,
e vien dal colle sú, grande, la Luna.
Sale pian piano, come diva intenta
a vigilare, e a sé le nubi chiama.
Or questa or quella le si appressa lenta,
prende consiglio, si dirada, sciama
al lume, si raddensa, s’allontana…
Che mai la Luna con le nubi trama?
Quatta musando se ne sta la rana.
Forse ha compreso ch’ora qui ripiove?
Salta in un borro là d’acqua piovana.
Ma van le nubi a far del bene altrove.
Poem of the week
November 9, 2008
kemp=mag poetry magazine
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