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Luigi Pirandello: Shoot! (Si Gira, 1926) The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator (03)

Luigi Pirandello: Shoot! (3)


Shoot! (Si Gira, 1926) The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio,

Cinematograph Operator by Luigi Pirandello

Translated from the Italian by C. K. Scott Moncrieff





I cannot get out of my mind the man I met a year ago, on the night of

my arrival in Rome.

It was in November, a bitterly cold night. I was wandering in search

of a modest lodging, not so much for myself, accustomed to spend my

nights in the open, on friendly terms with the bats and the stars, as

for my portmanteau, which was my sole worldly possession, left behind

in the railway cloakroom, when I happened to run into one of my

friends from Sassari, of whom I had long lost sight: Simone Pau, a man

of singular originality and freedom from prejudice. Hearing of my

hapless plight, he proposed that I should come and sleep that night in

his hotel. I accepted the invitation, and we set off on foot through

the almost deserted streets. On our way, I told him of my many

misadventures and of the frail hopes that had brought me to Rome.

Every now and then Simone Pau raised his hat-less head, on which the

long, sleek, grey hair was parted down the middle in flowing locks,

but zigzag, the parting being made with his fingers, for want of a

comb. These locks, drawn back behind his ears on either side, gave him

a curious, scanty, irregular mane. He expelled a large mouthful of

smoke, and stood for a while listening to me, with his huge swollen

lips held apart, like those of an ancient comic mask. His crafty,

mouselike eyes, sharp as needles, seemed to dart to and fro, as though

trapped in his big, rugged, massive face, the face of a savage and

unsophisticated peasant. I supposed him to have adopted this attitude,

with his mouth open, to laugh at me, at my misfortunes and hopes. But,

at a certain point in my recital, I saw him stop in the middle of the

street lugubriously lighted by its gas lamps, and heard him say aloud

in the silence of the night:

“Excuse me, but what do I know about the mountain, the tree, the sea?

The mountain is a mountain because I say: ‘That is a mountain.’ In

other words: ‘_I am the mountain_.’ What are we? We are whatever, at

any given moment, occupies our attention. I am the mountain, I am the

tree, I am the sea. I am also the star, which knows not its own


I remained speechless. But not for long. I too have, inextricably

rooted in the very depths of my being, the same malady as my friend.

A malady which, to my mind, proves in the clearest manner that

everything that happens happens probably because the earth was made

not so much for mankind as for the animals. Because animals have in

themselves by nature only so much as suffices them and is necessary

for them to live in the conditions to which they were, each after its

own kind, ordained; whereas men have in them a superfluity which

constantly and vainly torments them, never making them satisfied with

any conditions, and always leaving them uncertain of their destiny. An

inexplicable superfluity, which, to afford itself an outlet, creates

in nature an artificial world, a world that has a meaning and value

for them alone, and yet one with which they themselves cannot ever be

content, so that without pause they keep on frantically arranging and

rearranging it, like a thing which, having been fashioned by

themselves from a need to extend and relieve an activity of which they

can see neither the end nor the reason, increases and complicates ever

more and more their torments, carrying them farther from the simple

conditions laid down by nature for life on this earth, conditions to

which only dumb animals know how to remain faithful and obedient.

My friend Simone Pau is convinced in good faith that he is worth a

great deal more than a dumb animal, because the animal does not know

and is content always to repeat the same action.

I too am convinced that he is of far greater value than an animal, but

not for those reasons. Of what benefit is it to a man not to be

content with always repeating the same action? Why, those actions that

are fundamental and indispensable to life, he too is obliged to

perform and to repeat, day after day, like the animals, if he does not

wish to die. All the rest, arranged and rearranged continually and

frantically, can hardly fail to reveal themselves sooner or later as

illusions or vanities, being as they are the fruit of that

superfluity, of which we do not see on this earth either the end or

the reason. And where did my friend Simone Pau learn that the animal

does not know? It knows what is necessary to itself, and does not

bother about the rest, because the animal has not in its nature any

superfluity. Man, who has a superfluity, and simply because he has it,

torments himself with certain problems, destined on earth to remain

insoluble. And this is where his superiority lies! Perhaps this

torment is a sign and proof (riot, let us hope, an earnest also) of

another life beyond this earth; but, things being as they are upon

earth, I feel that I am in the right when I say that it was made more

for the animals than for men.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. What I mean is, that on this earth

man is destined to fare ill, because he has in him more than is

sufficient for him to fare well, that is to say in peace and

contentment. And that it is indeed an excess, _for life on earth_,

this element which man has within him (and which makes him a man and

not a beast), is proved by the fact that it–this excess–never

succeeds in finding rest in anything, nor in deriving contentment from

anything here below, so that it seeks and demands elsewhere, beyond

the life on earth, the reason and recompense for its torment. So much

the worse, then, does man fare, the more he seeks to employ, upon the

earth itself, in frantic constructions and complications, his own


This I know, I who turn a handle.

As for my friend Simone Pau, the beauty of it is this: that he

believes that he has set himself free from all superfluity, reducing

all his wants to a minimum, depriving himself of every comfort and

living the naked life of a snail. And he does not see that, on the

contrary, he, by reducing himself thus, has immersed himself

altogether in the superfluity and lives now by nothing else.

That evening, having just come to Rome, I was not yet aware of this. I

knew him, I repeat, to be a man of singular originality and freedom

from prejudice, but I could never have imagined that his originality

and his freedom from prejudice would reach the point that I am about

to relate.


Luigi Pirandello: Shoot! (3) poetry magazine

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