PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Translator: C.K. Scott Moncrieff Cover design: Marie Lane Cover illustration: Tim Gray
'Pirandello's critique of industrial-technological advance and the human toll such work takes was not entirely novel, even in his time, but is still powerful and well-presented. As far as his analysis of the film-industry goes, it's remarkable for its times -- and not without relevance even today. The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio is a slightly strangely-woven story, meandering in its reflection and action at times, but all the more striking in those blows it does deliver -- against dehumanizing industrial advances, and the loss of the human element. It has one hell of a conclusion, too. All in all, it's still well worth reading.'
"I am the man who turns the handle.”
Serafino Gubbio is an isolated spectator of life, not a participant. A cameraman on a film set, he remains desensitised and unaffected by whatever action may unfold before him, be it a woman driving a dagger into her chest or a tiger mauling an actor to death. Amidst the glitz and glamour of this set, Gubbio acknowledges the disagreeable traits of the humans surrounding him, and returns home each evening to unload his honest, unfiltered thoughts into his diary. Grappling with the overwhelming advancement of modernity, Gubbio writes an uncomfortable mockery of human habit, weakness and existence.
Written by Nobel Prize-winning Sicilian playwright, Luigi Pirandello, this book is a conglomerate of scathing sarcasm and uncomfortable existential truths. In rather a philosophical microcosm for life itself, Pirandello merges moments of unremarkable repetition with scenes of tense excitement as our impersonal narrator navigates his isolation and the constant oscillation of reality and fantasy that he perceives all around him.
Though Pirandello first published this book on the heels of the Edwardian era, it remains curiously relevant to the modern-day reader – who, like Gubbio, will likely be familiar with the numbness of discerning the world through a lens or a screen.
‘That the novel is seen as a key work in the history of cinema has been helped by Walter Benjamin’s reference to it in his essay of 1935 “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, where he draws on Pirandello’s powerful description of the alienation inherent in the production and consumption of celluloid images. It is a compelling novel in its own right. Set in Rome in the epoch of the silent cinema, the city we are introduced to as we accompany the newly arrived cameraman through the streets on his way to a refuge for the homeless is a far remove from the grandiose city of Pirandello’s contemporary, Gabriele D’Annunzio. Serafino G ubbio is employed by day at Kosmograph, while by night he records events in his notebooks. As a cameraman his role is one of absolute passivity, just ”a hand that turns the handle” and away from the studio his relation to life around him remains that of an observer. A Russian femme fatale, Varia Nestoroff, who is known to Serafino from the days where she belonged to an international colony of artists living in Capri, where she modelled for and then seduced a young artist under Stefano’s tutelage, is the star of in the film currently in production. At Nestoroff’s instigation her former lover, Aldo Nuti. replaces the male lead for the film’s climax, when a living but sedated tiger is released into the enclosure to be shot dead by him. The plan goes Horribly wrong. Nuti in a jealous rage fires at and kills Nestoroff before he is himself mauled to death by the tiger. Serafino, who passively captures Nuti’s dying moments on celluloid, later recalls that the film became so popular that he and the company grew rich on the proceeds. The erasure of the line dividing art from life and celluloid image from reality prefigures the disturbing meta--theatrical finale to Six Characters in Search of an Author.’
No. of pages: 334
Publication date: 25.02.2021
978 1 912868 58 2
978 1 912868 59 9