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  • The Pirandello-Lenin Statue July 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback


    Beach has proud form in reporting stories of Lenin statues: including one in the United States and one (what spasm of Soviet insanity…) in Antarctica. However, he was thrilled to be recently sent this great story by LTM, to whom this post is respectfully dedicated. This letter appeared in the London Review of Books and was sent in by one Gaia Servadio, apparently an Italian-based in London.

    A few years ago the mayor of Porto Empedocle, the Sicilian town where Pirandello was born, was under pressure to put up a monument honouring the great playwright. But there was no money. During a trip to a ‘twinned’ town somewhere in Ukraine, the mayor noticed that many statues had been discarded on the ground; they represented a man with a bald head and slanted eyes, peculiarly similar to Pirandello’s. So he asked whether he could buy one. ‘As many as you please,’ was the answer: there was nothing to pay. The mayor couldn’t believe his luck. Thus, after a few adjustments here and there, Lenin’s stone face became Pirandello’s. And so far as I know there he now stands, on the main square of a town which not long ago voted 92 per cent for Berlusconi. LRB, 2 Jun 2016.

    It is a fabulous story, but it is not a true one: though God knows stranger things have happened in Sicily. Here is a quotation from an interview with the second most famous person to come from Porto Empedocle in distant 1997: Andrea Camilleri, Italy’s most famous detective story writer.

    They’ve now erected a statue for Don Luigi in Moscovite style. It is horrible… It seems to be Lenin, the same beard the same bald spot. The other day I was reading a portrait written by Lucio D’Ambra in which he speak of shoes of invulnerable ‘copale’ shoes in which you could see your reflection. Then, a suspicion came to my mind that the council of Porto Empedocle, to save money, had brought one of those Lenin statues of which Russia has finally started to get rid of and that they recycled it, trusting in the similarity.

    Adesso a don Luigi hanno eretto un monumento, di stile moscovita. Una cosa orribile… Sembra Lenin, lo stesso pizzetto, la stessa calvizie. L’ altro giorno leggevo un suo ritratto scritto da Lucio D’ Ambra in cui si parla di ‘scarpe di invulnerato coppale’ , scarpe in cui ci si poteva specchiare. Allora mi è venuto il sospetto che la giunta di Porto Empedocle, per risparmiare, abbia comprato sottocosto uno di quei monumenti a Lenin di cui la Russia si è finalmente disfatta. E l’ abbia riciclato, fidando nella somiglianza.

    This has to be the beginning of this very pleasing legend: it is almost a pity to have to swat it to death. How wonderful that in the internet age we can sometimes track these stories down to a paragraph of an interview from twenty years before. Beach is sure that the statue at the top of the post is in the main piazza. He is not though sure if this is the statue to which Camilleri referred.

    Other thoughts on Lenin-Pirandello: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    Thanks to twitter…

    Robert Labanti, 10 Jul 2016: Gaia Servadio wrote about the Lenin/Pirandello statue also in her “Raccogliamo le vele” (Feltrinelli, 2014)

    Sofia Lincos, 10 Jul 2016, #Camilleri wrote this story also in “I racconti di Nené” (2013). Here, the chapter about #Pirandello