Michael Rössner


Lost in Translation? Problems of understanding in Luigi Pirandello’s plays from Il berretto a sonagli to I giganti della montagna

One of the central subjects Pirandello’s work deals with is certainly misunderstanding. In philsophical terms, this has been called relativism or even “pirandellism” – and it has found ist clearest expression in his novel Uno, nessuno e centomila where the narrator himself speaks of problems of translation. However, it is also present in his theatre – it may even be concsidered as the core conflict of many of his plays. This paper tries to show the ongoing variations of these problems of translation/understanding in various plays from Pirandello’s first period as dramatist (Il berretto a sonagli, Così è (se vi pare)), in the most famous one (Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore) and in examples from his last works (Come tu mi vuoi, I giganti della montagna), in order to analyze the use of this problems for his reception-oriented strategy and dramaturgical conception.


Michael Roessner studied translation, Romance languages and literature, law at the University of Vienna. From 1978 to 91 he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna: as of 1991 he is a Professor at the LMU University of Munich for Romance Literatures. He has taught and lectured at the Universities of Salzburg, Innsbruck and the Vienna University of Economics (Austria); at the Universities of Queretaro (Mexico), Concepción (Chile), Buenos Aires (UBA) and Tucumán (Argentina), and the UFRGS in Porto Alegre (Brazil).
He is the joint editor of the journal IBEROROMANIA, as well of the book series TCCL (THEORY AND CRITICISM OF CULTURE AND LITERATURE) (Publisher: Olms) and JWR (Publisher: Böhlau).
He is a Full Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Member of the Accademia degli Incamminati (Italian Art Academy), a Member of the Austrian PEN Centre, the Chair of the European Pirandello-Centre, the Director of the Institute for Culture Studies and History of Theatre of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
He is the editor and translator of the edition of Luigi Pirandello’s work in German, of a History of the Latin American Literatures in German (Metzler, 1995, ²2002 and ³2007); and he published widely on literary and cultural theory and related subjects. Publications include Auf der Suche nach dem verlorenen Paradies (1988); Literarische Kaffeehäuser. Kaffeehausliteraten (1999); “¡Bailá! ¡Vení! ¡Volá!”: El fenómeno tanguero y la literatura, Frankfurt (2000), Renaissance der Authentizität? Über die neue Sehnsucht nach dem Ursprünglichen, (together with Heidemarie Uhl, 2012); Translatio/n. Narration, Media and the Staging of Differences (together with Federico Italiano, 2012), ‘Melos’ y ‘opsis’ en el Siglo de Oro. Ritmo, imagen y emoción en el teatro y en la poesía lírica (Special issue of IBEROROMANIA, ed. with Wolfram Aichinger and Martina Maidl, 2012), Inszenierung und Gedächtnis. Soziokulturelle und ästhetische Praxis, (with Hermann Blume, Elisabeth Grossegger und Andrea Sommer-Mathis, 2014), Narrated Communities – Narrated Realities.- Narration as Cognitive Processing and Cultural Practice (with Hermann Blume and Christoph Leitgeb, 2015)