Monday, December 28, 2015

New titles, December 2015

The end of 2015 sees the publication of two new titles. The first is Guido A. Guarino’s first English translation of The Complete Literary Works of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Lorenzo de’ Medici (January 1, 1449–April 9, 1492), known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, was the scion of the powerful and wealthy Medici family. A diplomat, politician, patron and friend of artists and humanists, he was also ruler of Florence from December 2, 1469 until his death. Although he died at the age of forty-three and ruled for only twenty-three years, he was well recognized for his importance to the Florentine High Renaissance, and his death coincided with the end of its golden age and with the onset of renewed strife among the Italian city-states.

Lorenzo was also an author and particularly a poet. He wrote in a variety of forms, from sonnets to short stories and from eclogues to ballads. His material included love poems, comic works and devotional and philosophical discourses. His reputation as a writer has been the subject of substantial critical work, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

In this volume, Guido A. Guarino presents, for the first time, the entire corpus of Lorenzo’s literary achievement in English translation. This edition provides a fresh opportunity for a thorough re-evaluation of Lorenzo’s endeavors in the light of contemporary scholarship and new critical methodologies.

The second is Luigi Pirandello’s Henry IV in a new English translation by Mary Ann Witt and Martha Witt. The play opened less than a year after Pirandello’s revolutionary theatrical achievement, Six Characters in Search of an Author. The title of the later play suggests a historical drama, recalling Shakespeare’s great history plays. Yet Henry IV is instead anti-historical in that it “plays with” history, presenting historical events not as sequential and true, but as simultaneous and as an imaginary refuge. Henry IV (whose real name is not given) lives in a fake medieval castle where everyone must wear the costume of a historical figure. He is a twentieth-century Italian aristocrat whose madness traps him in the role of the Holy Roman Emperor, the German Henry IV, who reigned from 1056 until 1105. 

Numerous comparisons have been made between Pirandello’s Henry IV and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The affinities between their protagonists include madness, along with the pretense of madness, involving a consummate theatricality. Like other “mad” Pirandello characters, the man consumed by the role of Emperor Henry IV has been judged to be insane by a society that he judges to be insane. Madness, for Pirandello, can reveal a particular lucidity that gives access to truths not evident to “normal” people.

Pirandello’s one-act play The License (La Patente, 1918), presents an earlier version of this theme. Its main character, Rosario Chiarchiaro, may be mad or pretending to be mad as he also dons a costume and prepares to play a role for the rest of his life, the role of a purveyor of the “evil eye” — his means of self-defense against a society consumed by hypocrisy and superstition.