Reading again because I enjoyed it so much the first time I nominated it over at 19th Century Literature. I have no favorite story – they are all wonderful and contribute to the whole.
Little Novels of Sicily:
by Giovanni Verga
translated by D.H. Lawrence
1883 / 156 pages
rating 10 / classic short stories
First off – Giovanni Verga is a very popular classic author in Italy and Italian – many of his works are available on Audible and Amazon but they’re almost always in Italian – a few in English print and ebook.
Giovanni Verga was born in 1840 into a fairly prosperous Sicilian family of Catania (east coast) and lived in Sicily until he was about 29. During that time he was educated, including some law school, and got a few of his works published (the first of which was with funds from his father for law school). He then joined the National Guard during the unification of Italy (1860 – sometimes called the revolution). In about 1869 he moved to Florence and then Milan where he could study literature more seriously. He quickly earned an excellent critical reputation and published quite a sizable oeuvre including Little Novels of Italy (1883) which is not his most famous work but …
He returned to Catania, Sicily in 1894 – age 54 – to live in his old family home and he remained there until he died in 1922.
Politically he was somewhere between Dickens and a socialist – focusing on the poverty of the people as well as love and religion. He’s been called a “socialist -realist” author although to my mind there’s more humor and love in Verga than oh, say, Maxim Gorky.
The “Novels” in “Little Novels of Sicily” are really more like short stories but they’re even more like fictional “sketches,” as D.H. Lawrence – the translator – calls them in his Introduction. Whatever, these are the people and the times and situations in rural eastern Sicily from the late 1840s through the 1880s, during the Italian wars for unification (and independence from France). This is the place and the times of Verga’s own life.
The stories have a tendency to be very grim dealing with poverty and greed and disease, but there is a huge dose of love and humor as well as wonderfully descriptive writing all strewn through them.
And the atmosphere is more Dickensian (late 1830s – 1860s) than outright socialist although I certainly see the “socialist realism” because the stories do deal with social-political-religious type of issues. A book like this also kind of reminds me of The Dubliners(James Joyce – 1914) in that the stories are almost interwoven and form a kind of collage of the city/area and character connection. Also Verga seems to have a deep distrust of the Church, government and the rich.