Verga, Giovanni (1840–1922)
Novelist, short story writer, and playwright, Verga’s innovations in the writing of realist narrative gesture towards the modernist techniques of narrated interior monologue and stream of consciousness.
He was born into an upper-class family in Catania, Sicily. Later, living in Florence and Milan, he was exposed to French fiction and became the close friend of his fellow Sicilian Luigi Capuana, founder of the “Versimo” movement (an Italian version of Zola’s French naturalist school). Although he has become firmly associated with this movement, Verga’s work is not bound by it. He began by writing popular romance novels about the lives of the wealthy, but his major fiction charts the desperate lives of Sicilian peasants. His major undertaking was the plan to write a series of five novels tracing the struggle for existence at every level of society: the project was entitled I Vinti (The Vanquished). Two of the novels in the projected series were completed—I Malavoglia (1881, The House by the Medlar Tree) and Mastrodon Gesualdo (1888, Mastro-Don Gesualdo)—while one—La Duchessa di Leyra (The Duchess of Leyra)—remained incomplete at the time of his death.
Verga sought to remove the authorial voice from his fiction by deriving the content and language of each of his works from the social class depicted. In this way he attempted to describe the fictional environment from within and to access the personal psychologies of his characters. In addition to his novels, he wrote a number of short stories, from which he derived several plays. D. H. Lawrence translated one of his novels and two collections of his shorter fiction: Mastro-Don Gesualdo (USA 1923, England 1925), Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories (1928), and Little Novels of Sicily (1925).
Verga’s works are published in Italy by Mondadori. Recent editions of D. H. Lawrence’s translations have been published in England by Penguin (London) and in America by Greenwood Press (Connecticut). A bibliography of Verga’s works is contained in Cecchetti (1978).
Cecchetti, Giovanni. Giovanni Verga. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.
Hyde, G. M. D. H. Lawrence and the Art of Translation. London: Macmillan, 1981.
Lucente, Gregory. The Narrative of Realism and Myth: Verga, Lawrence, Faulkner, Pavese. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1979.
Woolf, David. The Art of Verga: A Study in Objectivity. Sydney: Sydney UP, 1977.
Vittorini, Elio (1908–1966)
As novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor, and translator, Vittorini is often credited with having opened up Italian literature to foreign influences. He was born in Sicily, where his father worked on the railroads. On leaving home he worked for