Giovanni Verga

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Giovanni Verga
Senator of the Kingdom of Italy
In office
3 October 1920 – 27 January 1922
MonarchVictor Emmanuel III
Personal details
Giovanni Carmelo Verga

(1840-09-02)2 September 1840
Catania, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Died27 January 1922(1922-01-27) (aged 81)
Catania, Kingdom of Italy
Political partyHistorical Left (1890–1896)
Historical Right (1896–1911)
Italian Nationalist Association (1911–1922)

Giovanni Carmelo Verga di Fontanabianca (Italian: [dʒoˈvanni karˈmɛːlo ˈverɡa]; 2 September 1840 – 27 January 1922) was an Italian realist (verista) writer, best known for his depictions of life in his native Sicily, especially the short story and later play Cavalleria rusticana and the novel I Malavoglia (The House by the Medlar Tree).[1]

Life and career[edit]

The first son of Giovanni Battista Catalano Verga and Caterina Di Mauro, Verga was born into a prosperous family of Catania in Sicily. He began writing in his teens, producing the largely unpublished[clarification needed] but well known historical novel Amore e Patria (Love and Homeland) when he was only 16 years old. Although nominally studying law at the University of Catania, he used money his father had given him to publish his I carbonari della montagna (The Carbonari of the Mountain) in 1861 and 1862. This was followed by Sulle lagune (On the Lagoons) in 1863 and Una peccatrice (A Sinner) in 1866.

Portrait of Verga, by Antonino Gandolfo.

Meanwhile, Verga had been serving in the Catania National Guard (1860–64), after which he travelled to Florence several times, settling there in 1869. Important personalities stayed in this city, and the cultural debate on subjects such as physiology, positivism, and Darwinism was lively. Verga wrote the comedy Rose caduche (Deciduous roses), which was never performed and published posthumously in 1923, and his first successful novel, Storia di una capinera (The Story of a blackcap).

He moved to Milan in 1872, where he developed his new approach, characterized by the use of dialogue to develop character, which resulted in his most significant works. In this period this city was the most modern one of the peninsula, economic capital and home to the main newspapers and major publishing houses to come into contact with modernity. He became assiduous with the most famous Milanese cultural circles, such as the salon of Countess Clara Maffei. He befriended unruly writers and teamed up at the Cova café with authors, publishers and literary critics. For instance he strengthened his friendship with Luigi Capuana. In 1880 his story collection Vita dei campi (Life in the Fields), including "Fantasticheria" ("Daydreaming"), "La lupa" ("The She-wolf"), "Jeli il pastore" ("Jeli the Shepherd"), "Pentolaccia" ("The Plaything"), and Rosso Malpelo, most of which were about rural Sicily, came out. It also included "Cavalleria rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry"), which he adapted for the theatre - and later formed the basis for several opera librettos, including Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Gastaldon's Mala Pasqua!. Verga's short story, "Malaria", was one of the first literary depictions of the disease malaria.

He then embarked on a projected series of five novels, the Ciclo dei vinti (Cycle of the Vanquished) dealing with the problem of social and economic advancement. However, he completed only two, I Malavoglia (1881) and Mastro-don Gesualdo (1889), the second of which was the last major work of his literary career. Both are widely recognized as masterpieces. He then began to write La Duchessa di Leyra, but he completed only the first chapter, and he did not even start the last two novels, L'Onorevole Scipioni and L'Uomo di Lusso.

In 1894 Verga moved back to Catania, to the house in which he had lived as a child. This house in the city of Catania on via Sant'Anna #8 is now a museum dedicated to the author. The Casa-Museo Giovanni Verga is located on the second floor of a generally unimposing 18th-century palace. The furnishings were those present at the time of his death, including his large personal library. Also in Catania, a performance stage that often performs works of local artists, the Teatro Verga, was founded in 1969 in a former cinema located on Via Giuseppe Fava #34.

In 1920 he was appointed Senator of the Kingdom (Senatore del Regno) for life (ad vitam). He died of a cerebral thrombosis in 1922. He was an atheist. In 2022 the official Verga 100 event was launched, dedicated to the centenary of the writer, with many events from Palermo to Milan, from theater to musical performances, Cinema, and Book Festival [2]


A 20th-century edition of I Malavoglia
Verga's house-museum in Catania


  • Love and Homeland (1856–1857) (Amore e patria)
  • Carbonari of the Mountain (1861–1862) (I carbonari della montagna)
  • On the Lagoons (1862–1863) (Sulle lagune)
  • A Sinner (1866) (Una peccatrice)
  • History of a Blackcap (1871) (Storia di una capinera)
  • Eva (1873) (Eva)[3]
  • Eros (1875) (Eros)
  • Royal Tiger (1875) (Tigre reale)
  • The House by the Medlar-Tree (1881) (I Malavoglia)
  • Elena's Husband (1882) (Il marito di Elena)
  • Mastro-don Gesualdo (1889) (Mastro-don Gesualdo)
  • From Yours to Mine (1905) (Dal tuo al mio)

Short stories[edit]

Photo by Verga of Sicilian couple who worked his property in 1897

Spring and other Stories (1877) (Primavera e altri racconti)

  • Spring (Primavera)
  • The Tail of the Devil (La coda del diavolo)
  • X (X)
  • Certain Subjects (Certi argomenti)
  • The Stories of the Trezza's Castle (Le storie del castello di Trezza)
  • Red Evil Hair (1878) (Rosso Malpelo)

The Life of the Fields (1880) (Vita dei campi)

  • Rustic Chivalry (also translated as Rustic Honour) (Cavalleria rusticana)
  • Jeli the Shepherd (Jeli il pastore)

Little Novels of Sicily (1883) (Novelle rusticane) translated by D.H. Lawrence (1925)

  • His Reverence (Il reverendo)
  • So Much for the King (Cos'è il re)
  • Don Licciu Papa (Don Licciu papa)
  • The Mystery Play (Il mistero)
  • Malaria (Malaria)
  • The Orphans (Gli orfani)
  • Property (La roba)
  • Story of St. Joseph's Ass (Storia dell'asino di S. Giuseppe)
  • Black Bread (Pane nero)
  • The Gentry (I galantuomini)
  • Liberty (Libertà)
  • Across the Sea (Di là del mare)[4]


  1. ^ "Giovanni Verga | Italian author". 27 January 1922. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  2. ^ Cigliana, Simona; Fedi, Roberto (2002). Giovanni Verga. Rome: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato. p. 287. (in Italian).
  3. ^ "Digitami". Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
  4. ^ Verga, Giovanni (D.H. Lawrence, translator) (2000). Little Novels of Sicily. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press. 145 pp. ISBN 1-883642-54-X.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gesù Sebastiano L'Etna nel cinema. Un vulcano di celluloide, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania, 2005
  • Nunzio Zago, Racconto della letteratura siciliana, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania 2000
  • Scritti su Verga, di Luigi Pirandello e Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, prefazione di Giuseppe Giarrizzo, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania, 1992
  • Verga e il cinema. Con una sceneggiatura verghiana inedita di Cavalleria rusticana, testo di Gesualdo Bufalino a cura di Nino Genovese e Sebastiano Gesù, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania, 1996
  • Piero Garofalo, "Once Upon a Time... Giovanni Verga's Narrative Strategies in 'Jeli il pastore' and 'Rosso Malpelo,'" in 117.1 MLN (2002): pp. 84–105

External links[edit]