An excerpt of a review from The Critic: An Illustrated Monthly Review of Literature, Art and Life, Volume 20 : Italy's Greatest Living Novelist... Those persons in England who have never heard, in any other way, of Italy's greatest contemporary novelist, have become familiar with his name... show more
An excerpt of a review from The Critic: An Illustrated Monthly Review of Literature, Art and Life, Volume 20 : Italy's Greatest Living Novelist... Those persons in England who have never heard, in any other way, of Italy's greatest contemporary novelist, have become familiar with his name of late, thanks to the success achieved by Mascagni's opera, 'Cavalleria Rusticana,' which owes no little of its strength and originality to its libretto, derived from a novelette of Verga, bearing this title. Giovanni Verga is unquestionably the most original and powerful of living Italian novelists. He is to their prose what Giosuè Carducci is to their poetry, a new departure, a path-finder. Verga has been the first in his country to accept the naturalist movement in dealing with novels, and to break with the romantic traditions impressed on modern Italian literature by Manzoni with his famous novel, 'I Promessi Sposi.' It is happily difficult to classify Verga, happily we say advisedly, because in his variety lies his strength and his freshness. He is certainly no idealist, no pattern has been shown him on the Mount, or if there has, he uses it to verify deviations only. Among his people one finds no angels and no heroes, though more than one of them is capable of heroism in a quiet way, like Mena in the 'Malavoglia,' a character which is worthy to be put beside that of Jeanie Deans. Mena is as intensely Italian as Jeanie is intensely Scotch. In all his works, Verga is true to nature, whether in the surroundings of his characters or in the characters themselves; whether it be nature uncultivated, undisciplined, uncontrolled, or nature sophisticated, corrupt and refined; he is equally true to the nature of the broad malaria-stricken plains of Sicily, and to that of the gilded, perfumed saloons of Milan and Palermo, but he is at his best when treating of nature untouched by education. He is a wonderfully keen observer, and with sharp, short, incisive touches reproduces his observations and impressions. In his pages we hear the sighing of the waves on the sea-shore, the chirp of nesting birds at sunset, the piteous cries of half-starved peanut children, the bells of distant churches answering each other at Christmas time; he gives the chatter of the women at the fountain, the slow, sententious talk of the old men at the church-steps, the whispered consultations of thieves and smugglers, the murmured converse of lovers, the stifled cries and tears of illicit passion. He is as true as Zola, but, unlike Zola, he never dwells on the lowest forms of degradation.