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The stories of Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) are wonderful evocations of ordinary Italian life, focusing in particular on his native Sicily. In an original and dynamic prose style, he portrays such eternal human themes as love, honour and adultery with rich and colourful language. The inspiration for Mascagni's opera, 'Cavalleria Rusticana' depicts a young man's triumphal ret The stories of Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) are wonderful evocations of ordinary Italian life, focusing in particular on his native Sicily. In an original and dynamic prose style, he portrays such eternal human themes as love, honour and adultery with rich and colourful language. The inspiration for Mascagni's opera, 'Cavalleria Rusticana' depicts a young man's triumphal return home from the army, spoilt when he learns that his beloved is engaged to another man. Verga's acute awareness of the hardships and aspirations of peasant life can be seen in stories such as 'Nedda', 'Picturesque Lives' and 'Black Bread', while others such as 'The Reverend' and 'Don Licciu Papa' show the dominance of the church and the law in the Sicilian communities he portrays so vividly.


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The stories of Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) are wonderful evocations of ordinary Italian life, focusing in particular on his native Sicily. In an original and dynamic prose style, he portrays such eternal human themes as love, honour and adultery with rich and colourful language. The inspiration for Mascagni's opera, 'Cavalleria Rusticana' depicts a young man's triumphal ret The stories of Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) are wonderful evocations of ordinary Italian life, focusing in particular on his native Sicily. In an original and dynamic prose style, he portrays such eternal human themes as love, honour and adultery with rich and colourful language. The inspiration for Mascagni's opera, 'Cavalleria Rusticana' depicts a young man's triumphal return home from the army, spoilt when he learns that his beloved is engaged to another man. Verga's acute awareness of the hardships and aspirations of peasant life can be seen in stories such as 'Nedda', 'Picturesque Lives' and 'Black Bread', while others such as 'The Reverend' and 'Don Licciu Papa' show the dominance of the church and the law in the Sicilian communities he portrays so vividly.

30 review for Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Jellinek

    OK, so not every story is a gem, but there are enough gems in this collection of Giovanni Verga short stories to easily score five stars. Verga has a voice all his own, which I first encountered years ago in his amazing novel "Under the Medlar Tree," about life in a small Sicilian village around the turn of the (last) century. The best stories in this volume take place in that same corner of the world, and he tells them simply and beautifully, despite the fact that the stories themselves are oft OK, so not every story is a gem, but there are enough gems in this collection of Giovanni Verga short stories to easily score five stars. Verga has a voice all his own, which I first encountered years ago in his amazing novel "Under the Medlar Tree," about life in a small Sicilian village around the turn of the (last) century. The best stories in this volume take place in that same corner of the world, and he tells them simply and beautifully, despite the fact that the stories themselves are often harsh, even brutal. Probably not everybody's cup of tea, but I love this stuff.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Giovanni Verga is the writer much praised by D H Lawrence, which you might consider to be a recommendation or a deterrent, depending on your view of Lawrence. He was a member of a wealthy Sicilian family, and yet mostly writes (in this collection) about the poor country folk around him. The stories are varied, but recurring themes include adultery, poverty and murder. Verga writes with a degree of sensitivity about the poor people of his region. None of the characters are entirely unsympathetic, Giovanni Verga is the writer much praised by D H Lawrence, which you might consider to be a recommendation or a deterrent, depending on your view of Lawrence. He was a member of a wealthy Sicilian family, and yet mostly writes (in this collection) about the poor country folk around him. The stories are varied, but recurring themes include adultery, poverty and murder. Verga writes with a degree of sensitivity about the poor people of his region. None of the characters are entirely unsympathetic, not even the almost feral Rosso Malpelo, a young boy who is savage but more of a force of nature than a malicious brute. The characters are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. They live in dire poverty. Malaria and cholera threaten their lives and livelihoods. There is no succour to be gained from government and church, who do not appear in the stories as supporting agents. Possibly god may be kind, but god seems absent. Employers are harsh, and self-employment (people who own the land) often ends in bankruptcy. Verga’s compassion only extends so far. Most of the stories end on a pessimistic note. While Verga cares about his characters, he appears to have a low opinion of them too. The rustics are as much in danger from their own shortcomings as they are from external agencies. They are like children, driven by passions beyond their control. They lust after married partners. They fall in love with absurdly unsuitable people. They become angry and get into fights, or kill other people. In the ironically-titled ‘Freedom’, the locals are moved to revolt against their conditions, but Verga does not see this as a gesture of solidarity or a welcome workers’ movement. Rather they are rabble driven by rage into acting against their own interests, and committing cruel and savage acts of murder against innocent women and children until they are arrested and punished. The stories here are readable and there is plenty of colourful description. Perhaps what is lacking is any kind of spark or excitement. Thrilling things happen in theory, but there is something so downbeat about them that even they fail to set the stories alight, and many just peter off. Admittedly Verga says that he is not writing stories with an intended message. In ‘Gramigna’s Mistress’, Verga dedicates the first five paragraphs to explaining his manifesto that the author should be absent from his own works. This is stated without irony. Do stories need to have a message? Certainly not. Nonetheless a focus helps. Otherwise it is merely the life-history of a character or a sequence of meaningless events. Sometimes in spite of himself, Verga points out the moral. In ‘Property’, the final lines indicate the futility of acquisitiveness when the dying owner kills his ducks and turkeys to stop anyone else owning them after his death. I would have liked to see more stories of that kind. An abdication of viewpoint is not always a bad thing, but it leaves the stories without a moral centre, and the final result is a passive neutrality.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ray LaManna

    Verga was one of the greatest short story writers Europe ever produced. He ushered in the style of verismo writing depicting the lives of ordinary...AND he wrote primarily about Sicily my ancestral homeland. In many of these stories, I could envision my own grandfather, who was raised there, working in the same fields.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dale Boyer

    An Overlooked Master I picked up this book because of a trip to Sicily, and as I read, I continued to be astounded at how good Verga was, and at the fact that he isn't better known (in the US, at least). I'd never heard of Verga, but his best work is right up there with Chekhov and Henry James. "The She Wolf" is shocking (there's really no other word for it); "Jeli, The Shepherd" unfolds almost biblically, and with a great deal of pathos; "Rosso Malpelo" is an enviably good character study (reall An Overlooked Master I picked up this book because of a trip to Sicily, and as I read, I continued to be astounded at how good Verga was, and at the fact that he isn't better known (in the US, at least). I'd never heard of Verga, but his best work is right up there with Chekhov and Henry James. "The She Wolf" is shocking (there's really no other word for it); "Jeli, The Shepherd" unfolds almost biblically, and with a great deal of pathos; "Rosso Malpelo" is an enviably good character study (really trenchant psychologically); "Gramigna's Mistress"; "How, When, Why" (though I must profess I don't really understand this title at all); and "The Reverend" are all first rate. And the astounding first sentence of "Getting to Know the King" is so good at setting place, time and character, it should be used to teach writing classes. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested not only in Sicily, but also in great literature. It's an amazing little discovery.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ravi Singh

    Shorts stories of life for the rural poor in Sicily, Italy. Very earnest and heartfelt people doing their very best to survive. They could have summarised the lives of many poor people around the world in rural areas in these stories, its seems so universal. The passions and motivations that spur people's lives on, really is caught in this very localised style of writing. Good stories and recommended. Shorts stories of life for the rural poor in Sicily, Italy. Very earnest and heartfelt people doing their very best to survive. They could have summarised the lives of many poor people around the world in rural areas in these stories, its seems so universal. The passions and motivations that spur people's lives on, really is caught in this very localised style of writing. Good stories and recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth Glas

    As intense as promised. The colors, the emotions, the poverty. Many strong women!

  7. 4 out of 5

    J Bradbury

    Short stories about life for the rural poor in Sicily in the 1800s & interesting description of peasant life but all the stories have depressing endings!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gràcia

    Nouvelle de Verga. D’ací l’òpera de Pietro Mascagni.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Evan Tucker

    8.8/10

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Beautiful prose, but relatively boring stories.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Tallama

    "War Between Saints" - 5 stars "Cavalleria Rusticana" - 3 stars "The She-Wolf" - 2.5 stars "Gramigna's Mistress" - 2.5 stars "War Between Saints" - 5 stars "Cavalleria Rusticana" - 3 stars "The She-Wolf" - 2.5 stars "Gramigna's Mistress" - 2.5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    These masterfully crafted stories read like an authentic slice of Sicilian life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gra

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mahdii

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelseyr

  17. 4 out of 5

    John

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mikk

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Campbell

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marcello Guarro

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter John

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elphie84

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  25. 4 out of 5

    Margie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Francesca

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Lynn

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ivana

  29. 4 out of 5

    Donatella

  30. 5 out of 5

    S.C. Flynn

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