Giovanni Verga Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

When Giovanni Verga was born in Catania on September 2, 1840, into a well-to-do landowning family of aristocratic background, Italy was not yet united, and Sicily belonged to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, governed by Bourbon monarchs from their capital in Naples. Catania remained very distant, therefore, from the cultural centers of Milan and Florence. Verga’s father deserves credit for wanting his son to have the most liberal education possible in his culturally provincial society, and for this purpose, he enrolled him, at age ten, in the private school of Antonino Abate. The teacher, who shared the liberal and pro-Italian sentiments of the younger generation, had the attitude and enthusiasm, if not the talents, of a Romantic poet and as such inspired his pupils, including the young Verga, to try their hands at writing. At age seventeen, Verga wrote his first novel, Amore e patria (1857; love and fatherland), inspired by the American Revolution and full of teenage enthusiasm for patriotic ideals, although not worthy of publication.

In 1858, Verga enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of Catania, but instead of studying, he worked on his second novel, I carbonari della montagna, another historical novel imbued with patriotic fervor, which, with his father’s consent, he published, using the money intended for his last two years of university study. Although the second novel was little better than the first, it was given a favorable review in the Florentine periodical Nuova Europa. Encouraged by this success, Verga submitted a third novel, Sulle lagune (1863; on the lagoon), to the same periodical, which published it in serial form (it was published in book form in 1975). In the meantime, he had become involved in various Sicilian journalistic enterprises, but the combination of his publication in Florence and the...

(The entire section is 770 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The city of Catania, where Giovanni Verga spent the first twenty-five years of his life, was a cultural center for Sicily and even possessed a university; but it was geographically so remote from the mainstream of Italy’s cultural life and so small a place, that its atmosphere was nevertheless provincial and in some ways even primitive. Verga’s family were well-to-do landowners in a society that was agricultural at its base and still feudal in its organization. Verga was fortunate in his schooling to have come under the influence of a teacher who was a writer and who also encouraged his literary bent; at the age of seventeen, Verga completed his first novel. Although he embarked on the study of law a year later, he quickly found he had no taste for the subject and dropped out of the university to pursue a literary career. He tried founding a journal and published a novel at his own expense, but Catania proved an impossible base from which to launch a literary career. In 1865, he went to Florence, where he became part of a circle of young writers, and a few years later he moved to Milan, which was even more active as a center of the arts.

During the 1870’s, Verga was living in Milan, publishing novels and short stories, winning a small reputation, and seeking a new literary voice for himself which would express his ideal of what fiction should be. Because of illness in his family, he made frequent trips back to Catania during that period. From these...

(The entire section is 502 words.)