Antonio Fogazzaro produced a large body of excellent fiction which was of the realistic vein popular around the turn of the century. Reared in Vicenza, he had a strong link with small-town life, and most of his works combine the backdrop of provincial life with a universal realism. Fogazzaro was also a deeply religious man; this too is reflected in his work. THE PATRIOT, originally entitled PICCOLO MONDO ANTICO (Little world of yesterday), is part of a great trilogy of novels by Fogazzaro. Taken as a single work, it has been regarded as the greatest Italian novel since Alessandro Manzoni’s THE BETROTHED (1825-1827).
This novel traces a popular theme of the late OTTOCENTO (the nineteenth century): the quest for Italian unification which was attained in 1867 and its effects on the lives of ordinary people. The loves and misfortunes of Don Franco and his wife Luisa are constantly at odds with events taking place in the outside world.
The novel also combines a good plot with realistic characterizations and underlying themes of patriotism and religious belief. Fogazzaro’s devotion and involvement in reforming the Italian Catholic Church is reflected in subtle ways in THE PATRIOT but came to full fruition in the last novel of the trilogy, THE SAINT (1905). Although Fogazzaro may have felt that THE SAINT was his most representative work, it is THE PATRIOT which has been read and praised the most because it does not subjugate plot and characterization to philosophical beliefs. This is an excellent novel that can be appreciated in any age; although to understand it does not require a background knowledge of the real events surrounding its creation, such knowledge is always beneficial to the individual reader.