The majority of the works created during the Verismo movement were novels and plays, but some authors, like Cesare Pascarella and Renato Fucini, wrote poetry.
Realism is defined as a movement in which authors, and artists, seek to portray everyday life as it really is. That is, without the exaggerations, romanticism, or idealism that can be found in other movements. Authors try to get as close to the truth as possible. In English-language literature, there are several different types of realism. They include social realism, magical realism, socialist realism, psychological realism, and more.
The verismo literary movement began in 1875 and is closely associated with the publication of Luigi Capuana’s Giacinta, a novel that is usually cited as the manifesto of the movement. The authors associated with the movement were inspired by science, naturalism, and objectivity. Often, they focused their work on the life and experiences of everyday people in central and southern Italy. Depicting the “real” was critical to their approach.
Capuana’s Profili di donne, a collection of short stories, is also commonly cited as one of the first, best examples of Italian realism. It was incredibly objective and in some aspects, clinical. But, these attributes did not define every writer within the movement. Authors like Giovanni Verga took a warmer and more emotional approach to realism such as, particularly in Verga’s case, the terrible living conditions in Sicily.
Some of the best-known writers of this Italian literary movement include:
- Giovanni Verga
- Luigi Capuana
- Matilde Serao
- Salvatore di Giacomo
- Grazia Deledda
- Cesare Pascarella
- Renato Fucini
Examples of Verismo
Giancata by Luigi Capuana
Giancata is Capuana’s best-known novel. It is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Italian realism. The book was published in 1875 and is usually regarded as a manifesto of the main characteristics of the movement.
The book, which consists of an analysis of a woman’s life and everything that’s gone wrong in it, is sometimes described as clinical in its lack of emotion. This is something that not all works of Italian realism share, but that is a main attribute found throughout the movement.
I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga
I Malavoglia is Verga’s best-known novel. It was published in 1881 and translated to English a few years later. The book focuses on a family of fishermen working in a small Sicilian village. Here is a quote from the beginning of the novel, as translated to English by Mary A. Craig:
Once the Malavoglia were as numerous as the stones on the old road to Trezza; there were some even at Ognino and at Aci Castello, and good and brave seafaring folk, quite the opposite of what they might appear to be from their nickname of the Ill-wills, as is but right. In fact, in the parish books they were called Toscani;
Throughout, the speaker discusses ancient family rivalries, the shared culture between the variety of characters in the novel, and utilizes a distant narrative technique seen through his adaption to a variety of points of use. His experimentation with the role of the narrator is one of the most interesting features of this landmark work in Italian realism.
Canne al vento by Grazia Deledda
Canne al vento, or Reeds in the Wind was published in 1913 by Grazia Deledda, the first Italian woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel is set in Sardinia where the author speaks about rural life, issues associated with poverty, and the effect of superstition. Throughout, the author uses more emotion than that which is found in other works of Italian realism. This is seen particularly well through her description of the effects of industrialism.
The term “verismo” refers to realism within Italian literature. Like their English language counterparts, Italian writers within this movement sought to depict everyday life as it truly was, without the romanticism and dramatization found in other literary movements.
In verismo or Italian realism, authors took a clinical approach, often lacking emotion and subjectivity, to the everyday lives of Italian people. Authors who are commonly associated with this movement depicted rural life and central and southern Italy, utilized themes of industrialization, poverty, life lessons, and more.
One of the best examples of verismo is Canne al vento by Grazia Deledda. This novel explores the lives of members of a rural community in Sardinia. Other important literary works published between 1875 and the early 1900s include Giacinta, I Malavoglia, and Profili di done.
Related Literary Terms
- Futurism: an avant-garde movement that originated in Italy in the 20th century. It was part of the broader Futurist art movement.
- Genre: a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.
- Experimentalism: one part of modernism and postmodernist literature. Writers take risks, try strange new techniques, and attempt to create something that’s never been seen before.
- Naturalism: a nineteenth-century literary and arts genre that focuses on the realistic depiction of life and all its struggles.
- Realism: a literary movement that portrays everyday life exactly how it is.
- Aestheticism: a literary and artistic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries that focused on the importance of beauty.