Set in the period soon after Garibaldi's conquest of Sicily and the island's subsequent absorption into the Piedmont kingdom of Victor Emmanuel (II), these stories, combining stark social realism with psychological determinism, vividly document the necessity for mass emigration. Several of the stories have provided rich thematic material for 20c artists: Visconti's film La Terra Trema (1948) derives from Verga's great novel, I Malavogli (The House by the Medlar Tree), which derives from the author's story "Fantasticheria." Of course, "Cavalleria rusticana," made into a drama by Verga himself, would morph into Mascagni's resplendently poignant opera (a far better story on the same theme is Verga's "Jeli il pastore"). And "The History of St Joseph's Donkey" would be wonderfully realized in Bresson's cinema masterpiece, Au Hasard Balthazaar (also drawing on the poems of Verga's French contemporary, Francis Jammes). This bilingual edition should be most useful to students of the Italian language (you will not need a dictionary of Sicilian words; the Introduction and notes offer a useful summary of relevant island protocols). Verga wrote for the letterati of Milan and Florence; these tales of Catanian folk customs (namely, miseries and duplicities) began their appearance in the northern magazines of the 1870s. For all students of Italian literature, especially the short story. For readers seeking roots, read it and weep; Verga makes Bicycle Thief seem like an MGM musical. For an antidote, or the other side of the story, read Lampedusa's The Leopard (1958), also made into a film by Visconti (1963) (altho the aristocratic Lampedusa can be as grim as Verga); and for updates read Silone's Bread and Wine (1936, 1955) and Sciascia's The Owl (set in the 1950s). For a contemporary view read Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano Mysteries series.