the short story project

Rosso Malpello

Jonathan Fein On:

Rosso Malpello by Giovanni Carmelo Verga

One of the more iconic and powerful stories by the Sicilian master Giovanni Verga, Rosso Malpelo (literally and misleadingly translated as “red evil-hair”) is the protagonist’s derogatory name, a homeless boy who was born and raised into the misery of laboring in a sand-mine. This is also his curse: according to superstition, red hair originates from the devil and so Rosso is condemned to absolute ostracism, which he himself markedly justifies in his animal-like way of life, until the inevitable end. Beyond the rare documentation of the humiliating existence in the Sicilian village and the use of unique storytelling techniques that are even today considered groundbreaking, Verga glimpses with spirited succinctness and no compromise or pity at the sandy bottom of human meanness and wretchedness.