One hundred years after the death of the writer and novelist Giovanni Verga (1922) and his relationship with public health: a glimpse of the past in the era of the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic


Giovanni Verga
history of public health
hygiene and literature
medical humanities
XIX century
social status and class


Background. In 1922 the famous Italian novelist Giovanni Verga died in Catania (Italy). In Verga’s manuscripts there are many suggestions to the world of medicine, in particular the diseases described the poor society of southern Italy at that time. One of the most common diseases described by Verga was the cholera.
Methods. The authors searched and examined literature texts and features linked to public health. These are topical issues in the current period with the Covid pandemic. In Verga’s manuscripts we can found the topic of hygiene, epidemiology, infectious diseases. There are many ideas related to medicine: all diseases described the poor society and difficult social settings at that time. One of the most common diseases described by Verga was the cholera but also malaria and tuberculosis.
Results: It was estimated that 69,000 people died of cholera in Sicily, 24,000 of them in Palermo. The public health situation in Italy was hard. One of the most meaningful features of the existence of cholera in Verga's manuscripts is the recognition of ignorance of people, who trust on popular stories and approach to medicine’s language.
Conclusion: Verga describes a culturally and economically humble society, in the Sicily with a great difference between social class. He portrays a difficult picture of the public health situation in the II half of the XIX century and he traced the people's daily life. The authors think that it’s important nowadays that the centenary of Verga’s death is the opportunity to read his works, also from a medical historical point of view.


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