Peasant Autonomy
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Story 23

A fishing village on the coast of Sicily, Italy – 1867

'What a miserable damn life!'

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Vsig)


“My poor boy,” Grandpa tries softly, “what are you complaining about? You are healthy, you are a real fisherman, a professional, who can make a living. You can be proud of it. Each time we can save a little money, so that you can marry after a while ...” But Ntoni doesn't want to listen. He has served in the military, and has seen how rich people live in the city. That's what he wants, too: having fine clothes, strolling through the shop-lined streets or park, chatting a bit, dining out.

“I feel like a galley slave,” Ntoni bursts out, “sitting at the oar from Monday till Sunday, from early morning till late at night. And now we’ve also lost our house. And who will I marry then? Some other poor wretch?”
Ntoni is right: they have had to sell their modest but charming house with a courtyard, and move into a small, shabby rental house. “Every family has its setbacks from time to time,” Grandpa answers quietly, “but don't worry, we will recover.” “Call this 'setbacks’?” Ntoni retorts. “Mother died of cholera, Father drowned at sea, and our savings have gone into fixing up the boat. That's our fate: poverty, working like a dog, and then being dinner for the sharks. Ugh, what a miserable damn life!”

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Daniele Di Mauro)


Ntoni turns around abruptly, and walks with long strides in the direction of the pub. Grandpa watches him go, shaking his head.


In the book The House by the Medlar-Tree (1881) the Italian author Giovanni Verga describes life in a small fishing village: the gossip and the jealousy, but also the solidarity and mutual support, especially in times of need.

Go to:
= the next page:
Little Joey - a remote hamlet in Wyoming, United States – around 1870, story 24.
= the Table of contents, story 23.