A lost literary classic, written in 1894, The Viceroys is one of the most acclaimed masterworks of Italian realism. The novel follows three generations of the aristocratic Uzeda family as it struggles to hold on to power in the face of the cataclysmic changes rocking Sicily. As Garibaldi’s triumphs move Italy toward unification, the Uzedas try every means to retain their position. De Roberto’s satirical and mordant pen depicts a cast of upper-class schemers, headed by the old matriarch, Donna Teresa, and exemplified by her arrogant and totally unscrupulous son, Consalvo, who rises to political eminence through lip service, double-dealing, and hypocrisy. The Viceroys is a vast dramatic panorama: a new world fighting to shrug off the viciousness and iniquities of the old.
Verso is reissuing this Italian classic written in 1894 and first published in English in 1962. The saga (of which Edith Wharton was a confirmed fan) chronicles the dismantling of a dynastic family in Sicily at the end of the Bourbon monarchy and the beginning of Italian unification, in the 1860s. De Roberto spares no detail in exposing the rotten, greedy core of Sicilian feudalism, represented by the aristocratic Uzeda family. Beginning with the death of the matriarch Donna Teresa Uzeda, princess of Francalanza, the plot follows the antics of her heirs as they desperately try to outdo each other for control of what scarce money and property the family still retains in the face of Garibaldi's democratic unification. There is not one hero among these aristos; from the oldest son, Prince Giacomo, who steals the fortunes of his siblings, aunts, uncles, and children, to his daughter Teresa, whose slavish devotion to the church brings tragic consequences for the one man who truly loves her. In between are faithless brothers, prejudiced spinsters, and lascivious priests one of whom is reduced to begging in the streets all plotting against one another. There are enough characters that readers will dog-ear the page on which the family tree is printed. Though this reissue could've benefitted from an updated introduction, lovers of door-stopping historicals like Wolf Hall will find a rich era to dig into.