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Natalia Ginzburg

Natalia Ginzburg: A Voice of the Twentieth Century

Angela M. Jeannet
Giuliana Sanguinetti Katz
  • Book Info
    Natalia Ginzburg
    Book Description:

    This collection brings together a variety of critical perspectives on Ginzburg's work for an English-speaking audience. What emerges is a nuanced and complex portrait of Ginzburg and her work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7757-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editorsʹ Foreword
    (pp. vii-ix)

    Natalia Ginzburg: A Voice of the Twentieth Centuryoriginates from our desire to highlight the importance of this modern Italian author, who is not sufficiently read in North America. Although her name is well known in Italian critical circles and among the Italian reading public, the deceptive simplicity of her writing has prevented even her most devoted readers from appreciating fully the depth of her analyses and the complexities of her style. Because Italian readers were accustomed to the flamboyance of a rich rhetorical tradition, they considered Ginzburg a plain, minor writer. Her novels and plays were treated casually, as...

  4. Credits
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Chronology
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Contributors
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    Natalia Ginzburg – using the name metonymically in order to mean her status in Italian literary culture, her writings themselves, and her being as a woman – gives us the opportunity to consider the significance of a volume such as this one. Although there now exist in English several collections of essays dedicated to Italian women writers and to Italian feminist thought, few are given over to the evaluation of a single woman writer. Ginzburg is certainly one of the most prominent among Italian women writers of this century, at least in her native country, and this fact alone may...

  8. An Interview with Natalia Ginzburg
    (pp. 10-31)

    PB Iʹm eager to learn about the Italian literary scene, to know, for example, whether writers think of themselves as belonging to movements or regional groups. Do you consider yourself a Piedmontese writer, for example – having grown up in Torino – or by now do you identify yourself as a Roman writer?

    NG I donʹt know. I never felt origins were important or at all interesting. But I admit it was tremendously liberating to write frankly as a Torinese when I wroteFamily Sayings... But that doesnʹt answer your question. Groups? Movements? I donʹt really think these groups...

  9. Natalia Ginzburg between Fiction and Memory: A Reading of Le voci della sera and Lessico famigliare
    (pp. 32-45)

    Allow me on such an occasion, and for a writer such as Natalia Ginzburg, whose biography has so often crossed the models of literary invention, to begin my critical discourse with a few personal memories, whose purpose here will serve as a friendly homage and intimate testimonial to this writer whom we have recently lost.

    I shall begin by goingà rebours, to the day of her funeral, held on a tepid autumn morning of 1991. I attended the ceremony with Achille Millo, whom I had met only a few months before, and who subsequently (and very quickly) became my...

  10. Natalia Ginzburgʹs Early Writings in Lʹltalia libera
    (pp. 46-62)

    Romeʹs Traforo, the tunnel which connects via del Tritone and via Nazionale, is not usually considered one of the consecrated sites of Italian political life. Yet, for Natalia Ginzburg and her close friend Carlo Levi, it has a significant if highly personal history. For both, the Traforo has intimate connections with their years of militancy in the Partito dʹazione (Action Party), the short-lived Liberal-Socialist Party cofounded by Leone Ginzburg, Nataliaʹs first husband. As did many other young Italians, both Levi and Natalia Ginzburg equate the brief life of the party with the equally brief period of optimism about Italyʹs future...

  11. Natalia Ginzburg: Making a Story Out of History
    (pp. 63-88)

    For a long time, Western culture was bound to a distinctive concept of history and practice of historiography that assumed humanityʹs progress from one stage to another, at times in a positive and at times in a negative direction, but always in a manner that satisfied the human need for intelligibility and belief in causality. Whether historians privileged ʹgreatʹ public events, social phenomena, biography, major movements, or the gathering of empirical data, elaborating a coherent historical continuum was their pride, as innumerable texts of a narrative or documentary character tell us. Many generations grew up in symbiosis with that ideal...

  12. The Personal Is Political: Gender, Generation, and Memory in Natalia Ginzburgʹs Caro Michele
    (pp. 89-98)

    A central tenet of contemporary feminism is that the personal is political. The two opening citations indicate this fusion. The first appeared in a newspaper reporting events in Italy two days before International Womenʹs Day in 1993. The second is from an article by Lorrie Goldensohn, ʹNatalia Ginzburg: The Days and Houses of Her Art.ʹ In many ways, Ginzburgʹs career personifies the fusion of political events with artistic concerns, a fusion found again and again in her writings.

    Insistence that the personal is political is central to modern feminist theory because it provides a tool for penetrating the power dynamics...

  13. Writing the Self: The Epistolary Novels of Natalia Ginzburg
    (pp. 99-121)

    Letters can be the most candidly personal and revealing form of communication or they can serve as a handy medium for the self-conscious construction of personality. At their most interesting they serve both functions, revealing secrets the self never knew it had, inventing a candid personality not only previously unknown but fictitious. Using letters as opportunities for controlled relations with others, the disembodied self can freely don the mask of sincerity and intimacy without the uncomfortable threat of physical consequence. William James can flirt with his convalescent sister, Alice, without worrying about incest; Abelard and Heloise can pour out their...

  14. Sagittarius: A Psychoanalytic Reading
    (pp. 122-152)

    The short novelSagittariushas often played the part of the unwanted child among Ginzburgʹs books. It was bitterly criticized by the author herself in the introduction she wrote to the 1964 Einaudi edition ofCinque romanzi brevi(Five Short Novels), where she republished the novel that had first appeared in 1957 inValentino. In this introduction Ginzburg complained thatSagittariushad two main defects: its plot was too thick and tight and its story too contrived. Ginzburg remembered that she had to work and think too hard in order to compose the story, which therefore lacked the necessary spontaneity...

  15. Natalia Ginzburg and the Craft of Writing
    (pp. 153-178)

    I would like to start my discussion of ʹII mio mestiereʹ (ʹMy Craft,ʹ 1949) by Natalia Ginzburg with two quotations which reveal both her complex, ambivalent, and twofold relationship with language, and the way she inhabits reality.¹

    The first quotation is at the very beginning ofÈ stato così(It Was Like This, 1946–7):

    Gli ho detto: – Dimmi la verità, – e ha detto: – Quale verità, - e disegnava in fretta qualcosa nel suo taccuino e mʹha mostrato cosʹera, era un treno lungo lungo con una grossa nuvola di fumo nero e lui che si sporgeva dal...

  16. The Eloquence of Understatement: Natalia Ginzburgʹs Public Image and Literary Style
    (pp. 179-196)

    In her essay ʹMoravia,ʹ which appears in the 1974 collection of essays and articlesVita immaginaria, Natalia Ginzburg discusses her famous friend Alberto Moravia and bitterly complains about the untruthful nature of his public image. According to Ginzburg, Moraviaʹs public image, which portrays him as cool, detached, and condescending, distorts and denies his true self:

    Lo conosco da molti anni... Però è molto famoso, e allora uno che non lo conosce di persona, oppure uno che sta a lungo senza vederlo, ha davanti la sua immagine pubblica. Questa immagine pubblica spesso mi infastidisce e non mi place ... In particolare,...

  17. Feminism and the ʹAbsurdʹ in Two Plays by Natalia Ginzburg
    (pp. 197-225)

    Natalia Ginzburg wrote her first eight plays between 1964 and 1971 and published them in 1970 and 1973. These were years of transformation in Italian society, in the areas of education, labour, sexuality, and gender. The writer adopted the well-established convention of the theatre of the absurd and adapted it to her needs. The effort of writing these plays, and the plays themselves, place Ginzburg within the discourse of the Italian womenʹs liberation movement and the two main issues around which it was organized: divorce and abortion (Birnbaum 1986). Ginzburg was too old to be a protagonist in the movement,...

  18. Three Articles by Natalia Ginzburg (translated by David Ward)

    • I nostri figli
      (pp. 226-229)
      Natalia di Ginzburg

      Queste mie parole sono rivolte a tutti coloro che come me hanno dei figli: a tutti coloro che sono passati attraverso le mie stesse esperienze e si trovano davanti ai miei stessi problemi.

      Fino a quando non abbiamo dei figli, la nostra vita è relativamente facile. Non dico facile in un senso soltanto materiale, ma in un sense più spirituale e profondo. Facile è il coraggio, facile la rinuncia, facile lʹentusiasmo e 1ʹimpulso finché siamo soli: facile 1ʹamore universale predicato da Cristo, finché la giovinezza è in noi. Ma con la nascita dei nostri figli la giovinezza si spegne. Ci...

    • Chiarezza
      (pp. 230-233)
      Natalia di Ginzburg

      Il fascismo prescriveva al popolo una soddisfazione perenne. Nel fascismo non cʹerano suicidi, ma gli uomini ʹcadevano inciampando fatalmente nelle propria rivoltella caricaʹ; non cʹerano poveri, perchè tutti erano assistiti e soccorsi dalla Befana fascista, dalla Giornata della Madre e del Fanciullo, da altre istituzioni benefiche, e i volti delle madri prolifiche e delle vecchie centenni sorridevano dai giornali. La radio decantava senza tregua le vittoriose campagne di guerra, le industriose operazioni di pace, i brillanti successi diplomatici, le imponenti manifestazioni sportive; la voce stessa di chi parlava allora per radio esprimeva una costante e compiaciuta soddisfazione, un perenne ottimismo;...

    • Cronaca di un paese
      (pp. 234-241)
      Natalia di Ginzburg

      Ho vissuto per tre anni in un paese dellʹItalia del Sud. Per tre anni ho veduto tramontare il sole sulle colline tondeggianti e spoglie, per tre anni ho veduto mietere il grano, per tre anni ho mangiato il pane bianco e insapore, impastato con le patate, che fanno laggiù.

      Il paese era diviso in due dalla strada. Da un lato cʹera la pineta e il castello, vigneti e campi, e più in alto la linea sinuosa delle brulle colline. Dallʹaltro lato cʹerano gli orti, i larghi pascoli e Il fiume. Il fiume era povero dʹacqua, ma un uomo una volta...

  19. The Wig A Play by Natalia Ginzburg
    (pp. 242-248)

    Hello? Operator? Iʹd like to make a long distance call to Milan. 80–18–96. And I ordered a raw egg. They brought me my tea but no egg. The tea was like water. Yes, operator. No, forget it. No, my husbandʹs not having tea. Heʹll have a café au lait later. So can you get me Milan? Yes, the same number. Oh God, now I canʹt find it. 80–18–96. No, not direct. No, I already told you. I donʹt want to dial direct.

    Massimo? Iʹm calling Milan. Cut out the whistling! My skin is so dry and...

  20. Bibiliography
    (pp. 249-250)