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Natalia Ginzburg


GINZBURG, NATALIA (1917–1991), Italian novelist and playwright. Natalia Ginzburg, who was born in Palermo, was the daughter of the biologist, Giuseppe Levi, and a non-Jewish mother. She studied in Turin, where her associates were the Jewish anti-fascist intellectuals who were active in the Italian resistance. Her first husband, Leone Ginzburg, a victim of the Nazis, died in a Roman prison in 1944. Her first story, La strada che va in città (1942; Road to the City, 1949), appeared under the pen name "Alessandra Tornimparte." Later works are È stato così (1947), the novel Tutti i nostri ieri (1952; Eng. ed. Dead Yesterdays, 1956; U.S. ed. A Light for Fools, 1957), the short story volume Valentino (1957), Le voci della sera (1961; Voices in the Evening, 1963), and Le piccole virtù (1962). Natalia Ginzburg's characters, who are lonely, persecuted, and engaged in a hopeless quest for sympathy and understanding, include many Jews. Her deep pessimism was overcome, for once, in her outstanding work, Lessico famigliare (1963; Family Sayings, 1967). This is a psychological novel based on the author's recollections of her own family and the events of her youth. The characters range from the bourgeois, assimilated Jews of the late 19th century, personified by her father, to the anti-fascist circles of Turin and her first friends. But the book's main achievement lies in the distinctive language of the narrative. Natalia Ginzburg uses her family's private phraseology, including many expressions from Spanish- and German-Jewish dialects, in such a way that it plays a leading role in recreating the flavor of an age. Natalia Ginzburg's three plays are Ti ho sposato per allegria, La segretaria, and L'inserzione. The last was produced as The Advertisement by the National Theater in London.

Sources:O. Lombardi, La giovane narrativa (1963); G. Romano, in: Scritti in memoria di L. Carpi (1967), 202–4; S. Pacifici, A Guide to Contemporary Italian Literature (1962), index; E. Clementelli, Invito alla lettura di Natalia Ginzburg (1996); A.O. Bullock, Natalia Ginzburg: Human Relationships in a Changing World (1991); I. Giovanna, Natalia Ginzburg: la casa, la città, la storia ((1996); M.L. Quarsiti, Natalia Ginzburg: bibliografia 1934–1992 (1996); M. Pflug, Natalia Ginzburg: arditamente timida (1997); idem, Natalia Ginzburg:una biografia (1997); G. Borri, Natalia Ginzburg (1999); A. Jeannet, G. Sanguinetti Katz (eds.), Natalia Ginzburg, a Voice of the Twentieth Century (2000); C. Borrelli, Notiziedi Natalia Ginzburg (2002); C. Nocentini, "Racial Laws and Internment in Natalia Ginzburg's 'Lessico famigliare'," in: The Most Ancientof Minorities (2002), 147–55; T.L. Picarazzi, Maternal Desire: Natalia Ginzburg's Mothers, Daughters and Sisters (2002); N. Ginzburg, It's Hard to Talk about Yourself (2003).

[Giorgio Romano]

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