Natalia Ginzburg (1916 –1991) was an Italian author whose work explored family, fascism and philosophy.
“It was the hundredth anniversary of her birth a few years ago, and there were lots of reissues going on, fresh translations. But when Natalia Ginzburg first started writing there was a lot of snobbery about the way that she wrote—certainly in Italy—because she wrote about things so plainly. There were none of the more flowery textures in her writing that Italians at the time tended to think marked out great literature. She was stripping it bare. It’s taken time for Italian readers to appreciate that, but now I don’t think there would be any question that she’s one of the great twentieth-century writers. She’s really having a heyday now.” Thea Lenarduzzi in the best books on family history.
“The perspective of the female narrator is also important given the predominance of testimonies from anti-Fascist men.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat in the best books on Fascism.
Books by Natalia Ginzburg
“The Dry Heart is short, focused, cyclical and repetitive. It’s the story of a woman who, you learn in the first paragraph of the novella, has killed her husband because she cannot take him any more. It circles around the moment when she shoots him, and backs into it from a number of different ways. It’s a novella that helps you understand why a certain kind of emotionally intense reckoning might fit better into a novella format than a novel.” Read more...
Forgotten Classics: The Best B-Side Books
John Plotz, Literary Scholar
“This is a book you can read again and again and again, and find something new in it every single time, the way that—if you start really listening—you can hear something new in your family stories. The book is in no way grand, even though it’s dealing with these huge figures (lots of famous faces are involved), a huge time—war comes and goes in a few pages. This is about everyday life, about what happens in houses rather than in government offices. She sees people for what they are. “ Read more...
The best books on Family History
Thea Lenarduzzi, Journalist
“You don’t need the author to say ‘And I experienced it like this… and I was changed by this event and then that event’, because you feel it yourself in the way she writes.” Read more...
Yiyun Li, Memoirist
Interviews where books by Natalia Ginzburg were recommended
Yiyun Li on the ‘Anti-memoir’
Yiyun Li, author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, on the sheer messiness of life, the irrelevance of ‘I’, and why brutal honesty is often the truest way to capture the people we love the most
The best books on Family History, recommended by Thea Lenarduzzi
The story of a family never ends, says Thea Lenarduzzi—the literary critic and author of the prize-winning family memoir Dandelions: “It’s always evolving, rewriting itself, long after the protagonists are dead.” Here, she recommends five books on family history that illustrate the shapeshifting nature of this hard-to-pin-down subject, in which memories rarely tally with the written record.
The best books on Fascism, recommended by Ruth Ben-Ghiat
In an era of Trumpism and fake news, the word ‘fascist’ is thrown around with increasing ease and little attention paid to its origins and history. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, political commentator and historian at New York University, recommends the best books for understanding fascism’s history and recognizing it today.
Forgotten Classics: The Best B-Side Books, recommended by John Plotz
New books are constantly being published. Sometimes they slip by unremarked; sometimes their impact is so enormous as to divert the flow of literature altogether. But what of those books that made a splash on arrival, but have long since disappeared from view? John Plotz, the literary scholar, has spent five years resurfacing these forgotten classics: the ‘B-side books’ that have fallen from the public consciousness.