Natalia Ginzburg

Italian writer

Natalia Ginzburg (Italian: [nataˈliːa ˈɡintsburɡ], German: [ˈɡɪntsbʊʁk]; née Levi; 14 July 1916 – 7 October 1991) was an author who lived in Italy. She wrote novels, short stories and essays, which often explored family relationships, politics during and after the Fascist years and World War II, and philosophy. For a time in the 1930s she belonged to the Italian Communist Party and in 1983 she was elected to Parliament from Rome as an independent politician.

Natalia Ginzburg (1983)

Quotes edit

  • they laughed a little and were very friendly together, the three of them, Anna, Emanuele and Giustino; and they were pleased to be together, the three of them, thinking of all those who were dead, and of the long war and the sorrow and noise and confusion, and of the long, difficult life which they saw in front of them now, full of all the things they did not know how to do.”
    • Tutti i nostri ieri (1952). All Our Yesterdays, transl. Angus Davidson (1985)
  • Fanfares of trumpets usually announced only small, futile things, it was a way fate had of teasing people. You felt a great exaltation and heard a loud fanfare of trumpets in the sky. But the serious things of life, on the contrary, took you by surprise, they spurted up all of a sudden like water.
    • Tutti i nostri ieri (1952). All Our Yesterdays, transl. Angus Davidson (1985)
  • But it was incredible how fear and danger never produced ignoble words but always true ones, words that were torn from your very heart.
    • Tutti i nostri ieri (1952). All Our Yesterdays, transl. Angus Davidson (1985)

Interview (1992) edit

  • Groups? Movements? I don’t really think these groups exist. I don’t think in Italy there even are such things as currents or trends. The whole scene is really much too chaotic for such groups to form and stay together as separate entities.
  • (Are there other English language writers who mean a lot to you?) NG: Well, of course, Shakespeare. And I love George Eliot as well. I’ve read the major authors, but in Italian, not English. Perhaps my favorite English novelist is Jane Austen. I hardly know contemporary American literature. The two American authors I love most, who are by now dead, alas, are Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor. And then I love Fitzgerald and Hemingway—especially the Hemingway of the stories...When Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology came out in Italian, suddenly there was widespread interest in North American writing. But even before that Pavese was busy introducing us all to the great American writers.
  • dialect is really impossible to translate adequately.
  • I’m not really a poet. It’s only once in a while that what I have to say seems to find its best expression in a poem. But I do read a number of poets—Montale, Sandro Penna, Sabba.
  • (there must have been other writers whom you regarded as models.) NG: In my adolescence, the Russians were tremendously important to me. More than anyone, Chekhov. Of the Italians, Svevo, the Moravia of Gli Indifferenti. When I started writing these were the writers I kept before me.
  • Style is not something that can be improvised: one has to construct it, to make it.
  • in my own work...there’s an important sense of the visual, of the visualized. I see it all so vividly. It’s not that I don’t see what I imagine. If I don’t see it then I can’t write anything.
  • My Jewish identity became extremely important to me from the moment the Jews began to be persecuted. At that point I became aware of myself as a Jew. But I came from a mixed marriage—my father was Jewish, my mother Catholic. My parents were atheists and therefore chose not to give us, the children, any religious instruction. They were totally non-observant. You might say that a Hebrew spirit dominated the household in the sense that my father had a very strong, very authoritarian character. And I suppose it’s true that many of the family friends were Jews, but many were not. So, while I did not have any sort of formal Jewish upbringing, I nevertheless felt my Jewishness very acutely during the war years (my first husband, Leone Ginzburg, was a Jew) and after the war, when it became known what had been done to the Jews in the camps by the Nazis. Suddenly my Jewishness became very important to me.
  • for a mistake, my God, you don’t make a child suffer!
  • unfortunately, a great number of judges and social workers are rigidly unable to judge cases in a human way.
  • I believe the family to be terribly important, even when it is obsessive or repressive or full of insidious germs which can pollute life. But it’s a necessary institution, a way in which children become adults, for which there’s no substitute.
  • Every time I sit down to write a book I feel that I have to start from zero, that I have to re-learn how to write.
  • (PB: You wrote your essay “The Little Virtues” a long time ago, really in another age. A number of American readers are very much taken with the piece while finding it a direct challenge to their familiar assumptions. Would you still offer parents the same advice with regard to the upbringing of their children or have your thoughts changed?) NG: I’m sure that I would write exactly the same thing; even in these difficult times one should only teach the big virtues, generosity more than anything else. The rest can be learned later on.
  • A journalist recently said in the newspapers that writers should keep their mouths shut as much as possible and I think he was probably right. Better to write than to speak.
  • what a job of ants and horses translation is. (PB: Ants and horses?) NG: One has to be as exact and industrious as an ant and have the impetus, the strength, of a horse to pull ahead.

Le piccole virtù (1962) edit

Translated into English by Dick Davis as The Little Virtues (1985)

  • When I write something I usually think it is very important and that I am a very fine writer. I think this happens to everyone. But there is one corner of my mind in which I know very well what I am, which is a small, a very small writer. I swear I know it. But that doesn't matter much to me. Only, I don't want to think about names: I can see that if I am asked 'a small writer like who?' it would sadden me to think of the names of other small writers. I prefer to think that no one has ever been like me, however small, however much a mosquito or a flea of a writer I may be. The important thing is to be convinced that this really is your vocation, your profession, something you will do all your life.
  • What we must remember above all in the education of our children is that their love of life should never weaken.
  • Human relationships have to be rediscovered every day. We have to remember constantly that every kind of meeting with our neighbor is a human action and so it is always evil or good, true or deceitful, a kindness or a sin.
  • He knew how to find time to study and to write, to earn his living and to wander idly through the streets he loved; whereas we, who staggered from laziness to frantic activity and back again, wasted our time trying to decide whether we were lazy or industrious
  • Our dreams are never realized and as soon as we see them betrayed we realize that the intensest joys of our life have nothing to do with reality. No sooner do we see them betrayed than we are consumed with regret for the time when they glowed within us. And in this succession of hopes and regrets our life slips by.
  • if we ourselves have a vocation, if we have not betrayed it, if over the years we have continued to love it, to serve it passionately, we are able to keep all sense of ownership out of our love for our children. But if on the other hand we do not have a vocation, or if we have abandoned it or betrayed it out of cynicism or a fear of life, or because of mistaken parental love, or because of some little virtue that exists within us, then we cling to our children as a shipwrecked mariner clings to a tree trunk.

Quotes about edit

  • The novels and essays of Natalia Ginzburg (among them, The Manzoni Family and The Little Virtues) address both her Sephardic ancestry and her leftist political philosophy.
    • Ilan Stavans Introduction to The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature (2005)

External links edit

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