Rachel Cusk at the TLS:
The voice of the Italian novelist and essayist Natalia Ginzburg comes to us with absolute clarity amid the veils of time and language. Writings from more than half a century ago read as if they have just been – in some mysterious sense are still being – composed. No context is required to read her: in fact, to read her is to realize how burdened literature frequently is by its own social and material milieux. Yet her work is not abstract or overtly philosophical: it is deeply practical and personal. You come away from it feeling that you know the author profoundly, without having very much idea of who she is.
It isn’t quite right to call these contradictions, because they are also the marks of a great artist, but in this case perhaps it is worth treating them as such, since they enabled Ginzburg to evolve techniques with which contemporary literature is only just catching up. Chief among these is her grasp of the self and of its moral function in narrative; second – a consequence of the first – is her liberation from conventional literary form and from the structures of thought and expression that Virginia Woolf likewise conjectured would have to be swept away if an authentic female literature were to be born.