Reintroducing Natalia Ginzburg, One of the Great Italian Writers of the 20th Century

Parul Sehgal in the New York Times:

The voice is instantly, almost violently recognizable — aloof, amused and melancholy. The metaphors are sparse and ordinary; the language plain, but every word load-bearing. Short sentences detonate into scenes of shocking cruelty. Even in middling translations, it is a style that cannot be subsumed; Natalia Ginzburg can only sound like herself.

Ginzburg died in 1991, celebrated as one of the great Italian writers. Her work is making its way again into the Anglophone world, encouraged, perhaps, by the popularity of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Ginzburg’s 1963 autobiographical novel, “Family Lexicon,” was published in an agile new translation by Jenny McPhee two years ago, and two other works of fiction, “The Dry Heart” and “Happiness, as Such,” have just been reissued, one in a new translation.

The family was her great obsession; it is “where everything starts,” she once said, “where the germs grow.” The families in these newly available books are petri dishes of fizzing dysfunction.

More here.