Lynne Sharon Schwartz at the LARB:
I WAS 24 years old when I met Natalia Ginzburg in Rome. I had just come from three weeks of intensive study of Italian at the Universita per Stranieri di Perugia (University for Foreigners in Perugia), and before that had managed to pass an Italian reading comprehension test for a graduate program that I never completed. With the misplaced confidence of the young, I assumed I’d be able to conduct an adequate conversation with her. During the Italian course at Perugia, the teacher had introduced us to Ginzburg’s early essays collected in Le piccole virtù (The Little Virtues) and I was immediately enamored of them. Every lucid, plangent sentence enchanted my ears and twisted my heart. The essay “Broken Shoes” considered the condition of her shoes as she walked through Rome after the fascists murdered her husband, preceded by a spell of political exile with their children in a village in the Abruzzi region. The essays about their life in that town sketched the mutually generous friendships that developed between her family and the local people.