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Nicholas Spice, 19 December 1985

The Assault 
by Harry Mulisch, translated by Claire Nicolas White.
Collins Harvill, 204 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 00 271011 0
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All Our Yesterdays 
by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Angus Davidson.
Carcanet, 300 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 85635 593 3
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Family Sayings 
by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by D.M. Low.
Carcanet, 181 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 0 85635 504 6
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The Little Virtues 
by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Dick Davis.
110 pp., £6.95, June 1985, 0 85635 553 4
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Strange Loop 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 175 pp., £8.50, June 1984, 0 224 02210 5
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The Cabalist 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 184 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 224 02326 8
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... Il Figlio dell’Uomo’, ‘The Son of Man’, an essay by Natalia Ginzburg written in 1946 for the paper Unita, begins: ‘There has been a war and people have seen so many houses reduced to rubble that they no longer feel safe in their own homes which once seemed so quiet and secure. This is something that is incurable and will never be cured no matter how many years go by ...

Keep the ball rolling

Tim Parks: Natalia Ginzburg, 29 June 2017

A Family Lexicon 
by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Jenny McPhee.
NYRB, 224 pp., £9.99, August 2017, 978 1 59017 838 6
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... traumatic, perhaps fatal break. This may seem a strange preamble to a consideration of the work of Natalia Ginzburg, a writer sometimes criticised in Italy for having restricted her comments on the highly influential, privileged and politicised peer group she lived among to accounts of their domestic foibles. But coming back to ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Gospel According to Saint Matthew’, 21 March 2013

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 
directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
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... that have an interest for other reasons: those of a 22-year-old Giorgio Agamben, of the novelist Natalia Ginzburg, or Pasolini’s own mother – as Mary grown older. The talk itself in the movie – that is, all the intense verbatim quotation of Christ’s words – works as long as we can maintain the disconnect in our minds between this language and ...

Stop It and Act

Tim Parks: Pavese’s Road to Suicide, 11 February 2010

This Business of Living: Diaries 1935-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by A.E. Murch.
Transaction, 350 pp., £24.50, March 2009, 978 1 4128 1019 7
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... overseen instead by a French professor, after intervention from Pavese’s left-wing friend Leone Ginzburg. Thus began the image of Pavese as a left-wing activist and the comforting illusion that the translation and propagation of American literature might be a threat to the regime. That same year, 1930, Pavese’s mother died, and apart from the period of ...


Eric Hobsbawm: An Assembly of Ghosts, 21 April 2005

... was the most prestigious publishing house in the country (Pavese, Calvino, Vittorini, Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzburg, not to mention Gramsci), and, for a couple of decades after the war, probably the finest in the world. He would take (under-royaltied) authors like me to dinner at the opulent Cambio restaurant, unchanged since Cavour had planned the ...


Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... to its literature. Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Bowen, Marguerite Duras, Martha Gellhorn, Natalia Ginzburg, Shirley Hazzard, Doris Lessing and many other women writers are here (but not Anne Frank or Hannah Arendt), and among the more unexpected selections are the reminiscences of Soviet women, collected, Studs Terkel-wise, by Julia ...

Vaporous Shapes

Tim Parks: Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Whereabouts’, 1 July 2021

by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £14.99, May, 978 1 5266 2995 1
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... are​ antecedents for books like this in Italian literature: collections of short pieces by Natalia Ginzburg or Italo Calvino – or Cesare Pavese’s Among Women Only, another novel in which a cool protagonist is both drawn to and repulsed by the intensity of sexual relationships. But the complete immersion in Italian culture evident in ...

Full of Words

Tim Parks: ‘Arturo’s Island’, 15 August 2019

Arturo’s Island 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Pushkin, 370 pp., £9.99, May 2019, 978 1 78227 495 7
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... Cassola, Beppe Fenoglio, Vasco Pratolini, Morante’s husband, Alberto Moravia, and her friends Natalia Ginzburg and Pier Paolo Pasolini were all in different ways seeking to describe postwar desolation in spare, chastened prose. Morante was having none of it. Her own writing is more reminiscent of the fin-de-siècle grandiloquence of D’Annunzio. And ...

It isn’t your home

Toril Moi: Sarraute gets her due, 10 September 2020

Nathalie Sarraute: A Life Between 
by Ann Jefferson.
Princeton, 425 pp., £34, August 2020, 978 0 691 19787 6
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... close them again in 1940), and since Weil excelled in the entrance exams, they had to let her in.Natalia Ilyinichna Tcherniak was born to Jewish parents on 18 July 1900 in Ivanovo-Voznesensk in Russia. Her father, Israel (Ilya) Tcherniak, had built up a factory producing industrial dyes. Her mother, Khina Perl (Polina) Chatounovskaya, was – or rather ...

Don’t Look Down

Nicholas Spice: Dull Britannia, 8 April 2010

Family Britain 1951-57 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 776 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 7475 8385 1
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... on earth, but also the most boring!’ was the verdict of Hannah Arendt in 1952; ten years later Natalia Ginzburg, visiting London, would have agreed: ‘England is never vulgar. It is conventional, but not vulgar … the English rarely surprise.’ The class system had much to do with the stolidity of the British in the 1950s, though whether that ...

Slammed by Hurricanes

Jenny Turner: Elsa Morante, 20 April 2017

The World Saved by Kids: And Other Epics 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Cristina Viti.
Seagull, 319 pp., £19.50, January 2017, 978 0 85742 379 5
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... which featured the philosopher Giorgio Agamben as the disciple Philip, the novelist Natalia Ginzburg as Mary of Bethany and Susanna, Pasolini’s mother, as the older Virgin Mary. A few years later, Pasolini wrote warmly about Morante’s Il mondo salvato dai ragazzini (1968), a dramatic poetry cycle which has just been translated into ...

Travelling in the Classic Style

Thomas Laqueur: Primo Levi, 5 September 2002

Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics 
by Robert Gordon.
Oxford, 316 pp., £45, October 2001, 0 19 815963 3
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Primo Levi 
by Ian Thomson.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 09 178531 6
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The Double Bond: Primo Levi, a Biography 
by Carole Angier.
Viking, 898 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88333 6
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... the disease and those placed higher up did not.) Levi’s literary career had a shaky start – Natalia Ginzburg rejected his first book for Einaudi, not quite on a par with Gide’s rejection of Proust, but still embarrassing – and it didn’t take off until The Truce in 1963. (The Italian edition sold forty thousand copies within a month and might ...

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