The little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg  | Daunt Books Publishing

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

Italian Memoir

Original title – Le piccole virtù

Translator – Dick Davis

Source – Personal copy

One of the writers I saw mentioned in the book Not to read by Alejandro Zambra was Natalia Ginzburg. Ginzburg was a writer when Zambra discovered he couldn’t decide whether to shout out about or keep just for themselves.But he let it slip very soon about him. Natalia Ginzburg. He first novel was published under a pseudonym in 1942 as she was Jewish.After that, she worked for the Italian publisher Einaudi that published books by the likes of Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese and Italo Calvino.Then in the fifties, this is the most productive period for Ginzburg as a writer she wrote most of the pieces in that period of time.

My shoes are worn out , and the friend I live with at the moment also has worn out shoes. When we are together we often talk about shoes. When we are together we often talk about shoes. If I talk about the time when I shall be an old, famous  writers, she immediately ask me” What shoes will you wear ?” Then I say i shall have shoes made or green sude with a big gold buckle on one side.

Worn out shoes is about her war time experiences using her shoes as a metaphor about the war and its experinces on the public.

There is twelve piece in Little Virtues. From the first piece about the winters in her home region of  Abruzzi where she says they only really have Winter and Summer with her saying the spring is like winter, she describes how the region deals with the conditions and how many of the workers come home from the summer work for Christmas. Then a wonderful piece written about her war experiences called worn out shoes about how she managed to cope with just a  single pair of Shoes and how her friends also have to. It ends with lines about having to learn to walk in worn out shoes. Then my favorite piece is called England a Eulogy and lament. is a witty piece about how she found England when she visited not the most flattering view of our country but funny and I was reminded of the Black and white films of the late forties with the grey smog filled country she describes the English stations as the place where England is most openly gloomy. Then she talks in the later piece about types of silence and her relationships

England also expresses its sense of fantasy in its cafes and restaurants. They often give them tfoerign names to make them more attractive- “Pustaza”, “Chez Nous”,”Rome”,”Le Alpi”. When you look through the windows you see wispy climbing plants, Chinese lanterns, shap oeaks of rock, the blue of glaciers. Or you see skulls and crossbones black walls , black carpets, funeral candles – and because these place are oftendeserted a mournful silences reigns.

Enland through her eyes is a strange and and odd place.

Natalia Ginzburg is due to have a revival with this recent reissue of this book and a couple of others in recent years like me a new generation of readers can discover this great female Italian voice. The pieces in this collection started in the world war two Italy to post-war England and glimpse into her personal life. Her style is conversational at times you are drawn into her essays and feel as she is describing her world as thou you are next to her. There is subtle wit at times behind her writing especially her times in England, which has a wonderful dry view of drab post-war Britain. I want to try one of her novels next. It is great to see more non-fiction in translation.

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