One of the great Italian novelists of the last century, Natalia Ginzburg was long overlooked in the United States. Yet as Italy turns back toward the far right, this leading voice of the antifascist generation is again calling out to the present.
Despite her fame in her homeland, Natalia Ginzburg was until recently little known in the United States. For decades, critics have considered her Italy’s finest female novelist, essayist, and playwright of the second half of the twentieth century. Yet it seems that only her country’s recent turn to the far right has enticed New York publishers to take an interest, with a slew of new English-language editions.In 2017, New York Review Books brought out a highly praised translation of Family Lexicon, which is to be followed by two sets of lesser-known Ginzburg novellas next year. On June 25, New Directions published Happiness, as Such, a tragicomic novel about a young man fleeing the country because of his political activism, and on August 13, Arcade will reissue The Manzoni Family: A Novel, a biography of the nineteenth-century romantic Alessandro Manzoni, author of the classic The Betrothed.Ginzburg’s emotional and physical narrative landscape stands in stark contrast to that of today’s highest-profile Italian novelist, Elena Ferrante (a pseudonym), by most accounts born in 1943. Ferrante’s best-selling Neapolitan Novels quartet has been translated into many languages and turned into an ongoing HBO series. Her main characters are two working-class girls coming of age in a poverty-stricken Naples neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s, marked by profound misogyny and violence.