Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
Pages: 224
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

A Family Lexicon

by Natalia Ginzburg, introduction by Peg Boyers, translated from the Italian by Jenny McPhee

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An NYRB Classics Original

Natalia Ginzburg begins A Family Lexicon with an unusual disclaimer: “The places, events and people are all real. I have invented nothing. Every time that I have found myself inventing something in accordance with my old habits as a novelist, I have felt impelled at once to destroy everything thus invented.” In A Family Lexicon fiction is under the control of fact, and the result is a novel that re-creates the small world of a family enduring some of the most difficult years of the twentieth century—spanning the period from the rise of Mussolini through World War II, in which Ginzburg’s husband fought for the resistance and was killed by the Nazis—with passionate objectivity. Every family has its store of phrases and sayings by which it maintains its sense both of what it means to be a family and of what sets it apart as one particular family. This lexicon, these shared understandings, these stories, not by any means always to be relied on and sometimes not a little ridiculous, lie at the heart of a great novel about family and history.


Ms. Ginzburg's limpid, idiosyncratic prose and her simplicity are an achievement, hard-won and remarkable, and the more welcome in a literary world where the cloak of omniscience is all too readily donned.
The New York Times

The atmosphere of the book is so clear and immediate that reading it is like being there or seeing a film.
The Christian Science Monitor

A glowing light of modern Italian literature...Ginzburg's magic is the utter simplicity of her prose, suddenly illuminated by one word that makes a lightning stroke of a plain phrase...As direct and clean as if it were carved in stone, it yet speaks thoughts of the heart.
The New York Times

Praise for A Place to Live: And Other Selected Essays of Natalia Ginzburg

There is no one quite like Natalia Ginzburg for telling it like it is. Her unique, immediately recognizable voice is at once clear and shaded, artless and sly, able to speak of the deepest sorrows and smallest pleasures of everyday life. For all those like myself who love Natalia Ginzburg's prose, this generous selection assembled from her essay collections will be irresistible, a must to own, cherish, and re-read.
—Phillip Lopate

The raw beauty of Natalia Ginzburg's prose compels our gaze. First we look inward, with the shock of recognition inspired by all great writing, and then, inevitably, out at the shared world she evokes with such uncompromising clarity.
—Hilma Wolitzer