Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Valentino and Sagittarius
by Natalia Ginzburg, introduction by Cynthia Zarin, translated from the Italian by Avril Bardoni
September 2020 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club.
Valentino and Sagittarius are two of Natalia Ginzburg’s most celebrated works: tales of love, hope, and delusion that are full of her characteristic mordant humor, keen psychological insight, and unflinching moral realism.
Valentino is the spoiled child of doting parents, who have no doubt that their handsome young son will prove “a man of consequence.” Nothing that Valentino does—his nights out on the town, his failed or incomplete classes—suggests there is any ground for that confidence, and Valentino’s sisters view their parents and brother with a mixture of bitterness, stoicism, and bemusement. Everything becomes that much more confused when, out of the blue, Valentino finds an enterprising, wealthy, and strikingly ugly wife, who undertakes to support not just him but the whole family.
Sagittarius is another story of misplaced confidence recounted by a wary daughter, whose mother, a grass widow with time on her hands, moves to the suburbs, eager to find new friends. Brassy, bossy, and perpetually dissatisfied, especially when it comes to her children, she strikes up a friendship with the mysterious Scilla, and soon the two women are planning to open an art gallery. But knowing better than everyone, it turns out, is not that different from knowing nothing at all.
[Ginzburg's] observations are swift and exact, usually irradiated by an unruly and often satirical humor. The instrument with which she writes is fine, wonderfully flexible and keen, and the quality of her attention is singular. The voice is. . . entrancing and alarming, elegantly streamlined by the authority of a powerful intelligence.
—Deborah Eisenberg, The New York Review of Books
Ginzburg gives us a new template for the female voice and an idea of what it might sound like.
—Rachel Cusk, The Times Literary Supplement
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.
—Kate Simon, The New York Times
The raw beauty of 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.
There is no one quite like 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.