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Family and Borghesia

Family and Borghesia

by Natalia Ginzburg, translated from the Italian by Beryl Stockman, afterword by Eric Gudas

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Carmine, an architect, and Ivana, a translator, lived together long ago and even had a child, but the child died, and their relationship fell apart, and Carmine married Ninetta, and their child is Dodò, who Carmine feels is a little dull, and these days Carmine is still spending every evening with Ivana, but Ninetta has nothing to say about that. Family, the first of these two novellas from the 1970s, is an examination, at first comic, then progressively dark, about how time passes and life goes on and people circle around the opportunities they had missed, missing more as they do, until finally time is up.

Borghesia, about a widow who keeps acquiring and losing the Siamese cats she hopes will keep her company in her loneliness, explores similar ground, along with the confusions of feeling and domestic life that came with the loosening social strictures of the 1970s. “She remembered saying that there were three things in life you should always refuse,” thinks one of Natalia Ginzburg’s characters, beginning to age out of youth: “Hypocrisy, resignation, and unhappiness. But it was impossible to shield yourself from those three things. Life was full of them and there was no holding them back.”

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681375083
Pages: 128
Publication Date:


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.
—Hilma Wolitzer

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.
—Phillip Lopate

[Ginzburg’s] stories have a subtle power that catches you at the end. . . each sings with the characteristic wit and piercing clarity of prose that holds you rapt when you read her work.
—Lauren Kane, The Paris Review Daily

Lucid, witty, and heartbreaking. . . [Family is] a superb, unforgettable feast. . . . These two novellas are suffused with the rigorous wisdom Ginzburg earned through calamity and her determination to persist nonetheless in her work.
—Lynne Sharon Schwartz, The Los Angeles Review of Books

There is perhaps no greater archivist of the family lexicon than the Italian novelist Natalia Ginzburg. . . She believed that the words and stories ‘heard and repeated countless times’ in childhood constituted a ‘dictionary of our past’—and, at least in her case, created the conditions for ‘family unity.’ . . . [Ginzburg] reflects the unvarnished way that close relatives really communicate.
—Jess Bergman, Jewish Currents

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