FAMILY: Family and Borghesia, Two Novellas by Natalia Ginzburg

FAMILY: Family and Borghesia, Two Novellas

Email this review


The first US publication of two 1977 novellas by painterly Italian minimalist Ginzburg (No Way; The City and the House). Set in modern Rome, both Family and Borghesia sketch the bittersweet passage of lives lived in gauzy tombs of indecision and gentle resignation. Carmine, the handsome, 40-ish architect of Family, cannot free himself from a loveless marriage to the pretty but vacuous Ninnetta. He consoles himself by gravitating back to the cluttered life of Ivana, an old lover with whom he had a child that died almost at birth--a child about whom nothing is said. Carmine offers sympathy when Ivana's lover commits suicide; Ivana cajoles and counsels when Carmine's wife takes a lover and Carmine reciprocates by taking a callous young lover of his own. The real center of his life, however, lies in the wasted afternoons and evenings he spends sitting in cafes and in haphazard apartments with Ivana and their respective children, waiting for life to happen--and Carmine discovers as much in the reflective hours before his premature death. In Borghesia, the gentle widow Ilaria is given a pet kitten. When it is killed, she gets another--when it is killed, she gets yet another, and this last cat will outlive her mistress. Quietly, Ilaria and her cats become the loving center of a whirling world of relatives and their shifting loves. As in Family, her life is savored only when it is past. Ginzburg has perfected an immaculate, between-the-lines style that's the Italian equivalent of Raymond Carver--though her territory is the gorgeous, amber-lit world of bourgeoisie Rome. Her delicately oblique sketches of unlived lives linger like the memory of afternoon sun across a table.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1988
Publisher: Henry Holt