VALENTINO and SAGITTARIUS: Two Novellas by Natalia Ginzburg


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The first US publication of two early (1950's) novellas by the accomplished Ginzburg (No Way, The City and the House). Each tells of a family disintegrating when an act of blind selfishness punctures a delicate casing of dreams. In Valentino, a preening medical student absorbs all the love and money in his poor family. So powerful is their dream that Valentino will become a ""man of consequence"" that his long-suffering parents even enlist the sympathy of their neglected daughter, narrator Caterina. Inexplicably, however, Valentino marries rich and homely Maddalena; his father's distress is so great that he sickens and dies--as does his mother. Caterina moves in with her brother and sister-in-law after her mother's death, and witnesses and weighs Maddalena's gruff generosity against Valentino's vain idleness. Meanwhile, Maddalena's cousin, a daily companion of Valentino's, proposes marriage to Caterina--and then retracts his offer. When he commits suicide, Caterina learns how her brother selfishly uses all who loved him. In Sagittarius, a restless widow moves to the city with frail daughter Guila and Guila's unprepossessing doctor husband. Neither the city nor Guila--nor the plain, scholarly daughter who narrates--lives up to mother's expectations. She assuages her disappointment with a new friend. Meeting daily in cheap coffee-bars, the pair scheme about starting an art gallery. The widow stakes her children's legacy on the dream--heartache and, finally, tragedy ensue. Each novella has its understated, exquisite moments, but neither achieves the gentle miracles of Ginzburg's mature work, and will leave most Ginzburg admirers hungering.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Henry Holt