Though Natalia Ginzburg is known primarily as a novelist and short-story writer, she was also a talented dramatist, essayist, and poet. She published two collections of plays, Ti ho sposato per allegria, e altre commedie (1967; I married you for the fun of it, and other comedies) and Paese di mar, e altre commedie (1973; sea town, and other comedies), some of which have been performed in London and New York. Her three volumes of essays and articles, Le piccole virtù (1962; The Little Virtues, 1985), Mai devi domandarmi (1970; Never Must You Ask Me, 1973), and Vita immaginaria (1974; imaginary life), range over a wide variety of subjects, including literary and film criticism. Her scholarly biography of the family of Italy’s greatest novelist of the nineteenth century, La famiglia Manzoni (1983; The Manzoni Family, 1987), has won critical acclaim. Her poetry has been published in various newspapers and literary reviews.
One of the best-known Italian female writers of the second half of the twentieth century, Natalia Ginzburg began her career by publishing short stories in Solaria and Letteratura in the mid-1930’s. Her first short novel, The Road to the City, was published under the pseudonym Alessandra Tornimparte because of the anti-Jewish laws. Hernarrative works of the 1940’s and 1950’s established her critical reputation and associated her with the brief but significant neorealist movement in Italian literature and film. In 1947, her second short novel, The Dry Heart, won the Tempo Prize. Her first long novel, Dead Yesterdays, was awarded the Veillon Prize in the year of its publication. In 1957, Ginzburg received the Viareggio Prize for the short novel Valentino.
Ginzburg’s second long novel, Family Sayings, which received the prestigious Strega Prize in 1964, is generally considered one of her strongest works, together with the novel that preceded it, Voices in the Evening. Ginzburg’s uncomplicated narrative style, with which she recounts stories that hover between fiction and nonfiction, has made hers one of the most distinctive voices in postwar Italian letters. One of her several plays, L’inserzione (pb. 1967; The Advertisement, 1969), was honored with the Marzotto International Prize of 1968.
Bullock, Allan. Natalia Ginzburg: Human Relationships in a Changing World. New York: Berg, 1991. The most complete study in English.
Giorgio, Adalgisa. “Natalia Ginzburg’s ‘La Madre’: Exposing Patriarchy’s Erasure of the Mother.” The Modern Language Review 88 (October, 1993): 864-880. A thoughtful review of Ginzburg’s best-known story.
Jeannet, Angela, and Giuliana Sanguinetti Katz, eds. Natalia Ginzburg: A Voice of the Twentieth Century. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. A collection of essays.
Picarazzi, Teresa L. Maternal Desire: Natalia Ginzburg’s Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002. A study of the all-important family relationships in Ginzburg’s work.
Simborowski, Nicoletta. “Music and Memory in Natalia Ginzburg’s Lessico famigliare.” Modern Language Review 94 (July, 1999): 680-690. Covers the debate over whether to classify the work as romance or autobiography.