Natalia Ginzburg

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Natalia Ginzburg and President Sandro Pertini, c. early 1980s

Natalia Ginzburg née Levi (German: [nataˈliːa ˈɡintsburɡ]; 14 July 1916, Palermo – 7 October 1991, Rome) was an Italian author whose work explored family relationships, politics during and after the Fascist years and World War II, and philosophy. She wrote novels, short stories and essays, for which she received the Strega Prize and Bagutta Prize. Most of her works were also translated into English and published in the United Kingdom and United States.

An activist, for a time in the 1930s she belonged to the Italian Communist Party. In 1983 she was elected to Parliament from Rome as an Independent.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Palermo, Sicily in 1916, Ginzburg spent most of her youth in Turin with her family, as her father in 1919 took a position with the University of Turin. Her father, Giuseppe Levi, a renowned Italian histologist, was born into a Jewish Italian family, and her mother, Lidia Tanzi, was Catholic.[1][2] Her parents were secular and raised Natalia, her sister Paola (who would marry Adriano Olivetti) and her three brothers as atheists.[3] Their home was a center of cultural life, as her parents invited intellectuals, activists and industrialists. At age 17 in 1933, Ginzburg published her first story, I bambini, in the magazine Solaria.

Marriage and family[edit]

Natalia and Leone Ginzburg

In 1938, she married Leone Ginzburg, and they had three children together, Carlo, Andrea, and Alessandra.[4] Their son Carlo Ginzburg became a historian.

Although Natalia Ginzburg was able to live relatively free of harassment during World War II, because of Leone's anti-Fascist activities, her husband was sent into internal exile, assigned from 1941-1943 to a poor village in Abruzzo. She and their children lived most of the time with him.[5]

Opponents of the Fascist regime, she and her husband secretly went to Rome and edited an anti-Fascist newspaper, until Leone Ginzburg was arrested. He died in 1944 after suffering severe torture, including crucifixion, in jail.[5]

In 1950, Ginzburg married again, to Gabriele Baldini, a scholar of English literature. They lived in Rome. He died in 1969.


After her marriage, she used the name Natalia Ginzburg (occasionally spelled "Ginzberg") on most subsequent publications. Her first novel was published under the pseudonym Alessandra Tornimparte in 1942, during Fascist Italy's most anti-Semitic period, when Jews were banned from publishing.

Ginzburg spent much of the 1940s working for the publisher Einaudi in Turin in addition to her creative writing. They published some of the leading figures of postwar Italy, including Carlo Levi, Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese and Italo Calvino. Ginzburg's second novel was published in 1947.

The experiences that she and her husband had during the war altered her perception of her identification as a Jew. She thought deeply about the questions aroused by the war and the Holocaust, dealing with them in fiction and essays. She converted to Catholicism, arousing controversy among her circle, because she believed that Christ was a persecuted Jew.[5]

Beginning in 1950, when Ginzburg married again and moved to Rome, she entered the most prolific period of her literary career. During the next 20 years, she published most of the works for which she is best known. She and Baldini were deeply involved in the cultural life of the city.

In 1964 she played the role of Mary of Bethany in Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Ginzburg was politically involved throughout her life as an activist and polemicist. Like many prominent anti-Fascists, for a time she belonged to the Italian Communist Party. She was elected to the Italian Parliament as an Independent in 1983.

Legacy and honors[edit]


Literary works[edit]

  • La strada che va in città (1942)
  • È stato così (1947; The Dry Heart 1949)
  • Tutti i nostri ieri (1952; A Light for Fools 1956 and All our yesterdays)
  • Valentino (1957)
  • Sagittario (1957)
  • Le voci della sera (1961; Voices in the Evening 1963)
  • Le piccole virtù (1962);The Little Virtues 1985)
  • Family sayings (Lessico famigliare) (1963; Ginzburg, Natalia (1999). Family Sayings. Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1611457964. 
  • Mai devi domandarmi (1970; Never must you ask me 1973)
  • Caro Michele (1973) (film Caro Michele, 1976)
  • Vita immaginaria (1974)
  • La famiglia Manzoni (1983)
  • La città e la casa (1984; The City and the House 1987)

Dramatic works[edit]

  • Ti ho sposato per allegria (1965)
  • L'inserzione (1969) (translated to English as The Advertisement)


  1. ^ "Natalia Ginzburg, JWA Encyclopedia
  2. ^ "Natalia Ginzburg, E-Notes
  3. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Natalia Ginzburg". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. 
  4. ^ The Griliches Family History, By Zvi Griliches. Edited by Max Michelson. 2010
  5. ^ a b c Castronuovo, Nadia (2010), Natalia Ginzburg : Jewishness as Moral Identity, Troubador Publishing UK, ISBN 978-1-84876-396-8 
  6. ^ Ginzburg, Natalia. "Biography". 
  7. ^ Ginzburg, Natalia. "Biography". 
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter G" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Giffuni, Cathe. "A Bibliography of the Writings of Natalia Ginzburg," Bulletin of Bibliography, Vol. 50 No. 2 June 1993, pp. 139–144.

External links[edit]