Natalia Ginzburg, arguably the most important woman writer of postwar Italy, always spoke of herself with irrepressible modesty. The woman who claimed she “never managed to climb up mountains” in fact wrote the history of twentieth-century Italy through more than twenty books, chronicling fascism, war, and the German occupation as well as the intimacies of family life. Ginzburg’s stories, based in the small town of her childhood or set in Italy’s cities, established her as a prolific and superb writer, and her husband’s antifascist activities (which led ultimately to his torture and death at the hands of the Nazis) placed her squarely in the center of Italy’s turbulent political arena.
Intensely reserved, Ginzburg said that she “crept toward autobiography stealthily like a wolf.” But she did openly discuss her life and her work in an extraordinary series of interviews for Italian radio in 1990. Never before published in English, It’s Hard to Talk about Yourself presents a vivid portrait of Ginzburg, in her own words, on the forces that shaped her remarkable life–politics, publishing, writing, literary influences, and her family. Transcribed and lightly edited by her close friend Cesare Garboli and her granddaughter Lisa Ginzburg, these interviews will join Ginzburg’s autobiography, Family Sayings, as one of the most important records of her life, and, as the editors write in their preface, “the last, unexpected, original book by Natalia Ginzburg.”
Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1991) wrote novels, short stories, poems, plays, and essays and translated Proust and Flaubert. In 1983, she was elected to the Italian Parliament, where she served almost until her death. Among her many books are The Road to the City: Two Novellas (1942), Valentino (1957), Family Sayings (1963), Never Must You Ask Me (1970), and The Manzoni Family (1983).
“Natalia Ginzburg’s simple, yet poetic narrative, with its often conversational tone is one of the most distinctive of literary styles. At times, the brevity and concision of her sentences were attributed to the influence of Hemingway, at others to that of Gertrude Stein. But, all said and done, whatever Natalia Ginzburg wrote, it was, simply, sui generis.”–The Independent (London)