For Natalia Ginzburg, ‘The Road to the City’ Was Strewn With Hurdles

For Natalia Ginzburg, ‘The Road to the City’ Was Strewn With Hurdles

The Italian writer's first book, a originally published in 1942, establishes the themes — including thwarted desire and the challenges of family life — for which she became known. Natalia Ginzburg's favorite topics — family as both aid and encumbrance; how marriage complicates women's desires; the rising threat of Fascism — correspond with concerns of our time.Credit…Joanna Neborsky June 25, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission. THE ROAD TO THE CITY , by Natalia Ginzburg. Translated by Gini Alhadeff. What a ridiculous undertaking adolescence is, that span of years when one is bulldozed by uncontrollable and unknowable chemical spasms, when the past is deemed useless and discarded immediately, and the future — whatever that is — is the only thing that matters. One races toward it blindly, with the emotional sensitivity of a cannonball, while simultaneously being forced to decide, ingloriously, prematurely, who to be. It's good not to take adolescence too seriously, but is there any other way to take it? The foolishness of the young is a fixation of much of the by the Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg (1916-91). As a character in her “ The Dry Heart ,” originally published in 1947, states , “Life runs away with us before we know what it's all about.” It's an insight that might be useful to Delia, the impulsive 16-year-old narrator of Ginzburg's first book, “The Road to the City,” a novella originally published in 1942 and newly translated by Gina Alhadeff. Delia likely wouldn't have listened. She is strong-willed and selfish, one of five siblings, and embarrassed by her family's impoverishment: Their village is small, their house is filthy, their soup is dreadful and her mother, embittered, gray-haired and missing teeth, looks to Delia like a peasant: “I would have been ashamed of her had I come across her in the city.” The city! Delia spends most of her time thinking about it, yet it remains featureless, barely sketched, because its particulars are unimportant. What matters is that it is elsewhere, […]

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