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The City and the House by Natalia Ginzburg

The City and the House (1984)

by Natalia Ginzburg

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The City and the House is a very readable epistolary novel about a group of friends who slowly drift apart. While it seems to be superficially about the small and large events in the lives of several people, the book’s underlying topics include the importance of not just individual friendships, but a community, the constant yearning for the past which often becomes idealized and the ability of people to form new social circles which take the place of family and older bonds – often imperfect, but not less important.

The main characters are Lucrezia, a married woman with an ever-growing number of children and a placidly indifferent husband, her former lover and now friend Giuseppe, whose move to America propels the exchange of letters, and their circle of friends and relatives who constantly hang around Lucrezia and Piero’s house, Le Margherite. After the couple sells the house, they – and all they friends – come to think of it (as well as the past) as a lost paradise that they all vainly try to recreate. But though many of their new relationships are driven by propinquity rather than like feeling, they are nonetheless important. While many others will comment on the unsuitability of this or that lover or spouse, the characters usually stick with them and are generally accepting. This may be more inertia than anything else, but the importance of even the ill-suited connections isn’t denied. Occasionally, a new relationship can spark and bring happiness for a while even if they don’t last.

The epistolary format certainly seems nostalgic now (emails, Facebook etc) even though the characters will sometimes refer to phone conversations that they had. It does, however, heighten the impact of the announcement of various events – pregnancies, deaths, marriages. Though the reader might not be familiar with some character who has just been mentioned in a letter (since they never appeared as a letter-writer), they can recognize the impact that it will have on a central character.

The dissolution of many old relationships occurs sadly but naturally as the friends and relatives drift away. They all remember Le Margherite wistfully, but it was not perfect at the time. Lucrezia was a serial adulterer and even the rift between her and Giuseppe, due to her breaking off their relationship, hasn’t been fully mended. He denies that he’s the father of one of her children (his least favorite, he constantly mentions) while she firmly asserts that he is. Their other friends also had the usual tensions and character problems that will crop up in any group of people – the romantic tension between Albina and Egisto (which both blame on the other), Egisto’s natural anti-social tendencies, Serena’s self-centered outlook on life.

After the breakup of the Le Margherite group, Albina drifts away to her family and a conventional if unsatisfying life, Egisto makes an effort to befriend his neighbors – Giuseppe’s son and his roommates, and Serena finds a new group to support her actor/artist ambitions and rather coldly leaves everyone else behind. Lucrezia’s latest affair is seen by all (as well as the reader) as likely to end in implosion and Giuseppe makes an ill-matched marriage of convenience.

Good but quietly sad. ( )
  DieFledermaus | Mar 8, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Natalia Ginzburgprimary authorall editionscalculated
Figuerola, FinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Book description
LA CIUTAT I LA CASA, Natalia Ginzburg (Eumo Editorial, 1990)
"T'agraeixo molt que m'hagis telefonat. Tinc, encara la teva veu ressonant a l'orella. Sóc aquí, a la meva habitació, amb les maletes fetes i tancades, amb tot de desordre..."

Tota la novel·la es basa en l'intercanvi epistolar, que dura un parell d'anys, que mantenen 8 o 10 personatges que són entre ells, amics, amants i parents, als inicis dels anys vuitanta (abans de l'era Internet).
Les cartes, per correu ordinari, tarden a arribar, reiteren notícies o en donen versions particulars. Molt entretinguda, positiva, ben retratats els personatges i les situacions personals que viuen són de caire universal (desamors fraterns i conjugals, adulteris, soledats i inseguretats...), molt entenedores. 
Llàstima que l'edició, molt antiga, necessite una correcció ortotipogràfica. Hi ha pàgines que trobes cinc o sis errades, i això resulta molest. Una història per llegir a l'estiu, agradable i distreta. És l'últim llibre que va publicar, ja que va faltar l'any 1991.

Info sobre l'escriptora palermitana Natalia Ginzburg (nascuda Levi) (1916-1991): https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalia_...
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The city is Rome. The house is in the little town of Monte Fermo. The protagonist of the novel is Lucrezia, mother of five and lover of many. Translated from the Italian by Dick Davis. This powerful novel is set against the background of Italy from 1939 to 1944, from the anxious months before the country entered the war, through the war years, to the Allied victory with its trailing wake of anxiety, disappointment, and grief. In the foreground are the members of two families. One is rich, the other is not. In All Our Yesterdays, as in all of Ms. Ginzburg's novels, terrible things happen-suicide, murder, air raids, and bombings. But less awesome events, like a family quarrel, an adultery, or a deception, are given equal space, as if to say that to a victim adultery and air raids can be equally maiming. All Our Yesterdays gives a sharp portrait of a society hungry for change, but betrayed by war.… (more)

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Arcade Publishing

2 editions of this book were published by Arcade Publishing.

Editions: 1611452406, 1611456916

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