A magnificently stark book—within the smallness of one poor, muddled, provincial life, Natalia Ginzburg finds enormous pain and loss
An almost unbearably intimate novella, The Road to the City concentrates on a young woman barely awake to life, who fumbles through her days: she is fickle yet kind, greedy yet abashed, stupidly ambitious yet loving too—she is a mass of confusion. She’s in a bleak space, lit with the hard clarity of a Pasolini film. Her family is no help: her father is largely absent; her mother is miserable; her sister’s unhappily promiscuous; her brothers are in a separate masculine world. Only her cousin Nini seems to see her. She falls into disgrace and then “marries up,” but without any joy, blind to what was beautiful right before her own eyes. The Road to the City was Ginzburg’s very first work, originally published under a pseudonym. “I think it might be her best book,” her translator Gini Alhadeff remarked: “And apparently she thought so, too, at the end of her life, when assembling a complete anthology of her work for Mondadori.
About the Author
Natalia Ginzburg (1916–1991), “who authored twelve books and two plays; who, because of anti-Semitic laws, sometimes couldn’t publish under her own name; who raised five children and lost her husband to Fascist torture; who was elected to the Italian parliament as an independent in her late sixties—this woman does not take her present conditions as a given. She asks us to fight back against them, to be brave and resolute. She instructs us to ask for better, for ourselves and for our children” (Belle Boggs, The New Yorker).
Gini Alhadeff won the 2018 Florio Prize for her translation of Fleur Jaeggy’s I am the Brother of XX.
The voice of the Italian novelist and essayist Natalia Ginzburg comes to us
with absolute clarity amid the veils of time and language. Ginzburg gives us a
new template for the female voice and an idea of what it might sound like. This
voice emerges from her preoccupations and themes, whose specificity and
universality she considers with a gravitas and authority that seem both familiar
and entirely original. — Rachel Cusk
I’m utterly entranced by Ginzburg’s style—her mysterious directness, her
salutary ability to lay things bare that never feels contrived or cold, only necessary, honest, clear. — Maggie Nelson
Her prose style is deceptively simple and very complex. Its effect on the
reader is both calming and thrilling—that’s not so easy to do. — Deborah Levy
A bleak and smarting read, a remarkable debut. — Naomi Huffman - New York Times
Ginzburg’s view of family is so unsentimental, it’s visionary...The Road may be a small story about a small place, but Ginzburg’s clarity lends grandeur to Delia’s plight.
— Diane Josefowicz - Necessary Fiction
The youngest of five, Ginzburg writes like someone used to being interrupted, precisely observing daily life with a sibling’s affectionate revenge. Her work is marked by a kind of atmospheric pressure. — Jessi Jezewska Stevens - 4Columns
Ginzburg has an incredible talent for depicting explosive clashes within families, integrating insight and humour into her narrative...this lemon of a book invites one to take a bite, to relish the burn. — Catherine Xinxin Yu - Asymptote Journal
A blister of violence lurks tense beneath the words, the skin of it wearing thin, ready to be popped. — Rhian Sasseen - LitHub