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Natalia Ginzburg: Valentino

Valentino is the son of a retired school teacher and is spoilt. The family’s hopes rest on him. All the available money is used for his education (he is going to be a great doctor). Not only does he get the education but he also gets the clothes – a nice new ski outfit, even though he does not ski – while Caterina, the narrator, gets nothing, not even a new dress. Valentino is always bringing”fiancées” back home, usually high school girls, that he claims he is going to marry but never does. Then, one day, he comes home with an older (and ugly) woman who has money and this one he does marry. This woman – Maddalena – is not what Valentino’s parents were hoping for as a daughter-in-law. But Valentino does not care. He is only concerned about the beautiful new suit he will have for the wedding, paid for, of course, by Maddalena. The couple enjoy a rich lifestyle to the chagrin of Valentino’s parents. When the parents die, Caterina is invited to stay with them in their summer residence. There she will meet Kit, a cousin of Maddalena. But things do not work out between her and Kit, not least because of Valentino’s interest in him. It is only a relatively short novella but Ginzburg tells a moving story using some of her favourite themes – sterile relationships and the disparity between the dreams of the working class and the extravagance of the middle class.

Publishing history

First published in Italian 1957 by Einaudi
First English translation 1987 by Carcanet