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Natalia Ginzburg: Le voci della sera (Voices in the Evening)

Another low key novel from Ginzburg, this one is narrated by Elsa, a twenty-seven year old woman who lives with her mother. Most of their contacts seem to be old people or boring people. While we are aware of parties happening nearby, Elsa is excluded. As in most Ginzburg novels, few people are happy with their lot. Elsa is thinking about marriage, though not very enthusiastically. Her mother also wants her daughter to get married. Elsa does, in fact, get engaged near the end but breaks it off after they have a row, even though, she claims, she loves the man. We follow the family of Balotta de Francisco, the owner of a factory. To the chagrin of his wife, he leaves the factory not to his own children but to a distant relative who has grown up in his household. Most of the characters make either bad marriages or no marriage (Elsa’s mother says, when she learns about the broken-off engagement It’s always the stupid women who feel they have to get married.) Anyone who looks like being happy is going to get struck down by Ginzburg. Vincenzo, who enjoys relaxing on his sofa with his whiskey and soda and book, is casually killed in a car accident. No-one is going to come out ahead in a Ginzburg novel.

Publishing history

First published in Italian 1961 by Einaudi
First English translation 1963 by Dutton/Hogarth Press