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All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays

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Earlier, when she watched her elder siblings and their friends become involved in the resistance to fascism, she found herself fantasising about revolution: she ‘pictured herself upon the barricades … firing off a rifle and singing. As you say, the messiness is a clue – funnily enough, it’s a common characteristic in pretty much everything I’ve read by Ginzburg, which suggests that much of her writing was inspired by lived experience. Just one example of good writing: “But he said that all men made you sorry for them if you looked at them closely, and that in fact one ought to guard against that excess of compassion which arose suddenly, from looking closely at people.

With Mussolini in power and fascism on the rise, Ippolito becomes increasingly interested in politics, debating the issues of the day with Emanuele – the eldest son from the wealthy family opposite – and their principled friend, Danilo, one of Concettina’s many fiancés. It was as if her writing was a very important secret that I had been waiting all my life to discover .em 1952 que Ginzburg, casada já pela segunda vez - o primeiro marido, Leone, judeu e combatente anti-fascista, foi também ele vítima dos nazis - publica esta nostálgica e pungente obra Todos Os Nossos Ontens, cuja atmosfera é intensa, palpitante, quente e fumarenta: a cada parágrafo sentimos adensar-se e aproximar-se um destino inevitável. A daughter who is secretly pregnant (but unmarried) dreams (almost hopes) that she and her unborn baby will be killed by the Germans. And this is why All Our Yesterdays feels so familiar – for it records the experiences, not of the fighting, but of those who were left behind.

She doesn't dramatise matters, and the narrative phrasing rarely extends over more than a paragraph, and mostly is confined to single sentences. Todos os Nossos Ontens" é um livro belíssimo, em que as histórias de diferentes famílias se cruzam, ao longo de anos, tendo como pano de fundo a Itália de Mussolini e a Segunda Guerra Mundial. And they laughed a little and were very friendly together; and they were pleased to be together, the three of them, thinking of all those who were dead, and of the long war and the sorrow and noise and confusion, and of the long, difficult life which they saw in front of them now, full of all the things they did not know how to do.

That’s a fair point about the novel feeling like an ensemble piece, especially the first section where the focus moves around from one character to another (Ippolito really stands out there too).

Natalia Ginzburg (née Levi) was an Italian author whose work explored family relationships, politics during and after the Fascist years and World War II, and philosophy.In the 1920s while Ginzburg’s young people are burning illicit anti-fascist newspapers in their stove, my paternal grandfather (an active socialist) was ferrying union bosses to Downing Street for talks to end the general strike.

He looked out of the window at the refugees from Naples who were now going hither and thither about the lanes of the village, carrying mattresses and babies, he looked and said how sad it was to see all these mattresses carried about here and there all over Italy, Italy was now pouring mattresses out of her ravaged houses. Yet it is unignorable – her sister’s boyfriend, Danilo, is jailed for spreading seditious literature – even when the effect is comic, such as villagers refusing to take fascists seriously because they know one of them as the local chemist’s son. I’ve read a lot of translations of Italian novels set during the war and it seems to me this is the perfect book to learn what life was like in Italy during WW II. It's the 1930s, the fascists of Mussolini are in power, a new war is casting its shadow, but Ginzburg focuses almost entirely on the banal vicissitudes of four youngsters from those families (with a few secondary figures next to them). And perhaps they too might soon be forced to run away, with their mattresses and the little girl and La Maschiona and the dog and the deckchairs, to run away to goodness knows where through the burning dust of the roads… (pp.She had made love with [him] and she knew that he did not love her, she knew that he felt rather sad and humiliated after they had made love together, and she would have liked to go back to the times when they used to read Montale's poems and eat chestnuts, and the war was still a cold, distant war, the Germans hadn't won yet. Set in a smaller town in Italy before and during the Second World War, Natalia Ginzburg’s All Our Yesterdays is simply wonderful; a big-hearted, bustling novel of family, friendships, politics, and war pitted against a backdrop of immense turbulence, and narrated in a style that captures Ginzburg’s customary dry wit. The final lines of the book see the survivors ‘thinking … of the long, difficult life which they saw in front of them now, full of all the things they did not know how to do’.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
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