M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

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Friday, April 25, 2014

"The Mother" by Natalia Ginzburg (1963)


"The boys found it strange to think that they had come from her. It would have been much less strange to have been born of their grand-mother or Diomira and their large warm bodies which protected you from being scared, and from storms and thieves. It was very strange to think that she was their mother, the one who had once held them in her tiny stomach. Since they had learned that children stay in their mother’s stomach before being born they had felt very surprised and also a little ashamed that that stomach had held them once upon a time. She had also given them milk from her breasts; this seemed something even more incredible. But now she no longer had small children to breast-feed and rock, and every day they saw her slip off on her bicycle after shopping, happy and carefree. Surely she did not belong to them; they couldn’t count on her." 

My thanks to Linda Lappin, author of Katherine's Wish, The Etruscan and Signatures in Stone who very wisely suggested I add to my very limited list of 20th century Italian writers, Natalie Ginzburg (1916 to 1991, Rome).  I love pictures of authors and their cats and it looks like Ginzburg liked Siamese cats so I did an online search for her works.  I found a Kindle edition of her short stories but it was priced at $15.00 and was 104 pages long so I had to pass on it.  I did find one of her stories in translation online.  I suppose there are ethical issues in reading a short story probably still under copyright for free online but I do not know how the story came to be placed there so I read it.  The ethical issues are cloudy to me for an author dead near twenty five years but I will leave that issue for others to ponder.

"The Mother", maybe ten pages, told in the third person is a very powerful terrible moving almost painfully sad story.  The mother is a young widow.  Her and the boys live in a small place, share the same bed.  She is thin where the mothers of their friends are big women, just like their grandmother.  The boys don't, of course, understand the emotional life of their mother, her loneliness and sadness. We can see the paternal grandmother trying  to take over the maternal role and we sense the ambivalence of the mother toward this.  

There is an amazing but perfectly organic turn of events about mid-point in the story.  In just a few paragraphs we go through cycles of great hope, despair and pathos.  

You can read this story here (no translator credit given)


Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1990), one of the most renowned and distinctive voices in postwar Italian literature, was revered for her inimitable style and her unforgettable depiction of private lives in a disrupted social landscape. A prolific novelist, dramatist, and essayist, she is best known in this country for her novels All Our YesterdaysThe City and the House, and Voices in the Evening, and her autobiographical work The Things We Used to Say

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1 comment:

Suko said...

This short story sounds touching. Thanks for providing the link!