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All Our Yesterdays

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The daughter of the middle-class family realizes how pitiful their preparations are and she asks the rich neighbors if she can shelter in their basement when necessary. It’s the elder son Ippolito who bears the brunt of his father’s tyranny, forced to assist him with his writing and various other tasks. It is the story of a family trying to piece itself together, against the backdrop of a country falling apart. Ginzburg is a unique voice and there’s a direct simplicity prose that makes her dry observations all the more riveting. But we can acknowledge that these yesterdays – which Ginzburg fictionalised, but which were lived by families across Europe and the world – are all of ours, and reverberate today as we face a fresh wave of political and social turmoil.

If Braun seems to have no regret about the horrors he enacted, he is at least traumatised by the deaths of his wife and child, who were killed in Operation Gomorrah, the allied bombing of Hamburg in July 1943. Natalia Ginzburg's husband was tortured and murdered by the Gestapo; she was half Jewish and all her family and friends opposed the fascists. I will look forward to reading those novels to be sure, but this was my introduction to Natalia Ginzburg and I loved the book. It’s 1965 and Karl Braun – formerly Dr Otto Reitmüller – is living low in London, eking out a living as a piano tuner. But even now the style remains sober and business-like, in a continuous stream of relatively short sentences, descriptive, without dialogues, and again with subdued emotion; not even when really dramatic things happen towards the end of the war.A panoramic, richly satisfying story of two Italian families as their lives are inexorably shaped by the encroaching war … A terrific discovery. Ir nors autorės stilius patiko, visgi suvokiau, kad tema ne mano ir todėl negaliu dėt šios knygos prie favoričių lentynos – nieko labai blogo joje neradau, džiaugiausi vertimu ir gražia proza, bet kažko daugiau pasiimti irgi nepavyko. Initially Jews are taken out of the cities and sent to small towns in the south so they “can’t interfere with the war. Anna observes Ippolito and Emanuele having spirited, intense discussions furtively and they also bring Concettina’s suitor Danilo into their fold. But as readers, we have the chance to see a few of these people, under unimaginable pressure, with chaos and violence everywhere around them, responding with transcendent and unforgettable moral beauty.

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. Anos čia radau mano skoniui per mažai, buvo tarsi bandoma papasakoti apie visus veikėjus, bet nė į vieną nepasigilinama labiau, todėl kai kur pasirodė, kad autorė plaukia paviršiumi, nors medžiagos pasikapstyti giliau čia buvo apstu. But what is truly astonishing about All Our Yesterdays is the sheer range of humanity on display – each of the characters is beautifully etched, they are endearing in different ways despite their flaws and foibles.His position in rented lodgings gives the book the air of a classic boarding-house novel, where lives are tumbled together: in Braun’s case, he meets other German émigrés, who assume he fled Hitler as they (and indeed Pressburger himself) did. Franz, we later learn, is a Jew and deeply worried about the fate of his Jewish parents who have most likely perished in the Holocaust. In Part One, Ginzburg focuses her gaze on an ensemble cast – two families living in a smaller town in Northern Italy. It could well be a good place to start, and if you’ve read Segher’s Transit there might be resonances as part of the narrative is set in Marseilles!

As Germany steadily begins invading countries beginning with Poland and moving westwards, Emanuele et al are wracked with tension, and the fall of France is the final straw precipitating Ippolito’s descent into a crippling depression. As you say, I suspect it’s in a similar league to All Our Yesterdays with its broad scope and focus on family dynamics. But I guess I’ve homed in on Anna because she features quite heavily in part two where we follow her move to the South and her marriage to Cenzo Rena. At the cemetery Signora Maria would pray, but the two children did not, because their father always said it was silly to pray, and perhaps God might exist but it was no use praying to Him, He was God and knew of His own accord how matters stood. 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.Ginzburg is a unique voice and there’s a direct simplicity to her prose that makes her dry observations all the more riveting.

Concettina is a tad vain and frivolous, engaged in myriad fleeting affairs, and always in a sour mood. I’ve read quite a few of Ginzburg’s novels/novellas over the last few years, but this feel like the one I’ve been hoping to find – major-league stuff, especially given its scope and setting.It’s just a question of time before they are herded onto trucks and trains to be shipped to concentration camps. The old man used to laugh and rub his hands together at the thought that the king and Mussolini knew nothing about it, while in a small town in Italy there was a man writing fiery remarks about them. Ginzburg, who's first husband Leone, a Russian Jew, was arrested, tortured and killed in 1944 for his underground activities of running an anti-fascist newspaper, has written a powerful novel on Italy during its darkest days of the 20th century, giving a sharp and penetrating portrait of a society desperate for change, but betrayed by war.

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