cover image Happiness, As Such

Happiness, As Such

Natalia Ginzburg, trans. from the Italian by Minna Zallman Proctor. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2799-5

This magnificent posthumous novel from Ginzburg (1916–1991), set in the early ’70s, is told almost entirely through a series of letters from one disconnected Italian family member to another. At the center of the epistolary drama is Michele, the son who has fled Italy for England. Michele’s mother, Adriana, constantly worries about his whereabouts and well-being. Michele’s sisters, meanwhile, must look after their mother in the wake of their father’s death. A prostitute named Mara crosses paths with the other characters and writes to Michele as she moves from temporary living situation to temporary living situation with a baby that may or may not be Michele’s . Michele eventually tells his sister that he is getting married in England. What can his mother do from afar? As she worries, she tells him she “wish[es] you happiness, if there is such a thing as happiness.” This is a riveting story about how even when a family drifts apart, the bonds of blood relations supercede the deepest disagreements. It’s also proof that Ginzburg is an absolute master of the family novel. Like Lucia Berlin and Clarice Lispector, Ginzburg may finally receive the recognition she so richly deserves. [em](June) [/em]