cover image The Road to the City: Two Novellas

The Road to the City: Two Novellas

Natalia Ginzburg. Arcade Publishing, $16.95 (149pp) ISBN 978-1-55970-052-8

The protagonists of these two astute, finely burnished novellas by the eminent Italian author are young women who learn to accept the cultural lesson that deems it their duty to secure a man. Courtship and marriage become battlefields where they are tested, wounded and/or decorated. In ``The Road to the City,'' 17-year-old Delia, whose harried, toothless mother ``spent her days cursing her children,'' looks to the city for escape. Caught in the delirium of her seduction by Giulio, a crass but affluent medical student whom she hopes to marry, Delia fails to note the deep reciprocal love she feels for the poor, intellectual Nini. Pregnant, seemingly deserted, Delia finally yields to her bittersweet fate. ``The Dry Heart'' opens with a wife in her 20s, once a drab schoolteacher, who shoots her husband after she has devoted painful years to their sickly baby. Albert was a man ``who quickly tired of everything'' but his obsessive affair with another woman. In each novella, the heroine's agony is sharpened by the presence of a frivolous, heartless beauty, sister or friend, who indulges her own pleasures with impunity. (Apr.)