Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Little Virtues

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Dick Davis, 110 pages

The first story, or essay, or memoir collected in The Little Virtues is titled "Winter in the Abruzzi".  Only a few pages long, it recalls a time when the author and her family were forced to move to a small town in the rustic Abruzzo region east of Rome as a consequence of their outspoken opposition to the fascist government.  Delicately she describes the life of the village, recalling the sound of the bells calling the old women to Benediction, the miserliness of the local grocer, the time the snow melted and everyone's houses flooded, the taste of oranges that have begun to rot, all the daily routines they had to endure while waiting for the war to end and their real lives to resume.  She concludes by telling, briefly, how her husband was arrested and tortured to death.  That time in Abruzzo was the last time they would spend together, and those everyday experiences are revealed as life itself.

This is a theme that runs throughout The Little Virtues.  Ginzburg does not inspire the reader to great acts of heroism, but to everyday mindfulness.  Her work is characterized by a humble clarity, receptiveness to reality, openness to gift, quiet beauty and deep meaning.

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