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Abstract

As its title, Family Sayings, suggests, it is through a body of sayings, stories, poems and songs, recalled by her mother, that the author Natalia Ginzburg tells the story of her family before, during and after WWII. Within the turmoil and chaos of the fascist regime and the war, there is a language, a lexicon, capable of establishing a comforting and familiar zone for the members of the family. Through repetitions of sayings and sketches, Natalia Ginzburg will present a work, partly oral and partly written, blurring the relationship between author/reader and storyteller/listener. In a time when consumerism is rampant in post-war Italy, when the family entity and unity is threatened by the individualistic and capitalistic model of prosperity and success, and when television is slowly annulling people’s chances to communicate, Ginzburg establishes the writing of autobiography within immediacy, orality, and relationality, subverting the well-established notion of the genre as the story of an individual and his/her personality. Published in 1968, Family Sayings seems to appear in direct opposition with the revolutionary sentiments of the time. For Italian feminists a critique of any institution began with one of patriarchy, for Ginzburg with a reevaluation of the mother not as guardian of a nation, but as an individual with her own economy of authenticity. In a moment when entire student movements are demanding a deconstruction of institutional and family structures, Ginzburg claims maternal lineage as a transformative experience toward a social, political and literary restoration.

Note on the Author

Veruska Cantelli is a writer, translator and scholar. She has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and she is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo. Her work focuses on feminism, performance studies and women’s autobiographical writings, particularly non-western narratives of the self through storytelling. She is currently working on her first monograph Digital Storytelling and Marginality. She is also an Associate Editor for Warscapes an online literary magazine that showcases art, literature and reportage of conflict.

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