Natalia Ginzburg Biography

Natalia Ginzburg née Levi (14 July 1916, Palermo — 7 October 1991, Rome) was an Italian author whose work explored family relationships, politics during and after the Fascist years and World War II, and philosophy. She wrote novels, short stories and essays, for which she received the Strega Prize and Bagutta Prize. Most of her works were also translated into English and published in the United Kingdom and United States.

Early life and education

Born in Palermo, Sicilyto , Ginzburg spent most of her youth in Turin with her family; her father took a position with the University of Turin in 1919. Her father, Giuseppe Levi, a renowned Italian histologist, was born into a Jewish Italian family, and her mother, Lidia Tanzi, was Catholic. Her parents raised Natalia and her two brothers as atheists. Their home was a center of cultural life, as her parents invited intellectuals, activists and industrialists. At age 17 Ginzburg published her first story, I Bambini, in 1933 in the magazine Solaria.

Marriage and family

In 1938, she married Leone Ginzburg, and they had three children together, Carlo, Andrea, and Alessandra. Their son Carlo Ginzburg became a historian.

Although Natalia Ginzburg was able to live relatively free of harassment during World War II, her husband was forced to spend 1941-1943 in internal exile in a poor village in Abruzzo because of his anti-Fascist activities. She and their children lived most of the time with him. Opponents of the Fascist regime, she and her husband secretly went to Rome and edited an anti-Fascist newspaper, until Leone Ginzburg was arrested. He died in 1944 after suffering severe torture in jail.

In 1950, Ginzburg married again, to Gabriele Baldini, a scholar of English literature. They lived in Rome. He died in 1969.


After her marriage, she used the name Natalia Ginzburg (occasionally spelled "Ginzberg") on most subsequent publications. Her first novel was published under the pseudonym Alessandra Tornimparte in 1942, during Fascist Italy's most anti-Semitic period.

Ginzburg spent much of the 1940s working for the publisher Einaudi in Turin in addition to her creative writing. They published some of the leading figures of postwar Italy, including Carlo Levi, Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese and Italo Calvino. Ginzburg's second novel was published in 1947.

Her and her husband's experience during the war altered her perception of her identification as a Jew, and she thought deeply about the questions aroused by the war and the Holocaust, dealing with them in fiction and essays. She converted to Catholicism, arousing controversy among her circle, because she believed that Christ was a persecuted Jew.

Beginning in 1950, when Ginzburg married again and moved to Rome, she entered the most prolific period of her literary career. During the next 20 years, she published most of the works for which she is best known. They were deeply involved in the cultural life of the city.

In 1964 she pla yed the role of Mary of Bethany in Pier Paolo Pasolini's controversial The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Ginzburg was politically involved throughout her life as an activist and polemicist. Like many prominent anti-Fascists, for a time she belonged to the Italian Communist Party. She was elected to the Italian Parliament as an Independent in 1983.