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The hauntingly beautiful epistolary novel from “a glowing light of modern Italian literature” (New York Times Book Review)
At the heart of Happiness, as Such is an absence—an abyss that pulls everyone to its brink—created by a family’s only son, Michele, who has fled from Italy to England to escape the dangers and threats of his radical political ties. This novel is part epistolary: his mother writes letters to him, nagging him; his sister Angelica writes, missing him; so does Mara, his former lover, telling him about the birth of her son who may be his own. Left to clean up Michele’s mess, his family and friends complain, commiserate, tease, and grieve, struggling valiantly with the small and large calamities of their interconnected lives.
Natalia Ginzburg's most beloved book in Italy and one of her finest achievements, Happiness, as Such is an original, wise, raw, comic novel that cuts to the bone.
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 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.