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Posted 20 hours ago

All Our Yesterdays

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Pastojusi išsikelia iš gimtųjų namų ir pradeda dar keistesnį gyevnimą, karo baisumams jau įsisiautėjus. Ginzburg thus provides us with a simple explanation for the book’s title – these yesterdays belong to this group of friends. She and her four siblings grew up in Turin in northern Italy, in a secular and intellectually lively home. Anna observes Ippolito and Emanuele having spirited, intense discussions furtively and they also bring Concettina’s suitor Danilo into their fold.

Again, it’s set against the war, and has a large ensemble cast who the reader follows through the wartime events to their eventual fates. There's tremendous wisdom in the tone of this novel; a beautiful and rewarding philosophy of life underpins and guides its narrative voice.The setting is 1930s northern Italy, where the central character, 16-year-old Anna, navigates life and love via her family and the family in the house opposite.

Ginzburg is particularly adept at highlighting how everyday life appears meaningless and futile in the face of war, especially when external factors feel uncertain and threatening. The great emotional power of this novel springs from the depth and truth of each one of its characters. The Ginzburgs were sent into internal exile during the war, in the south of Italy, because of Leone’s political activities, but they travelled to Rome in secret to work on an anti-fascist newspaper.It begins in a small town in northern Italy, in the years before the war, with a family: an ageing widower, his four children and the family’s companion, Signora Maria. Where the novelty comes in – and reputedly contributed to the book’s failure when first published – is that the central character, to whose hopes the reader must lash themselves for the narrative to work, is a war criminal on the run. But I guess I’ve homed in on Anna because she features quite heavily in part two where we follow her move to the South and her marriage to Cenzo Rena. And they laughed a little and were very friendly together; and they were pleased to be together, the three of them, thinking of all those who were dead, and of the long war and the sorrow and noise and confusion, and of the long, difficult life which they saw in front of them now, full of all the things they did not know how to do. Yet her story is the one that elucidates pain and sacrifice; invisibility and powerlessness; fragility and naivety.

Ginzburg seamlessly places these family dynamics against a wider political backdrop – Fascism, the approaching rumblings of World War Two with the big question of the mode of Italy’s participation, and later on the horrors of the Holocaust.I hadn’t thought about the possibility of class-based stereotyping with the housekeepers until you mentioned it, but it’s a fair observation. Reading this novel, we get to know its characters as if they were our own friends, or even ourselves. Thus, in a move that greatly bewilders Anna’s family, Cenzo Rena marries Anna and the couple moves to his house in the village of San Costanza which becomes the central focus of Part Two of the book. Unsurprisingly, there is an eccentric cook/housekeeper here too, a rather foolish woman referred to as La Maschiona, whose devastating actions drive the novel’s denouement. We also see many of them display considerable moral courage to the best of their abilities, striving to do the right thing even if it means endangering themselves in the process.

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