The Little Virtues

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About The Book

“As far as the education of children is concerned,” states Natalia Ginzburg in this collection of her finest and best-known short essays, “I think they should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but a love of one’s neighbor and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.” Whether she writes of the loss of a friend, Cesare Pavese; or what is inexpugnable of World War II; or the Abruzzi, where she and her first husband lived in forced residence under Fascist rule; or the importance of silence in our society; or her vocation as a writer; or even a pair of worn-out shoes, Ginzburg brings to her reflections the wisdom of a survivor and the spare, wry, and poetically resonant style her readers have come to recognize. 

“A glowing light of modern Italian literature . . . Ginzburg’s magic is the utter simplicity of her prose, suddenly illuminated by one word that makes a lightning streak of a plain phrase. . . . As direct and clean as if it were carved in stone, it yet speaks thoughts of the heart.” —The New York Times Book Review

About The Author

Natalia Ginzburg was born in Palermo, Italy in 1916. She 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. Modest and intensely reserved, Ginzburg never shied away from the traumas of history, whether writing about the Turin of her childhood, the Abruzzi countryside, or contemporary Rome—all the while approaching those traumas only indirectly, through the mundane details and catastrophes of personal life. Most of her works were also translated into English and published in the United Kingdom and United States. She wrote acclaimed translations of both Proust and Flaubert into Italian. She died in Rome in 1991.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade (August 1, 2013)
  • Length: 184 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781628729412

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for The Little Virtues

"A stunning tour de force, The Little Virtues is a credo of undaunted idealism." —The New York Times Book Review

"There is one book . . .which has meant more to me than any other: The Little Virtues, by the Italian novelist, essayist, playwright, short-story writer, translator, and political activist Natalia Ginzburg." —The New Yorker, September 2016

"Now reading Natalia Ginzburg's The Little Virtues and my life is already better."—Rosanne Cash, Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter and New York Times bestselling author of Composed: A Memoir

“A book of beautiful short pieces.” —The New Yorker, July 2019

"The book that taught me what I want to teach my daughter." —Belle Boggs, author of Mattaponi Queen

"Considered among the best writers in contemporary Italy, Ginzburg should appeal to a wide American audience with this collection of essays." —Publishers Weekly

"These little virtues then, this little book, pack a tremendous punch. By loving life, Ginzburg suggests, by working with love and enthusiasm, by embracing the homeliest details of daily existence with astonishment and joy, we may legitimately hope to conquer—or at least break even against—the worldly and leaden forces of materialism and fear." —LA Times

"The essays are marvels of human decency and strength." —NW Book Lovers

Praise for Natalia Ginzburg's work

“One of the Great Italian Writers of the 20th Century.”—The New York Times

"Clarity, precision and wit mark the work of Natalia Ginzburg." — The New York Times Book Review

"I wish more people would read the Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg." — Mary Gordon, Mother Jones

"Natalia Ginzburg must surely be one of literature's most provocative and moving writers." — Elle magazine

"Realistic, anchored by vivifying detail, crowded with wonderfully vibrant characters, luminous with deep feeling, responsiveness, and sympathy." — Publishers Weekly

"Ginzburg draws her readers into her deceptively charming essays with cascades of alluring, everyday detail, then stealthily broaches moral questions of great weight and complexity. Wryly witty, acutely observant, and unfailingly valiant, Ginzburg is a revelation, a spur, and a joy." — Booklist

"A glowing light of modern Italian literature . . . Ginzburg's magic is the utter simplicity of her prose, suddenly illuminated by one word that makes a lightning streak of a plain phrase. . . . As direct and clean as if it were carved in stone, it yet speaks thoughts of the heart." — The New York Times Book Review

"Ginzburg was famous for her ability to conjure up a mixed emotional atmosphere, poignant yet unsentimental." —The New Yorker

Editorial Reviews

"There is one book...which has meant more to me than any other: “The Little Virtues,” by the Italian novelist, essayist, playwright, short-story writer, translator, and political activist Natalia Ginzburg." - The New Yorker Sept. 2016

“The book that taught me what I want to teach my daughter.” —Belle Boggs

“A glowing light of modern Italian literature . . . Ginzburg’s magic is the utter simplicity of her prose, suddenly illuminated by one word that makes a lightning streak of a plain phrase. . . . As direct and clean as if it were carved in stone, it yet speaks thoughts of the heart.” — The New York Times Book Review

"Considered among the best writers in contemporary Italy, Ginzburg should appeal to a wide American audience with this collection of essays" - Publishers Weekly

"These little virtues then, this little book, pack a tremendous punch. By loving life, Ginzburg suggests, by working with love and enthusiasm, by embracing the homeliest details of daily existence with astonishment and joy, we may legitimately hope to conquer--or at least break even against--the worldly and leaden forces of materialism and fear." - LA Times

"She is the author of six works of fiction, several collections of essays, a play ('I Married You for the Fun of It') that has been produced in Italy, France and England, and a critical biography of the family of the 19th-century novelist Allesandro Manzoni, which Mary McCarthy called an 'original and engrossing work.'" - New York Times

"Clarity, precision and wit mark the work of Natalia Ginzburg."

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