Set in ducal Italy and post-revolutionary France, The Manzoni Family tells a rich story of passions, writing, rivalries, deaths, and war. It pivots on the figure of Alessandro Manzoni, celebrated Milanese nobleman, man of letters, and author of the masterpiece of nineteenth-century Italian literature, I promessi sposi (The Betrothed). But the tale begins with the matriarchal figure of Giulia, the mother whom the young poet found in Paris after she had abandoned him as an infant. There is Enrichetta, the woman he and his mother chose to be his wife, and the many children she had by him until her death; literary friends from the beau monde in Italy and Paris; and Alessandro's second wife, Teresa, and her children. Against the background of Napoleonic occupation, the reestablishment of Austrian hegemony, and the stirrings of the revolutionary urge for unification and independence, Ginzburg gracefully weaves the story of a dynasty, the Manzoni family, that seems to grow autonomously around the life of the writer and to incorporate all the epic tumult and emotion of the age.
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.