NYRB: Jhumpa Lahiri & Cynthia Zarin discuss Natalia Ginzburg's Valentino & Sagittarius

September 24, 2020, 7:30 PM

Jhumpa Lahiri and Cynthia Zarin join us to discuss Natalia Ginzburg's Valentino and Sagittarius. This program will take place on Zoom. Register here:

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Valentino and Sagittarius are two of Natalia Ginzburg’s most celebrated works: tales of love, hope, and delusion that are full of her characteristic mordant humor, keen psychological insight, and unflinching moral realism.

Valentino is the spoiled child of doting parents, who have no doubt that their handsome young son will prove to be a man of consequence. Nothing that Valentino does—his nights out on the town, his failed or incomplete classes—suggests there is any ground for that confidence, and Valentino’s sisters view their parents and brother with a mixture of bitterness, stoicism, and bemusement. Everything becomes that much more confused when, out of the blue, Valentino finds an enterprising, wealthy, and strikingly ugly wife, who undertakes to support not just him but the whole family.

Sagittarius is another story of misplaced confidence recounted by a wary daughter, whose mother, a grass widow with time on her hands, moves to the suburbs, eager to find new friends. Brassy, bossy, and perpetually dissatisfied, especially when it comes to her children, she strikes up a friendship with the mysterious Scilla, and soon the two women are planning to open an art gallery. It turns out, however, that knowing better than everyone can hide a truly desperate naïveté.

Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1991) was the author of several novels, short stories, and essays, and two plays, many of which have been translated into English. NYRB Classics published a new translation of her novel Family Lexicon in 2017.

Jhumpa Lahiri is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of MaladiesThe NamesakeUnaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland; and a work of nonfiction, In Other Words. She has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; the PEN/Hemingway Award; the PEN/Malamud Award; the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award; the Premio Gregor von Rezzori; the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; a 2014 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama; and the Premio Internazionale Viareggio-Versilia, for In altre parole.

Cynthia Zarin is the author of five books of poetry, as well five books for children and a collection of essays. She teaches at Yale and lives in New York City.