Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My summer with Natalia

It started by chance, while looking for alternative and solutions for the shelves crisis.
I found the podcast of an Italian radio program, "Ad Alta Voce" ( Out aloud); it broadcasts 5 days a week and it's all in the title: novels are read out aloud. When I subscribed to the podcast, they were halfway through Carlo Cassola's "La ragazza di Bube" (Bube's girl), read by Alessandro Benvenuti.

"La ragazza di Bube" is one of those novels you read at school. No, let me rephrase that: "La ragazza di Bube" is one of those novel you're made to read and write a paper about it.
And that's what I did: I read it and dutifully wrote a paper highlighting the main topics, the style of the writer, the historical background, etc. etc. I also dutifully avoided voicing my own opinion, because that wasn't requested, so my teacher could only suspect (if she ever cared) that I found this novel a terrible bore and the 2 main characters, Mara and Bube, quite insufferable.

So, no big surprise that, when I subscribed to the podcast, I assumed I was going to drop out of it very soon. Oddly though I didn't. I believe it's all because of Benvenuti: he's an amazing actor and his voice brought the story alive. I quickly caught up with the previous episode and every day I'd scroll the episode list to see if any update on the podcast was coming up.

Oh no, time didn't change me that much: the novel is still a terrible bore and I still find Mara and Bube insufferable.
But the podcast stuck with me. I retrieved old episodes, I kept up with new novels being broadcasted.
And then on the evening of my birthday I had some catch up to do, having been away for a small concert marathon, between Ferrara and Milano.

The kitchen window was open, kids were screaming in the street, I had just started chopping aubergines for dinner when Sandra Toffolatti started reading of "Voices of the evening" by Natalia Ginzburg.

None of my teachers at school deemed Natalia Ginzburg worth more than reading some bits and pieces contained in the Italian literature manual. I didn't have to memorize date and place of birth and death and I wasn't even asked to write a report about her. I knew about her life and her writing of course, but she just skirted on the edges of my reading, never too close to take a honest look at. And I wonder why: from the first few sentences I was hooked to the novel.

It's so well written, minimalist, many things left unwritten, many other described to the smallest details. The name, the prose, everything reminded me of my grandparents village. I enjoyed it so so much, I was sad when it finished. But the bittersweetness lasted the time of the weekend, as on Monday "The Little Virtues" started. Too much of a coincidence, right? A small research and it turns out Natalia Ginzburg was born one century ago and there was going to be a special series of "Ad Alta Voce" in her honor. 
After "Valentino", it's now the turn of "Family sayings".
It's become a sort of habit for me. I listen to it in the late afternoon, early evening: I might be lazying on the armchair, knitting, sitting on the small balcony of my bedroom, or doing some chores around the flat. I just know, I just feel it's time to listen to my daily dose of Ginzburg's prose and I happily tune in.
At that point, whatever I was doing falls into the background, most of the time I end up sitting on the floor, hugging my knees and staring at a vague spot on the floor, next to the mobile.
When the music of the piano signals the end of the episode, I regret it's over already, wishing it could have lasted 10 more minutes. Why do they have to make episode so short anyway?
But then I also wish episode could be 10 minutes shorter too, so that the reading would span for a longer number of days.
But "Family sayings" will wrap up next week and I haven't checked if some other works of Natalia will be read. Yet I know the moment they stop and Natalia will be gone, so will be my summer and I'm not ready to let go any of them.

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