Saturday 1 July 2023

Valentino, 62 pages by Natalia Ginzburg

Up at the pond I read the whole of Valentino, by Natalia Ginzburg, 62 pages of bare story on the edge of an Italian city in the middle of the twentieth century. The story feels bare, in the sense of relentless yet gentle. People are evenly presented, in a narrative without judgement but not without feeling. At the end you feel as much for all of them, even the feckless eponymous Valentino, who was meant, his parents thought, to become a man of consequence, a doctor who would discover things and be remembered. As it was, after a flurry of schoolgirls, he marries a rich unattractive woman and has three children with her. 

His sister Caterina, our narrator, goes to live in this ménage. Her room has a pale blue carpet. She is even-handed, a schoolteacher, modest, going along with love and death enacted by others, liking the idea of sharing in the lives of others, patient as regards her own, accepting of what happens. She might marry her sister-in-law's cousin, they have an agreeable day out in the country, he drove, he wore Valentino's gloves, a woman threw a shoe at them, they ate tiny pears. A few weeks later he says he can't marry her after all, and within the year he has killed himself. His room is filled with pictures of Valentino.

Like the films of same era, it only takes a pair of gloves and a few small pears. Drawers full of letters. Walls full of pictures.      

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