The History of Literature #327 – Natalia Ginzburg

327 Natalia Ginzburg

Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1991) lived a fascinating life full of politics, war, exile, tragedy, love, loss, and literature. In her novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and essays, she drew upon her experience and her keen capacity for observation and invention to create some of the twentieth century’s most arresting and enduring works. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the political courage shown by Ginzburg and her family – and in particular her husband Leone Ginzburg, who at the tail end of World War II was tortured and killed in Rome’s famous Carcere di Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven Prison) – and how it helped to shape Natalia Ginzburg’s life and career.

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History of Literature Episode 43 – Seeing Evil (with Professor Rebecca Messbarger)


What is evil? Is it a force that lives outside us? Or something that dwells within? And how do we recognize it? Professor Rebecca Messbarger joins Jacke to discuss the problems of seeing evil and the particular ways that post-Fascist Italian writers dealt with the dilemma. We also hear the story of how a mild-mannered Italian professor’s scholarly research eventually led to her roaming the Internet in an attempt to purchase a cadaver.


Books Discussed:

The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini by Rebecca Messbarger

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino

That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda

Todo Modo by Leonardo Sciascia

Family Sayings by Natalia Ginzburg

Show Notes:

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Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Spy Glass” and “Bushwick Tarantella Loop” by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0