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IL CIRCOLO LETTERARIO - The Book Club Edition. Family Lexicon, a Masterpiece of Italian Literature. EF21

  • 28 Jan 2021
  • 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  • Location: Virtual Meeting. Access link with registration confirmation email.
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Following the first sessions of Il Circolo Letterario discussing women's challenges in Italy during the 20th century, join us and delve deeper into the works of author Natalia Ginzburg with this special Book Club Edition

For this unique session, we invite you to read Family Lexicon, a masterpiece of Italian Literature, in English or in Italian, and join Pieranna Garavaso, Professor Emerita of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, on Thursday, January 28th, 6:00 - 7:00 P.M., to discuss the book in a laid-back atmosphere. The conversation will be in English


Online Event - Register now, space is limited.

Free or with suggested donation to support our programming


The book may be ordered in English at Magers & Quinn BooksellersMoon Palace Books or Next Chapter Booksellers, or in Italian at Libreria Pino or IBS la Feltrinelli.



Natalia Ginzburg 
(1916-1991) was a Jewish woman writer whose personal life was deeply affected by World War II and the persecution of Jews in Italy.  She wrote novels, plays, and political and critical literary essays. Ginzburg’s approach is not explicitly feminist, but her attention to family life and relations provides insightful reflections on the conditions of women in Italy during the fascist era.  

Family Lexicon. An Italian family, sizable, with its routines and rituals, crazes, pet phrases, and stories, doubtful, comical, indispensable, comes to life in the pages of Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon. Giuseppe Levi, the father, is a scientist, consumed by his work and a mania for hiking—when he isn’t provoked into angry remonstration by someone misspeaking or misbehaving or wearing the wrong thing. Giuseppe is Jewish, married to Lidia, a Catholic, though neither is religious; they live in the industrial city of Turin where, as the years pass, their children find ways of their own to medicine, marriage, literature, politics. It is all very ordinary, except that the background to the story is Mussolini’s Italy in its steady downward descent to race law and world war. The Levis are, among other things, unshakeable anti-fascists. That will complicate their lives.

Family Lexicon is about a family and language—and about storytelling not only as a form of survival but also as an instrument of deception and domination. The book takes the shape of a novel, yet everything is true. “Every time that I have found myself inventing something in accordance with my old habits as a novelist, I have felt impelled at once to destroy [it],” Ginzburg tells us at the start. “The places, events, and people are all real.”


Pieranna Garavaso is native Italian and came to the US to earn a PhD in Philosophy (at the U of Nebraska Lincoln). She taught Philosophy at the University of Minnesota Morris for 34 years. She was awarded the UMN Morris Alumni Association Teaching Award (2003), the Horace T. Morse Alumni Association Undergraduate Teaching Award (2004) and the UMN Morris Faculty Research Award (2017). Her areas of research include History of Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of Mathematics, and Feminist Philosophies.  She has published articles in Italian and English and authored, co-authored or edited several books; the last collection she has edited is the Bloomsbury Companion to Analytic Feminism (2018).  As Emerita/retired she plans to devote more time to reading and discussing Italian literature.



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