At the heart of Happiness, as Such is an absence—an abyss that pulls everyone to its brink—created by a family’s only son, Michele, who has fled from Italy to England to escape the dangers and threats of his radical political ties. This novel is part epistolary: his mother writes letters to him, nagging him; his sister Angelica writes, missing him; so does Mara, his former lover, telling him about the birth of her son who may be his own. Left to clean up Michele’s mess, his family and friends complain, commiserate, tease, and grieve, struggling valiantly with the small and large calamities of their interconnected lives.
Natalia Ginzburg’s most beloved book in Italy and one of her finest achievements, Happiness, as Such is an original, wise, raw, comic novel that cuts to the bone.
The web of connections between private and public life, between the intellectual and the emotional and the political, is delicately visible, only occasionally breaking the surface.
— Harper's Magazine
The voice of the Italian novelist and essayist Natalia Ginzburg comes to us with absolute clarity amid the veils of time and language. Ginzburg gives us a new template for the female voice and an idea of what it might sound like. This voice emerges from her preoccupations and themes, whose specificity and universality she considers with a gravitas and authority that seem both familiar and entirely original.
— Rachel Cusk
Her simplicity is an achievement, hard-won and remarkable, and the more welcome in a literary world where the cloak of omniscience is all too readily donned.
— William Weaver, The New York Times
There is no one quite like Ginzburg for telling it like it is.
— Phillip Lopate
I’m utterly entranced by Ginzburg’s style – her mysterious directness, her salutary ability to lay things bare that never feels contrived or cold, only necessary, honest, clear.
— Maggie Nelson
Her prose style is deceptively simple and very complex. Its effect on the reader is both calming and thrilling – that’s not so easy to do.
— Deborah Levy
If Ferrante is a friend, Ginzburg is a mentor.
— Laura Feigel, The Guardian
Ginzburg’s beautiful words have such solidity and simplicity. I read her with joy and amazement.
— Tessa Hadley
…the most popular of Ginzburg’s novels, and it’s easy to see why as the author explores the bonds holding a family together with blunt pragmatism but great warmth and humour.
— Ginzburg, Happiness As Such, The Herald
This deeply moving novel is a masterpiece.
— Book Riot
Natalia Ginzburg never fails to dazzle, and Happiness, as Such is another triumphant novel.
— The Irish Times
Ginzburg is a unique voice and there’s a direct simplicity to her prose that makes her dry observations all the more riveting
— Hephzibah Anderson, The Guardian
Happiness, as Such, translated by Minna Zallman Proctor, is from 1973, by which point Ginzburg had mastered her method and was complementing the sharp, glittering edifice of her prose with buried seams of humor and pathos.
— The Wall Street Journal
Ginzburg modernizes the form…Between generational differences, genealogical secrets, former and secret lovers, and the desires and limitations related to real and aspirational social milieux, Ginzburg seems to suggest that in the sphere of the family there is always more to tell, and differently.
— Los Angeles Review of Books
What impels her forward is the voice: free, pellucid, almost always first-person, interested not in the long view but in the here and now.
— The New Republic
Where it shines is at the line level, where Ginzburg and Proctor together often strike perfect notes.
— Chicago Review of Books
She is an original, no doubt, and partly by virtue of her sharpness, the peculiarly direct and needlelike precision of her prose.
— Jean McGarry
A wonderful act of virtuosity.
— The New Yorker
A deliciously arid novel.
— Interview Magazine
Candor and lies, love and exasperation, farce and inconsolable grief are seamlessly compounded in this very funny and deeply melancholy book. After devastating loss, which is to be feared more greatly—that nothing will ever be the same, or that many things will be more or less the same? Life goes on, all too recognizably. “You can get used to anything when there’s nothing else left,” says one of the characters toward the end.
— The New York Book Review
The voice is instantly, almost violently recognizable — aloof, amused and melancholy. The metaphors are sparse and ordinary; the language plain, but every word load-bearing. Short sentences detonate into scenes of shocking cruelty. Even in middling translations, it is a style that cannot be subsumed; Natalia Ginzburg can only sound like herself.
— The New York Times
Magnificent…This is a riveting story about how even when a family drifts apart, the bonds of blood relations supersede the deepest disagreements.
— Publishers Weekly (starred)
Ginzburg writes with humor and pathos. Epistolary, family exposes each to the other and we soon recognize that happiness is defined as mundane visitations, daily routines, and reactivated memory of joy as seen through loss.
— Lucy Kogler, Lit Hub
Happiness, As Such is a tragicomedy of manners about an Italian family whose only son flees the country after being persecuted for his political activism. Published in Italy in 1973, it’s primarily a series of letters between the estranged son and his friends and family back home. If that sounds uneventful, rest assured it’s just as compelling as The Dry Heart.
— Chicago Tribune
A swiftly moving blend of dialogue and letters, the novel speaks to Ginzburg’s remarkable range as a writer: beneath the currents of humor and wit is a subtle work of insight and feeling. Another masterpiece from one of the finest postwar Italian writers.
— Kirkus (starred)
Natalia Ginzburg is a fierce writer. She trusts in things—in the few objects that can capture the emptiness of the universe.
— Italo Calvino
Her sentences have great precision and clarity, and I learn a lot when I read her.