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An Evening with Alastair Sawday

20th October, 2021, Steyning Cricket Club

Family Lexicon

family lexicon

Giuseppi Levi is always shouting at his children and forcing them to march up mountains, his wife Lidia is always trying to slope off for a sit down. Their various children comply with their wishes, or not, all of them contributing to the routines and rituals, crazes, pet phrases, and stories, doubtful, comical, indispensable that make up a large Jewish-Italian family.
Written while Natalia Ginsburg was away from her family, and homesick for them, this lovely autobiographical novel, mainly composed of dialogue, builds layer by layer through repetition and pattern, a portrait of that family, their repeated phrases, the ties of affection and exasperation that bind them together. It is set against the rise of fascism in Italy through the 1920s and 30s, and the Levis, both Jewish and anti-fascist will have to ensure that their own family lexicon survives.