What sustains people in severely oppressive situations? How do you hope when hope seems beyond possibility? How do you unify and inspire when organizing is punishable by death? These are the central questions explored by The Ginzburg Geography, a music performance by Jewlia Eisenberg and Charming Hostess.
The Ginzburg Geography is based on the life and work of Natalia and Leone Ginzburg, Italian Jews famous for anti-fascist resistance and intellectual brilliance. Natalia was raised in an atheist and socialist environment in Turin, Italy. Leone emigrated from Odessa to Turin to teach Russian literature. He refused allegiance to the fascist state, co-founding an anti-fascist action party called Justice and Liberty. Natalia and Leone married in 1938, and soon after, were sent into exile in remote Abruzzo.
They had three children there. Natalia wrote novels and Leone clandestinely edited the party newspaper. The Ginzburgs went to occupied Rome to continue their resistance work in 1944. Leone was imprisoned and tortured to death by the Nazis. Natalia and the children fled to Turin. She became a respected writer, later serving in the Italian Parliament as an independent communist.
I will draw from the Ginzburgs’ writings, both public and private, to explore the journeys of a couple who sacrificed almost everything to work for justice.
I focus on journeys of love, resistance, exile, and liberation, using the methods of radical cartography. Radical cartography means using new tools to create unusual maps of non-traditional information. The Ginzburg Geography is a series of sonic maps that track the aforementioned journeys in the Ginzburgs’ lives—and the way their journeys connect to our own.
I will write new music drawing from: Italian Jewish regional traditions of Turin, Abruzzo and Rome; Italian Jewish liturgy (the oldest in Europe, representing 2000 years of diaspora life), Italian Jewish anti-fascist songs and resistance anthems.
With The Ginzburg Geography, I hope to to create something that speaks to the mind and the spirit, giving context to the curious and inspiration to those working for change. My goal, as always, is to be a translation engine where something is GAINED in translation.
I have never blogged a work in progress before. It’s hard for me to share the everyday process because it includes a lot of exploration of roads that may be tangential to the main project. But I’m going to try. I’ll start by sharing a recipe inspired by the saffron of Abruzzo, where the Ginzburgs spent their bittersweet exile. This quote is from Natalia Ginzburg’s “Winter in Abruzzi,” the essay that put me on the path to recognizing the role of place—geography—in the life of the Ginzburgs.
“My husband died in Rome, in the prison of Regina Coeli, a few months after we left the Abruzzi. Faced with the horror of his solitary death, and faced with the anguish which preceded his death, I asked myself if this happened to us–to us, who bought oranges at Giro’s and went for walks in the snow. At that time I believed in a simple and happy future, rich with hopes that were fulfilled, with experiences and plans that were shared. But that was the best time of my life, and only now that it is gone from me forever–only now do I realize it.”
Put olive oil in a cast-iron pan.
Heat it up with a pinch of saffron, stir it.
Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic, hot red pepper and salt, stir it.
Dice up a squash or small pumpkin, put it in the pan, stir it.
Put some chicken broth or water in if it looks dry, put a lid on it, turn the heat down low.
In another pot, make pasta–it will be ready when the squash is ready.
Drain the pasta and put it in the squash pan, stir it.
Grate cheese on top–pecorino is good.
Put the whole pan in a 500-degree oven til the cheese is melty.
Eat it with a bottle of wine.
Don’t drink water with the meal, it washes the nutrients away.