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“Nothing quite like this has ever been published before.”—The Guardian
“One of the best books of this or any other year.”—The Independent
“Nothing you read about Elena Ferrante’s work prepares you for the ferocity of it."—Amy Rowland, The New York Times
“My Brilliant Friend is a large, captivating, amiably peopled bildungsroman.”—James Wood, The New Yorker
“Everyone should read anything with Ferrante’s name on it.”—The Boston Globe
"The real world can drop away when you’re reading her.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Some of the richest, loveliest prose I’ve read in many years.”—Seth Maxon, Slate.com
“Her prose is crystal, and her storytelling both visceral and compelling.”—The Economist
"[Elena Ferrante] is one of the most talented writers working today.”—William O’Connor, The Daily Beast
“Ferrante’s sentences have an incantatory power."—Pasha Malla, Slate Book Review
"Utterly brilliant."—James Daunt, Waterstones
"A satisfying and devastating culmination to a series that has grabbed readers’ hearts."—Buzzfeed



Elena Ferrante’s Frantumaglia
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Elena Ferrante - Frantumaglia

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About the Author


Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. Her Neapolitan novels include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child,  fourth and final volume in the series.



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elena ferrante: my brilliant friend (2011)


Naples streetscape – copyright ilolab 2016

You have to love a novel that starts with the disappearance of one of its protagonists. When Elena discovers that Lila, her childhood friend, has not only disappeared, but also removed all physical traces of her existence, she gets angry. She resolves to write a novel in which she will record all she has found out about Lila over the past sixty years. Story-telling as a corrective, an act of vengeance.

Having thus framed the novel in the prologue, Ferrante takes the reader back to 1950s Naples, a gritty and at times violent urban environment, where being male is a distinct advantage, and being streetwise a necessity. Enter the unlikely protagonists: two six-year-old girls.

Lila Cerullo is one of those fictional characters who stay with you long after you have closed the magnetic flap over your iPad. She is intelligent but taciturn, determined, self-assured and brave. Elena Greco, the narrator, matches her intelligence, but it is Lila who is the natural leader, always taking the initiative.

Ferrante conjures up tension and suspense from mundane events: a test in class, a teacher falling against a desk, women quarrelling in the street, two girls skipping class. From the opening scene she displays her story-telling skills. The terror is palpable as the girls creep up the stairs to the apartment of Don Achille, a shadowy character who is disliked and feared in equal measure. Elena imagines him as ‘a huge man, covered with purple boils. (…) A being created out of (…) iron, glass, nettles, but alive, alive, the hot breath streaming from his nose and mouth.’

Education is of crucial importance in Ferrante’s world: it imparts benefits to cognitive and social development. It provides a gateway to self-determination. It offers an opportunity to escape fate and a destiny mired in family feuds or the internecine politics of postwar Italy – what the girls call ‘what came before.’ When Lila is made to work in her parents’ shoe shop while Elena is allowed to continue her studies, it seems as if Elena may outgrow her friend. But Lila doggedly, furtively, shadows Elena by studying Greek before trundling off to work, using textbooks borrowed from the local library. Her persistence goes beyond friends being competitive – this is educational stalking.

The novel tracks the ebb and flow of this special friendship until the girls are in their late teens. Lila’s persona, headstrong and contrarian, means that the novel never veers into sentimentality. This is a story about girls growing up and struggling for self-determination. They use their intelligence, initiative and native wit to counter the influence of family and community expectations and peer group pressure. The girls’ alliance is shaky at times, and not everyone comes out a winner… It is refreshing, though, to read a coming-of-age novel where learning is embraced by the protagonists and plays such a liberating role.

At times the grotesque threats as perceived by the girls reminded me of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. At other moments the novel reminded me of how Emile Zola used his Rougon-Macquart series as a sociological laboratory, a tool for tracing the impact of the environment on his characters. But these echoes are superficial, and Ferrante’s book is in no way derivative. She has found her own voice and conveys her message with confidence, wit and humour. I am not the first to say this is a great novel, and I won’t be the last.

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a novel journal

Book Review: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels read like memoir, so why are they not shelved that way? Shouldn’t four books, emotionally and factually detailing the life of a woman in a first-person voice, with an author whose given name is the narrator’s, be considered memoir? The form of the books directly compare with Karl Ove Knaussgard’s six-tome memoir My Struggle or Simone de Beauvoir’s four chronological autobiographies. But Ferrante says she is writing under a pseudonym and has not revealed her true identity. Should we believe her?


Ferrante’s novels follow the lives of Elena (Lenù), her best friend Lila and the people with whom they grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Naples. There is (of course) speculation that Ferrante is a man, but I’ve never known a man or writer so passionate about female friendship, the bones and meat and soul of the story. Lila and Lenù are competitive, jealous, resentful, spiteful and obsessed with each other, or in other words, best friends. Lila is a brilliant but troubled woman who Lenù cannot help but love for their formative memories and their intertwined emotional lives. In a way, Ferrante’s novels follow the narrative style whose most common reference is The Great Gatsby, wherein the narrator is more of a neutral observer of the much more interesting, evasive and irresistible main character. Maybe Ferrante doesn’t care to share herself with her readers because then we would want to find Lila too. Or maybe she is Lila. In any case, I find it hard to believe that whoever Ferrante really is, this all did not happen.

Maybe that is the mark of a good novel: the reader continues to suspend their disbelief even once the reading is done. I generally shy from books that preface with family trees. If the narrative is so complex that I need a reference document, I highly doubt I will lose myself to this world. That is not the case for this series; the world is there, all the characters heaped in and held together by this poor neighbourhood in Naples no one can truly escape. The Story of a New Name, the second book in Ferrante’s series, chronicles the teenage and early adult years of Lenù and Lila and all their friends. People follow or veer away from well-planned paths, and though the writer doesn’t develop characters like Ada and Gigliola enough that I could draw them for you or pick their voices out of a crowd, I can tell you the role they play in Elena’s and Lila’s friendship, which is all that matters.

What is maybe most remarkable to me about these books—what differentiates them the most from other books I’ve read—is the careful balance between divulging and holding back. Elena is not afraid to tell us that she is in love with Lila, or close enough to it, or to take each emotion and analyze it right down to its component pieces. But even then, the language never loses its consistent, delicate distance. This is something I’ve found before when reading a translated work. Maybe it is in the translator’s attention and care to each word, or in the flow that is lost or maintained from the original language. Or perhaps it’s in the translation from a culture whose emotional life I cannot so quickly access. We don’t just learn about Italy through this book, we learn the story of Italian women, of poverty in Italy in the 40s and 50s, and we learn maybe even more: the life of one Italian woman, whether living or not, still very real to me. It’s also only now, reading these works, that I realize how lacking my bookshelf is of Italian literature, and, in particular, Italian female writers. If this book has anything to say to this point, it’s that it isn’t because of a lack of brilliance or determination in Italian women.

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37 Books With Plot Twists That Will Blow Your Mind

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Italiens mest kendte ukendte forfatter gør læseren varm om hjertet

’Dukken der blev væk’ foregriber Elena Ferrantes senere Napoli-romaner med sin fortælling om en kvinde, der konfronteres med sin fortid.

Elena Ferrante er Italiens bedst kendte, ukendte forfatter«, står der på flappen til ’Dukken der blev væk’.

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Med en troldsk børnebog og en intens lille voksenroman cementerer forfatterpseudonymet Elena Ferrante sin position som én af verdens bedste nulevende forfattere.

Selv om vi ikke ved, hvem der gemmer sig bag pseudonymet Elena Ferrante, kender vi efterhånden en hel del til forfatteren bag kvartetten om den geniale veninde. Elena Ferrante skriver nemlig på hovedstolen, og vidste man ikke dette før, står det ganske klart med udgivelsen på dansk af to meget forskellige, smukt oversatte bøger.

Den ene er en fortryllende, troldsk børnebog, den anden en intens, psykologisk voksenroman, og begge handler om en dukke, der forsvinder. På hver sin måde og med hver sin udgang, men alligevel med kraftige tråde til Napoli-kvartetten om de to umage veninder, der som små piger mister deres dukker i en kælderskakt, hvorefter dukkerne et langt, begivenhedsrigt liv senere dukker op foran den ene aldrende kvindes dør.

Dukken er et symbol.

Ud over at repræsentere en tydeligvis traumatisk oplevelse i forfatterens liv, bliver den også et sindbillede på uskyld og en form for uberørt og begrænsende kvindelighed. Dukken er et barn, som den lille pige er mor for, og dukken er dermed også en fastfrysning af det feminine, det forudsigelige, det forsnævrende. Fint og farligt på samme tid.

Børnebogen, »Stranden om natten«, der udkom i Italien i 2007, er for de 4-7 årige, men den kan med god effekt sagtens læses af ældre børn. Den relativt enkle historie af næsten h.c. andersensk format har en dybde og en dobbelttydighed, der vil kunne pirre både små og store.

Fortælleren i »Stranden om natten« er den talende dukke Celina, der bliver glemt på stranden, fordi hendes »mor«, den fem-årige Mati, har fået en kat og derfor ændrer fokus og svigter sin hidtil eneste ene.

Solnedgangens Bademester Grusom finder Celina, da han rydder op, og med sin rive flår han hende hen i bunken af efterladt affald, som skal brændes. Han hører hende imidlertid råbe om hjælp og får den idé at sælge hende eller rettere hendes ord på dukkemarkedet. Ord er værdifulde. Inden det dog når så vidt, bliver hun skyllet væk af en bølge, katten redder hende og alt ender godt.

Mor og datter

Vil man som voksen have det fulde udbytte af børnebogens mange lag, bør man forinden læse Ferrantes lille fine roman »Dukken der blev væk«, der udkom på italiensk i 2006.

Her er det jeg-fortælleren Leda, en 48-årig universitetslektor og mor til to voksne døtre, der stjæler en dukke fra en lille pige på stranden. Formålet med handlingen flagrer mellem et forsøg på at forstyrre den mor-datter-ro, som Leda både beundrer og misunder pigen og hendes unge smukke mor, og et forsøg på at gribe fat i fortidens dæmoner for at gøre op med hidtidige kontroversielle handlinger.

Leda får med sin irrationelle beslutning om at stjæle barnets barn revet op i sin egen selvforståelse, både i relation til sin afdøde mor og i relation til de to døtre, der nu bor med eksmanden i Canada, og som hun som ung karrierebevidst, nyforelsket forsker forlod i tre år.

Hun begår en tilsyneladende håndgribelig ondsindet handling, der martrer både barnet, moren og hende selv, og handlingen er forargelig og foruroligende, men den er også forløsende for hende. Og formentlig (forhåbentlig), for de fleste (kvindelige) læsere.

»En mor er kun en datter som leger,« skriver Elena Ferrante et sted. Og et andet sted: »Vi bliver aldrig voksne«.

Så værsgo’! Her er der to fremragende, foruroligende fortællinger til frygtløse, infantile fruentimmere m.fl.

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ferrante2_vepa_70x100 ferrante2_kasse ferrante2_storvepa_1500x2000

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Die Zeit

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Der Stern

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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German TV Shows

A list of German TV shows about Elena Ferrante.

Literarisches Quartett, 26.8.2016

Schweizer Literaturclub, 30.8.2016

ZDF-Morgenmagazin, 30.8.2016

3sat Kulturzeit, 31.08.2016

ZDF aspekte, 02.09.2016

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