A Writer’s Journey
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Elena Ferrante is the author of The Days of Abandonment (Europa, 2005), Troubling Love (Europa, 2006), and The Lost Daughter (Europa 2008) and the four volumes of the Neapolitan Quartet (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child), published by Europa Editions between 2012 and 2015. She is also the author of a children’s picture book illustrated by Mara Cerri, The Beach at Night and a work of non-fiction, Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey.
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“According to an interview with her publishers in the Italian literary newsletter Il Libraio, translated in The Guardian, Ferrante is putting pen to paper once more.” A year after Elena Ferrante‘s alleged true identity was revealed by a journalist, the intensely-private author is writing again but has no plans to publish a novel in 2018. Pair with: staff writer Marie Myung-Ok Lee‘s essay on Ferrante, privacy, and woman writers.
Finally, some good news: Elena Ferrante is writing again.
Last year, after Ferrante’s identity was allegedly outed by Italian journalist Claudio Gatti — despite her oft-stated desire to remain anonymous — many worried that the pseudonymous author of the Neapolitan novels would never write again. But much like Lila Cerullo taking up arms at Bruno Soccavo’s sausage factory (shoutout to my fellow Ferrante-heads!), your literary girl crush isn’t about to let some silly man crush her spirit.
According to an interview with her publishers in the Italian literary newsletter Il Libraio, translated in The Guardian, Ferrante is putting pen to paper once more. “I know she is writing, but at the moment I cannot say anything more,” revealed publisher Sandro Ferrari, who adds there are no plans for a novel to come out next year.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome
New work is understood to be a novel separate from TV screenplay writer is working on for adaptation of Neapolitan series
Elena Ferrante is back. And she’s busy.
It has been just over a year since the Italian novelist behind My Brilliant Friend and the rest of the highly acclaimed Neapolitan series was outed by an investigative journalist who claimed to have discovered her true identity.
Since then, fans of Elena Ferrante, who has always written under a pen name, had reason to worry she might not return. In interviews over the years, Ferrante suggested that her anonymity was a vital component of her work. Being unknown, she said, gave her the space and liberty to focus on her writing, free from the “anxiety of notoriety” or the temptation to censor herself.
The investigative journalist Claudio Gatti reported last October that Ferrante’s true name was Anita Raja, a Rome-based translator whose middle-class background differed from that fostered by Elena Ferrante, which more closely resembled the struggling background of her two protagonists. Gatti was criticised for a gross violation of the writer’s privacy and some believed he would be blamed if Ferrante disappeared from public life.
However, a recent interview with Ferrante’s publishers in Il Libraio, an Italian literary newsletter, included one line that could give fans relief: “I know she is writing, but at the moment I cannot say anything more,” said Sandro Ferri, who heads the publishing house Ediozioni E/O with his wife, Sandra Ozzola.
But Ferri said there were no plans for a new Ferrante novel to be published in 2018.
The publishers declined to offer any more details. But the new work is understood to be separate from the screenplay Ferrante is working on for a television series based on the Neapolitan novels, which will air on HBO and the Italian broadcaster RAI.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
There’s a good chance you’ve already received recommendations for Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet from gushy friends, fervent booksellers and rhapsodic librarians. So no more excuses: Read it now, because chances are, you’ll love every soapy Italian moment. Plus, Ferrante is handling the screenplay for HBO’s forthcoming adaptation, so your Neapolitan infatuation may continue indefinitely.
4. Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
As you might know, Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym and there has been widespread speculation over who Ferrante really is, although she is widely believed to have been unmasked by the New York Review of Books in 2016, a move which was heavily criticised by Ferrante’s readers as unnecessary and an invasion of her privacy.
Days of Abandonment, published in Italian in 2002, predates her more famous books, the Neapolitan Novels. However, for me, it was the book that woke me up to her writing and led me to notice Italian writing.
In Days of Abandonment, Mario tells his wife Olga that he is leaving her. She soon finds out that he is living with his new girlfriend, a much younger woman. The book describes the days that follow Mario’s departure. It starts with Olga’s inability to comprehend that her husband, the father of her children, has ceased to love her.
Through the course of the book, Ferrante brilliantly portrays the frantic churning of an ‘abandoned’ woman’s mind. In fact, I found her writing so furious and unsettling that 50 pages or so in, I had to put the book away for a few days to see if I still wanted to read it. I did pick it up again.
This is not a long book, so it is a good one for a flight or to read in a day or two. (188 pp. Europa Editions)
December 12, 2017
by Michelle Johnson
Elena Ferrante, Frantumaglia, trans. Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions)
Looking back on 2017, it’s easy to declare the year a success for literary translation, which continued to thrive and move in exciting new directions. Of note, Emily Wilson translated The Odyssey into English. The first woman to do so, she gave the “epic a radically contemporary voice.” Following up last year’s The Seamstress and the Wind, And Other Stories brought out three new English translations of César Aira’s work—no doubt pleasing Patti Smith and many other eager readers. And three new books about translation enriched the conversation: Kate Briggs’s This Little Art, Mireille Gansel’s Translation as Transhumance, and Into English: Poems, Translations, Commentaries, edited by Martha Collins and Kevin Prufer.
Resisting again the temptation to expand our list, we offer an admittedly incomplete collection of the year’s English translations and invite you to add your favorites in the comments. You can also share those you’re most eagerly anticipating in 2018 by using the hashtag #2018Reads on Twitter and Facebook. Are you looking forward to Aslı Erdoğan’s The Stone Building and Other Places? Or Julián Herbert’s Tomb Song? Dubravka Ugrešić’s Fox? Let us know.
Thank you for being in conversation with us this past year. We look forward to continuing to serve as your passport to great global reading in 2018.
Publicada a Navona per Pere Sureda (que ara s’acaba de destapar amb una nova traducció castellana d’El conde de Montecristo) aquesta és la tercera entrega de la trilogia Cròniques del mal d’amor d’Elena Ferrante, enigmàtica autora italiana més coneguda a casa nostra per la tetralogia que va arrencar amb L’amiga genial, publicada a La Campana. Navona també ha publicat separadament les tres novel·les que componen la trilogia, L’amor que molesta i Els dies de l’abandonament, totes esplèndidament traduïdes per Anna Carreras.
La filla fosca és una novel·la sobre la malignitat que pot arribar a niar en la maternitat. Escrita en primera persona, la protagonista, Leda, és una professora divorciada que decideix passar les vacances en un poblet de la costa del mar Jònic, on lloga un apartament minúscul tota sola després que les seves dues filles, ja adultes, hagin optat per abandonar-la i traslladar-se a viure amb el seu pare a Canadà. Leda és una persona amb una capacitat d’introspecció vertiginosa, i una necessitat d’autocontrol extrema, unes virtuts que no impedeixen que sovint prengui decisions dràstiques i irreparables.
Durant les seves vacances, Leda passa el dia a la platja, sense relacionar-se pràcticament amb ningú. Un bon dia entaula una relació amb una família sorollosa del sud. Segueix amb atenció els moviments de Nina, una dona atractiva, i la seva filla Elena, que tot el dia juga amb una nina. Leda mantindrà amb aquestes persones una relació en principi superficial, amb una complexa alternança de simpatia i antipatia. El contacte, intermitent, esdevindrà absorbent a partir del moment que, en un rampell inexplicable, Leda decideix robar la nina de la petita Elena.
No es tracta d’una nina qualsevol, sinó de la nina de la nina d’una família. Estem parlant d’aquell element que el psicoanalista Donald Winnicott va definir com a ‘objecte transicional’, que permet a l’infant confrontar l’angoixa que li comporta separar-se gradualment de la mare.
La filla fosca és també la història d’aquesta nina, una nina que es convertirà en un ostatge custodiat per Leda i que acabarà sent el detonant d’un conflicte que es manté latent al llarg de tota la novel·la. El segrest de la nina és l’expressió d’una maternitat robada, la que la mateixa Leda va robar a les seves pròpies filles i a ella mateixa el dia que va decidir abandonar-les.
Aquest rampell furtiu de robar una nina, que ella mateixa no s’acaba d’explicar, es converteix en el gest fundacional de la novel·la, el que destapa en el seu interior una llarga confessió que acaba imantant totes les èpoques de la seva vida. Ferrante fa un estudi psicològic d’una profunditat que ens devora. En una imatge torbadora, Leda descriu el seu segon part com una expulsió que és també una autoexpulsió. Ferrante explica de manera convicent com la maternitat pot fer sortir el pitjor de l’interior d’una dona. La descripció de l’experiència de la maternitat, lluny de tota idealització, és expremuda amb tota la complexitat per extreure’n el suc de la malignitat. Imprescindible.
Elena Ferrante – The Neapolitan Novels
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym, not a real name. And that mystery brings up a lot of emotional discussions about the real person behind it and the nature of the books. Some think it’s an autobiography, some even argue that the writer is male, which I find hard to believe having read her books. But everybody agrees that once you start reading her Neapolitan Novels, it’s impossible to break away.
The beginning of the first book disappointed me as it is written in kind of a crude childish manner. The story is set in a poor and run-down neighbourhood of Naples, full of violence. Two friends, the schoolgirls Elena Greko and Lila Cerullo, dream, read books and plan their way out of this little and limited community, they were born into.
The protagonist, Elena Greko, annoyed me all the way to the middle of the first book. She didn’t have any self-esteem, didn’t defend her personal borders, her best friend Lila manipulated her every way possible. But the style of storytelling changed as the heroines grew up and their view of the world developed. The deep voice and the great narration of Hilary Huber, reading the text of English translation of the novel, also dragged me in.
Only much later, when I read about the earthquake in Naples I realised why so many things in this book attracted me and pushed me away the same time. I saw the scenes of the earthquake for real – the crowds of people, the destruction, the overall life put to halt for a long time – I saw it all in Armenia when I was a little child. This whole environment in the book reminded me the small town in Armenia where I spent the first years of my childhood. I was lucky in a way. Having been born to an academic family, I didn’t have to fight for the right to get an education as Elena did. But a lot of the attributes of the environment seemed familiar either from my own memories or from stories told by my parents and relatives.
So the days passed, and I couldn’t get myself away from the audiobooks, listening every moment in the car, every second when my little one was asleep or played on his own on the playground. 4 books, almost 70 hours of audio, I fully immersed in the world of Elena and I realised, why it attracted so many readers. It shows naked feelings, feelings that hurt deeply and keep alive. The heroine has an amazing understanding of those feelings, her own and other people’s. She doubts herself all the time, but at the same time, she is brave enough to write about corruption and crime without having a second thought about the criminals who can recognise themselves in her writing. I am sure, this book could be an excellent subject for a dissertation on shame and vulnerability if Brene Brown got to it. But I am also sure that it’s a book that you couldn’t stay indifferent to. You either love it or hate it.
It’s been all the rage at book clubs everywhere.
We read the smash hit Italian novel from Elena Ferrante.
Julia is effusive. Tod is stoked. Rider is…argumentative.
Typical times at the Disco.
By Valerie Waterhouse
Published on October 5, 2017
Recent authors have made Pirandello’s themes so central that the search for, or absence of, identity have become a defining characteristic of ‘Italian-ness’. Famously, Elena Ferrante has annulled her own authorial identity: ‘Ferrante’ is a cypher for an anonymous writer – possibly a translator, possibly married to novelist Domenico Starnone, possibly a stand-in for both halves of the couple – or perhaps we are all on the wrong track? The absence of a public presence frees Ferrante from ‘the rituals that writers are more or less obliged to perform in order to sustain their book,’ she explained to Vanity Fair.
In an article for The Guardian, Ferrante wrote about Jane Austen, who also published her novels anonymously. ‘Who wrote Sense and Sensibility? Who invented Marianne and Elinor and their mother and the many female characters who appear, disappear, reappear?’ she asked. She might well have been commenting on her own best-selling novels: The Neapolitan Quartet. Their focus is the six-decade-long friendship between Elena/Lenuccia/Lenù and Raffaella/Lina/Lila, whose changing names and the similarities between their nomenclatures (Lenù/Lina) underline the impossibility of pinning down identity across time and space. My Brilliant Friend, the first in the series, begins with Lina/Lila’s disappearance: ‘She wanted not only to disappear herself, now, at the age of sixty-six, but also to eliminate the entire life she had left behind. Everything, including her computer, photos of herself, birth certificates, telephone bills, receipts, had gone.’ Characters stretch their boundaries so far across the course of the novels, that they are almost impossible to define. The most extreme example is the women’s friend, Alfonso, who undergoes a male to female transition so complete that he almost transforms into Lina. And yet, like Italian identity, each personality displays seemingly immutable defining traits. Elena is hard-working and studious and efficient; Lina’s razor-sharp intelligence never fades.
(…. ) The desire to uncover our one true voice, the dread of hearing what it has to say: This seems to me the tension of modern life, the thing that has us searching for a cell signal on yoga retreat. Being in a place where nothing has an agenda for your attention, as Axelrod found, means looking and listening in an unguarded way. “Natural curiosities and affinities emerge,” as he puts it, “becoming the filters for experience.” How we breathe in the world, then, defaults to a function of an unbidden part of identity, rather than a function of what others want us to be — or, perhaps even more crucially, how we want others to think we are.
Elena Ferrante, the Italian author whose pseudonymity became part of her mystique, once wrote to me in an email interview, “If my book were publicly mine from the beginning, I would be careful not to damage my image, I would censor myself.” Writing was a “battle against lying. Only with the confidence of anonymity can I decide occasionally to publish. In the end, if I’m forced to choose, I prefer to lose the role of writer rather than spoil my passion for writing — that’s the way it’s always been.” When she was allegedly unmasked by an Italian investigative journalist, her fans were outraged at the violation. It was invasive, they argued, which it was, but it seemed to me that not only were they defending Ferrante from the indignity of having her financial and real-estate records unveiled, they were also defending their own right not to know, to be free to imagine that she was, in fact, Elena Greco, the narrator of her Neapolitan Novels, the woman they knew with the intimacy and deep interiority only possible in literature.
And so contemporary artists find ways to battle for truth on their own terms. I think of young women like Emma Cline, who push back against having their photos on the dust jackets of their books, or David Hammons, who declines to participate in the accepted machinations of the art world, or Bob Dylan, who took nearly two weeks to even publicly acknowledge that he won the Nobel Prize in literature last year. But maybe the best display of resistance against the role of artist-as-performer was the quietly myth-demolishing article by this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote for The Guardian about the four-week period of seclusion in 1987 he and his wife called the “crash,” a desperate attempt to “reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.” The result was “The Remains of the Day,” a monumental yesteryear portrait of renunciation, and a life passed by, tragically unlived. Now, of course, all is reversed: It’s renouncing the world that requires nerve and imagination, and the roar of silence that dares us to listen.