1. The Martian by Andy Weir
2. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
3. Euphoria by Lily King
4. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
6. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
7. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
8. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
9. The Alchemist (25th Anniversary Edition) by Paul Coelho
10. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
May 10, 2015 by heavenali
It was only a few weeks ago that I read My Brilliant Friend, happily immersing myself in the sometimes brutal Neapolitan world of Elena and Lila. Before I had finished that much talked about novel I had already ordered books two and three in the series. Last weekend – a long bank holiday weekend here in the UK – seemed a great time to start The Story of a New Name, these books aren’t small.
“Everything in the world was in precarious balance, pure risk, and those who didn’t agree to take the risk wasted away in a corner, without getting to know life.”
As The Story of a New Name opens Elena recalls how in the mid 1960’s Lila gave her a box of diaries which recount the story of her life with Stefano. From there Elena takes up the story of herself and Lila – exactly where My Brilliant Friend left us – at the wedding of her sixteen year old friend. The opening couple of chapters recount some quite horrible domestic abuse, which transports the reader immediately back into this tough Italian neighbourhood, where women often grimly accept the most terrible treatment at the hands of the men in their lives. Lila has married local business man Stefano Carracci, the son of Don Achille, who had inspired such fairy-tale fears in the two girls when they were children, and who had been murdered several years earlier. On her wedding day, Lila is made aware that her husband has done a deal with the Solara family – whom Lila passionately detests. Elena watches from the side-lines, immediately aware that Lila’s marriage is in trouble before it has even begun.
The shortlists for the 2015 Best Translated Book Awards were announced Tuesday at Three Percent, the website of the program in international literature at the University of Rochester in New York. Ten works of fiction and six books of poetry were named finalists for the awards.
The fiction finalist list is led by “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” a bestseller by Elena Ferrante, a mysterious Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Also making the cut from the longlist is Valeria Luiselli’s “Faces in the Crowd,” which took the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction at the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes last month.
by BTBA Judge Monica Carter
Elena Ferrante is everywhere now. Yet, I remember when she was obscure, when she wrote dark, suffocating first person narratives about women coming undone. She laboriously outlines, emotion by emotion, the protagonist’s shunning of a traditional female role, whether it is wife or mother or both, in favor of her own desires. In Days of Abandonmentand The Lost Daughter, we are stuck in the protagonist’s mind while she struggles to reckon with her own betrayal of tradition and patriarchy. I felt these intense novels were mine from the beginning – sordid, angry and unknown. Then came My Brilliant Friend, the first novel in Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, and the literati was roused from their stateside slumber to take notice of a book about an Italian female friendship between two girls Elena and Lila.
After My Brilliant Friend, came The Story with No Name which solidified Ferrante’s status as an international writer and the first time she was recognized by the Best Translated Book Award (2014). This year, Ferrante and Ann Goldstein, her faithful translator with whom she has been paired with for all seven of her works, make the list again forThose Who Leave and Those Who Stay. It opens with Elena in her mid-sixties, walking with Lila, when a boy finds a body in the bushes that Lila identifies as their childhood friend, Gigliola. From there Ferrante takes us back in time to the 1960s and the long 1970s of Italy, to the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Naples, the middle-class restaurants and homes of Florence and the university classrooms where Marxist rhetoric echoes through the halls, giving hope to the students and the local workers that change will come.
Taking off the mask: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels
In these compelling books, the Italian writer – whose real identity is hidden – combines the novel with feminist polemic.
This article is a preview from the Spring 2015 edition of New Humanist. You can find out more and subscribe here.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series (known in Italian as the Brilliant Friend novels) could be at the intersection of a publisher’s fantasy Venn diagram; they occupy the spot where Anglophone readers notice novels in translation and male critics read women seriously. This is a remarkable amount of commercial success and critical acclaim for what, on the face of it, is a female bildungsroman that begins in 1950s Naples. Three instalments of what Ferrante has said is really one novel have been published so far, with a fourth and final volume due to appear later this year. My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay are set over 60 years and run to some 1,200 pages in Ann Goldstein’s English translation. It all seems a great departure from Ferrante’s three previous novels, each of which is a slim work narrated by a woman in crisis, spanning a short period in the near present.
Dread. Fear. Pain. Self-loathing. Two autobiographical novelists — one an enigma, the other a reluctant celebrity — are unflinching in their catalogue of life’s daily torments. Yet they also evoke the ambition and restlessness of the human spirit.
By: Heather Mallick Columnist, Published on Sat Apr 25 2015
The semi-autobiographical novels of Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard are piled in front of me on a kitchen scale. Together they weigh two kilograms, stand as high as a hedge and are so good they make other writers sigh heavily and wonder about another line of work.
Ferrante and Knausgaard, an Italian and a Norwegian writing from different genders, cultures and motives, have bitten off a huge chunk of human experience and chewed it so thoroughly that one feels sated after reading.
And there’s more to come. The final volumes, in Italian and in Norwegian, are still being translated into English. Reading them each year as they appear is like watching a child grow, immensely pleasurable at the time but twinned with warning that it will all come to an end.
HOW WE CAME TO LOVE THE MULTI-VOLUME NOVEL
April 16, 2015 By Alexander Chee
“What was The Goldfinch of last year?”
A friend and editor of mine asked me this over email as he prepared an overview of the year’s publishing trends. I tried to think of if there was one.
I wrote first, “I think maybe there was a bit of a Goldfinch hangover from those who didn’t love it, and those who did, really didn’t want another one, they just didn’t want it to end.”
As soon as I typed that, I knew there was more to it.
I remembered getting one of those “If you liked The Goldfinch, you’ll love ________” emails, with a plug for a new Norman Mailer biography. You don’t even know, do you, oh all-seeing algorithm, I thought. Mailer had never once reminded me of Tartt, and I didn’t see him as Future Theo. And, as Molly Quinn of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe said, when I put the question to her, “It really isn’t fair to ask that without considering how widely anticipated it was.”
I thought about it more, and sorted through the books I’d heard people raving about.
MARCH 25, 2015
Knausgaard or Ferrante?
BY JOSHUA ROTHMAN
What’s at stake when we opt for sun over snow, anger over awkwardness, herring over prosciutto, women over men, the north over the south, 1955 over 1985? What does our preference for Knausgaard or Ferrante say about us?
In 1959, the literary critic George Steiner published a book called “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.” It didn’t ask which writer was better—they were “titans both,” Steiner wrote. Instead, it asked what a person’s preference for one over the other might mean. Discover which of the Russians a reader prefers and why, Steiner argued, and, “you will, I think, have penetrated into his own nature,” because an affinity for Tolstoy or Dostoevsky “commits the imagination to one or the other of two radically opposed interpretations of man’s fate, of the historical future, and of the mystery of God.”
AUDIO: Two Voices Salon with Michael Reynolds and Ann Goldstein on Elena Ferrante
On Thursday, March 19, Elena Ferrante’s translator Ann Goldstein and her editor Michael Reynolds of Europa Editions graced Two Lines Offices with their presence and conversation. Ann is currently in the midst of translating the fourth and last volume of Ferrante’s acclaimed Neapolitan Novels, and she is also almost done editing (and partially translating) the complete works of Primo Levi. She is an editor at The New Yorker and a recipient of the PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award. Author and editor Michael Reynolds has himself translated Carlo Lucarelli’s De Luca series, children’s fiction by Wolf Erlbruch and Altan, and Daniele Mastrogiacomo’s Days of Fear.
The conversation between Michael, Ann, moderator Scott Esposito and Salon attendees includes first experiences of Ferrante’s work, translator invisibility, and a discussion on dialectics and the translation process. Tune in to hear personal insights about Neapolitan culture, history, and Ann and Michael’s experiences with working on the famed series.
Elena Ferrante Writes Fiction That Feels Autobiographical. But Who Is She?
By Mona Simpson
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions) In the first novel of Elena Ferrante’s three-volume and still ongoing series, two young girls in an impoverished neighborhood of postwar Naples own in common their most treasured possession: an American book. The little Italian girls read Little Women and extract a dream of success. The girls in Little Women are poor too, and the most bookish one of them ends up supporting the family and making a name for herself as a writer. “In that last year of elementary school, wealth became our obsession. We talked about it the way characters in novels talk about searching for treasure. Then, I don’t know why, things changed and we began to link school to wealth. We thought that if we studied hard we would be able to write books and that the books would make us rich. Wealth was still the glitter of gold coins stored in countless chests, but to get there all you had to do was go to school and write a book.”
In her secret life: who exactly is Elena Ferrante? As Ferrante’s writing became conspicuous, so did her anonymity. Speculation gathered, not just about her identity but even her sex.
by Jane Shilling Published 13 November, 2014 – 10:00
My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Elena Ferrante; translated by Ann Goldstein Europa Editions, 336-480pp, £11.99
When Ann Goldstein’s admirable translation of Elena Ferrante’s novel Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay appeared a few weeks ago, the publishers held a celebration in a small London bookshop. There was wine, pizza and a panel discussion on the theme: “Who is Elena Ferrante?”
The question is one that preoccupies Ferrante’s readership and it has come to haunt the author in ways that are presumably the reverse of what she intended when she decided that personal anonymity was the best way to serve her fiction. Before the publication of her first novel, Troubling Love, in 1991, Ferrante wrote to her Italian publisher, “I do not intend to do anything for Troubling Love . . . that might involve the public engagement of me personally. I’ve already done enough for this long story: I wrote it. If the book is worth anything, that should be sufficient.”