Vanity Fair

HOT TYPE

The Mysterious, Anonymous Author Elena Ferrante on the Conclusion of Her Neapolitan Novels

“I prefer to think of myself as being inside a tangled knot; tangled knots fascinate me.”

KIRKUS REVIEW

THE STORY OF THE LOST CHILD

Inexorable seismic changes—in society and in the lives of two female friends—mark the final volume of Ferrante’s Neapolitan series.

Elena and Lila, the emotionally entwined duo at the center of Ferrante’s (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, 2014, etc.) unsentimental examination of women’s lives and relationships, advance through middle age and early old age (perhaps) in this calamitous denouement to their saga. The more fortunate Elena, an author who struggles to assert herself in the misogynistic world of 1970s and ’80s Italy, is drawn back to Naples and its internecine bloodshed; Lila, who has stayed in the city of their youth, is at odds with its controlling families. Elena’s “escape” and attempts at personal and familial fulfillment, on her own terms, hint at the changing roles of women in that era, but it’s Lila’s daily struggle in a Camorra-controlled neighborhood that illuminates the deep fractures within contemporary Italian society. The paths to self-determination taken by the lifelong friends merge and separate periodically as the demands of child-rearing, work, and community exert their forces. The far-reaching effects of a horrific blow to Lila’s carefully maintained equilibrium resonate through much of the story and echo Ferrante’s trademark themes of betrayal and loss. While avid devotees of the Neapolitan series will be gratified by the return of several characters from earlier installments, the need to cover ground in the final volume results in a telescoped delivery of some plot points. Elena’s narrative, once again, never wavers in tone and confidently carries readers through the course of two lives, but the shadowy circumstances of those lives will invite rereading and reinterpretation.

The enigmatic Ferrante, whose identity remains the subject of international literary gossip, has created a mythic portrait of a female friendship in the chthonian world of postwar Naples.

Moonlolly in the city

Troubling Love – book review

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If, like me, you’ve fallen hard for Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and the idea of waiting another three months for the final instalment is unbearable, Troubling Love is the perfect fix to tide you over. Or perhaps you’ve yet to be introduced to Ferrante; in which case I’m massively jealous because you have the biggest treat in store for you! Stop wasting your time reading this review and pick up My Brilliant Friend asap. And you might as well order Books II and III while you’re at it, because you’re not going to be able to stop reading…

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The Paris Review

Elena Ferrante, Art of Fiction No. 228

Interviewed by Sandro and Sandra Ferri

Over the past ten years, the translation into English of Elena Ferrante’s ­novels—including Troubling Love, The Days of Abandonment, The Lost Daughter, and the first three volumes of the tetralogy known in English as the Neapolitan Novels—have won her a passionate following outside her native Italy; the fourth of the Neapolitan Novels will appear in English, as The Story of the Lost Child, this fall. It is now common to hear Ferrante called the most ­important Italian writer of her generation, yet since the original publication of her first novel, Troubling Love, in 1992, she has rigorously protected her privacy and has declined to make public appearances. (“Elena Ferrante” is a pen name.) She has also ­refused to give any interviews over the telephone or in person, ­until now.

Her interviewers—her publishers, Sandro and Sandra Ferri, and their daughter, Eva—describe how the interview was conducted:

“Our conversation with Ferrante began in Naples. Our original plan was to visit the neighborhood depicted in the Neapolitan Novels, then walk along the seafront, but at the last moment Ferrante changed her mind about the neighborhood. Places of the imagination are visited in books, she said. Seen in reality they may be hard to recognize; they are disappointing, they might even seem fake. We tried the seafront, but in the end, because it was a rainy evening, we retreated to the lobby of the Hotel Royal Continental, just ­opposite the Castel dell’Ovo.

“From here, out of the rain, we could every so often glimpse people passing along the street and imagine the characters who have for so long occupied our imaginations and our hearts. There was no particular need to meet in Naples, but Ferrante, who was in the city for family reasons, invited us and we took advantage of the occasion to celebrate the completion of The Story of the Lost Child. The conversation continued late into the night and resumed the next day over lunch (clams), then again in Rome, at our house (tea and tisane). At the end, each of us had a notebook full of notes. We compared them and reorganized the material according to Ferrante’s directions.”

The Editors

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New Humanist

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.

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n+1 magazine

Those Like Us

On Elena Ferrante

Path of Figs, 2012. Giulia Bianchi.

Elena Ferrante. Troubling Love. Europa Editions, 2006 (published in Italy, 1992).
The Days of Abandonment. Europa Editions, 2005 (2002).
The Lost Daughter. Europa Editions, 2008 (2006).
My Brilliant Friend. Europa Editions, 2012 (2011).
The Story of a New Name. Europa Editions, 2013 (2012).
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Europa Editions, 2014 (2013).

WHENEVER I HEAR someone speculate about the true identity of Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous Italian novelist of international fame, a private joke unspools in my head. Who is she? the headlines ask. Don’t you know? I whisper. In my joke I’m sitting opposite someone important. The person promises not to tell, so I say:

She’s Lidia Neri.

She’s Pia Ciccione.

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Two Line Press

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.
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The Paris Review

Interviews

Elena Ferrante, Art of Fiction No. 228

Interviewed by Sandro and Sandra Ferri

INTERVIEWER

When does a book seem publishable to you?

FERRANTE

When it tells a story that, for a long time, unintentionally, I had pushed away, because I didn’t think I was capable of telling it, because telling it made me uncomfortable. Again, in the case of The Days of Abandonment the writing freed the story in a short time, over one summer. Actually, that was true for the first two parts. Then suddenly I began to make mistakes, I lost the tone. I wrote and rewrote the last part all that fall. It was a time of great anxiety. It doesn’t take much to convince yourself that you’ve forgotten how to tell a story. I didn’t know how to get Olga out of her crisis truthfully, as truthfully as I’d narrated her falling into it. The hand was the same, the writing was the same, there was the same choice of vocabulary, same syntax, same punctuation, and yet the tone had become false. For months I felt that the preceding pages were beyond my abilities, and now I no longer felt equal to my own work. It made me bitter. You’d rather lose yourself than find yourself, I thought. Then everything started up again. But even today I don’t dare reread the book. I’m afraid that the last part has only the appearance of good writing.

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The Sunday Times

Elena Ferrante Sunday TimesThe unknown great

Elena Ferrante is being acclaimed as a great novelist around the world — but nobody knows who she is, and she’s determined to keep it that way

by Louis Wise – Published: 8 March 2015

 

In 1991, Sandro and Sandra Ferri, who run a small independent publishing house in Rome, received a manuscript from a new writer. It was called Troubling Love, and it was indeed troubling: a visceral account of a woman’s love-hate relationship with her mother. Equally unsettling, though, was the letter that followed it. The writer, going by the name of Elena Ferrante, explained that she would not be identified. No interviews. No book signings. No pictures on the inside sleeve. Invisible as the author wished to seem, however, the letter was already cut through with a sure and fierce tone. “I’ve already done enough for this long story: I’ve written it,” it said. “If the book is worth something, it should be enough.”

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Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay – Best Book of the Year

Best of the Year Lists for Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

 

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1.     A New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”

2.     The Times Literary Supplement, chosen by Beverley Bie Brahic: “as addictive as Breaking Bad. By all accounts Ann Goldstein’s translation is excellent.”

3.     The Times Literary Supplement, chosen by Lydia Davis: “To read a vivid personal story so deftly embedded in its political and social context – Italy in the 1960s and 70s – feels rarer than it should.”

4.     The Guardian, Nicci Gerrard “Best Books of the Year”

5.     Slate: Best Books of 2014

6.     San Francisco Chronicle: 2014 Gift Book Guide

7.     A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year

8.     A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

9.     Toronto Globe and Mail, Best Book of the Year

10.  Booklist, Notable Books of 2014

11.  Flavorwire’s Best Indie Fiction

12.  The New Statesman, Jane Shilling chooses THOSE WHO LEAVE as best book of the year

13.  The Telegraph, Best Books of the Year (5 stars)

14.  Slate’s Top Ten Books of the Year

15.  The Daily Beast; “One of the most talented writers working today.” The Best Fiction of 2014: Ford, Ferrante, Klay

16.  The Independent: “One of the best books of this or any other year”

17.  The Boston Globe “Best Fiction of the Year”

The New York Times

‘Writing Has Always Been a Great Struggle for Me’

Elena Ferrante, Author of Naples Novels, Stays Mysterious

Q. and A.: Elena Ferrante

 

The author who writes under the pseudonym Elena Ferrante responded to written questions via email through her longtime Italian publisher, Sandra Ozzola Ferri. The following is a translated transcript of that interview.

Q. You insist on anonymity and yet are developing a cult following, especially among women, first in Italy and now in the United States and beyond. How do you feel about the reception of your books in the United States in recent years, and your growing readership, especially after James Wood’s review in The New Yorker in January 2013?

A. I appreciated James Wood’s review very much. The critical attention that he dedicated to my books not only helped them find readers but in a way it also helped me to read them. Writers, because they write, are condemned never to be readers of their own stories. What happens to the reader when he reads a story for the first time is effectively what the narrator experiences while he writes. The memory of first putting a story into words will always prevent writers from reading their work as an ordinary reader would. Critics like Wood not only help readers to read but especially, perhaps, help the author as well. Their function also becomes fundamental in helping faraway literary worlds to migrate. I never asked myself how the women in my stories would be received outside Italy. I wrote first and foremost for myself, and if I published I did so leaving the task of finding readers to the book itself. Now I know that thanks to Europa Editions [Ferrante’s English-language publisher], to Ann Goldstein [her English-language translator] and to Wood and so many other reviewers and writers and readers, the heart of these stories has burst forth, and it is not only Italian. I’m both surprised and happy.

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The New York Times

Scant Clues to a Secret Identity

Elena Ferrante, Author of Naples Novels, Stays Mysterious

Sandra Ozzola and Sandro Ferri of Edizioni E/O, the Italian publisher of Elena Ferrante’s books. Credit Chris Warde-Jones for The New York Times

ROME — The Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s gripping novels about the rich and complex lives of women — as mothers, daughters, wives, writers — have won her a devoted cult following. After several years of growing critical favor, her readership reached new levels this fall with the release of “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” the third volume in her series of Naples novels, which recount the lifelong friendship of two women.

In her most extensive interview in years, Ms. Ferrante, who publishes under a pseudonym and has never revealed her identity, addressed her choice of anonymity — or “absence,” as she called it. In an interview conducted by email and through her publisher, she disputed the oft-circulated notion that she might be a man. “My identity, my sex, are found in my writing,” Ms. Ferrante wrote in Italian in response to written questions conveyed by her longtime Italian publisher, Sandra Ozzola Ferri, who said the writer had declined to grant an in-person interview.

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The New York Review of Books

Italy’s Great, Mysterious Storyteller

by Rachel Donadio

 

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Magnum Photos

Naples, 1964; photograph by Bruno Barbey

 

 

There is a devastating exchange in The Story of a New Name, the second of three—soon to be four—books in Elena Ferrante’s masterful Naples novels, in which Lila, one of the two main characters, runs into her former schoolteacher, Maestra Oliviero, on the street. To the teacher’s dismay, Lila, now in her late teens, did not continue her education after elementary school, in spite of her fierce intellectual promise, and is now married and has a small son. The maestra ignores the child, Rino, and looks only at the book Lila is carrying. Lila is nervous. “The title is Ulysses,” she says. “Is it about the Odyssey?” the teacher asks.

“No, it’s about how prosaic life is today.”

“And so?”

“That’s all. It says that our heads are full of nonsense. That we are flesh, blood, and bone. That one person has the same value as another. That we want only to eat, drink, fuck.”

 

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New Statesman

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.

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 forTroubling 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.”

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