The Community Bookstore in Park Slope is not the sort of place you might imagine a West Side Story–style rumble to break out, and yet fans of the wildly successful epic meta-fiction novels of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neapolitan series, and Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle, have on more than one occasion nearly come to blows. Not surprisingly, fans of Ferrante’s innovative, swiftly moving, ruthlessly true-to-life tale of female friendship are quicker to the punch than fans of Knausgaard’s languorously paced, nostalgic, navel-gazing domestic drama. Allegedly, glasses have been smashed, goatees set ablaze, and fountain pens unsheathed with the promise that, “I will shank you.”
Passions run high when you’re talking about Ferrante and her work, particularly her sensational, highly addictive Neapolitan novels, which paint a portrait of a consuming female friendship against the backdrop of social and political upheaval in Italy from the 1950s to the present day. My Brilliant Friend,The Story of a New Name, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay have made Ferrante, an enigmatic figure who writes under a pseudonym, and is widely regarded as the best contemporary novelist you’ve never heard of, a worldwide sensation. With the highly anticipated publication of the fourth and final book, The Story of the Lost Child, out this September, Ferrante fans are in a white-hot lather—and they should be.