The New Yorker

What We’re Reading: Fosse, Elena Ferrante, Eighties Wall Street

Posted by The New Yorker

November 27, 2013


You know you’re in for a grueling read when there’s an Alice Sebold blurb on the cover. And Elena Ferrante’s “The Days of Abandonment” does not disappoint, or at least is disappointing only in the way people are to each other. What is striking about this short novel, which, starting in 2002, topped the best-seller list in Italy for a year, and which has now been translated by Ann Goldstein, an editor at the magazine, is how matter-of-fact the narrator is, even when she is faced with devastation. She begins, “One April afternoon, right after our lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.” Not a lot happens after that—there’s a little mystery regarding her dog, and an acrimonious neighbor, and her children must be fed and dressed and taken to school every day—but we crawl into the darkest parts of the abandoned wife’s mind as she moves through the various stages of grief. Her reaction, veering from denial to bargaining to anger to acceptance, is textbook, but the experience of reading “The Days of Abandonment” is utterly immersive, and the opposite of allegory. That’s in part, perhaps, because Ferrante’s writing is so precise, as thin as a matchstick. At one point, getting out of bed after a sleepless night, longing and lonely, the narrator says, “No, I thought, squeezing the rag and struggling to get up: starting at a certain point, the future is only a need to live in the past. To immediately redo the grammatical senses.”


—Amelia Lester

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