The New York Times: “Elena Ferrante: A Power of Our Own”

Power is a story told by women. For centuries, men have colonized storytelling. That era is over.

By Elena Ferrante

Ms. Ferrante is a novelist.

May 17, 2019

Power, although hard to handle, is greatly desired. There is no person or group or sect or party or mob that doesn’t want power, convinced that it would know how to use it as no one ever has before.

I’m no different. And yet I’ve always been afraid of having authority assigned to me. Whether it was at school or at work, men were in the majority in any governing body and the women adopted male ways. I never felt at ease, so I stayed on the sidelines. I was sure that I didn’t have the strength to sustain conflicts with men, and that I would betray myself by adapting my views to theirs. For millenniums, every expression of power has been conditioned by male attitudes toward the world. To women, then, it seems that power can be used only in the ways that men have traditionally used it.

There is one form of power that has fascinated me ever since I was a girl, even though it has been widely colonized by men: the power of storytelling. Telling stories really is a kind of power, and not an insignificant one. Stories give shape to experience, sometimes by accommodating traditional literary forms, sometimes by turning them upside down, sometimes by reorganizing them. Stories draw readers into their web, and engage them by putting them to work, body and soul, so that they can transform the black thread of writing into people, ideas, feelings, actions, cities, worlds, humanity, life. Storytelling, in other words, gives us the power to bring order to the chaos of the realunder our own sign, and in this it isn’t very far from political power.

In the beginning I didn’t know that storytelling was a kind of power. I became aware of this only slowly, and felt an often paralyzing responsibility. I still do. Power is neither good nor bad — it depends on what we intend to do with it. The older I get, the more afraid I am of using the power of storytelling badly. My intentions in general are good, but sometimes telling a story succeeds in the right way and sometimes in the wrong way. The only consolation I have is that however badly conceived and badly written — and therefore harmful — a story may be, the harm will always be less than that caused by terrible political and economic mismanagement, with its accouterments of wars, guillotines, mass exterminations, ghettos, concentration camps and gulags.

What to say, then? I suppose that I chose to write out of a fear of handling more concrete and dangerous forms of power. And also perhaps out of a strong feeling of alienation from the techniques of domination, so that at times writing seemed to be the most congenial way for me to react to abuses of power.

( . . . )

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The New York Times: Has HBO’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Finale Left You Wanting More?

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Eleanor Stanford, Parul Sehgal and Joshua Barone – Dec 10, 2018

This conversation includes spoilers for the first season of “My Brilliant Friend.”

When Saverio Costanzo, the director of HBO’s “My Brilliant Friend,” wanted to cut the story’s final wedding scene, Elena Ferrante pushed back, saying it was the scene she initially imagined when she wrote her four-part series of Neapolitan novels, of which “My Brilliant Friend” is the first. The scene’s inclusion makes a fitting ending to a season that has not strayed far from its source material. HBO has confirmed it will air eight more episodes covering Ferrante’s second Neapolitan novel, “The Story of a New Name.”

This week’s two episodes saw Lila secure her desired engagement and Lenù get a boyfriend she cares little for. Lila advanced her plan to make and sell expensive shoes with her brother; Lenù returns from Ischia for further adventures in school. Their friendship remains complicated by jealousy and competitiveness.

[Read our critics’ list of the year’s best TV including new series, streaming and foreign fare.]

This week, Eleanor Stanford and Joshua Barone, editors on the Culture desk, are joined by Parul Sehgal, a critic for the Times Book Review, who has written extensively about Ferrante’s work. You can read our discussion of the first two episodes here, the third and fourth here, the fifth and sixth here and the Times review of the show here.

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The New York Times: You’ve Finished Watching ‘My Brilliant Friend.’ Here’s What to Do Next.

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Eleanor Stanford – Dec 11, 2018

You’ve watched all eight episodes of HBO’s “My Brilliant Friend.” Maybe you’ve also gone back and rewatched some of the early episodes with the young actresses playing Lila and Lenù. Maybe you’ve started reading (or rereading) Elena Ferrante’s novel, and the sequels that follow. But what then? How else to prolong the mood and magic of Ferrante’s world?

Read on for what to read and watch now that we’ve left the neighborhood.

I want to know about the series.

• In his Times review of the show, James Poniewozik calls the series “as intimate as ‘Game of Thrones’ is sweeping,” noting that “My Brilliant Friend” “stands out in an HBO drama-series lineup that has been dominated by turbulent men.”

• Here at the Times we gathered a weekly group of Ferrante fans to discuss the show as it aired. You can read the conversation about the final two episodes here, and the rest here.

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The New York Times: Searching for Love and Money in ‘My Brilliant Friend’

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Aisha HarrisJoshua Barone and Natalie Shutler – Dec 4, 2018

This conversation includes spoilers for the first six episodes of “My Brilliant Friend.”

Growing up in a violent Neapolitan neighborhood, Lila and Lenù weren’t afforded much childhood innocence, but any they had is definitely gone by the end of the sixth episode of HBO’s adaptation of “My Brilliant Friend.” This week’s episodes saw Lenù tormented by puberty and school before heading off for sun and new experiences on the island of Ischia. Lila, meanwhile, is embedding herself deeper into the neighborhood, designing shoes with her brother and juggling the advances of the aggressive Marcello Solara.

This week, Joshua Barone and Aisha Harris, editors on the Culture desk, and Natalie Shutler, an editor on the Styles desk, discuss the fifth and sixth episodes. You can read our discussion of the first two episodes here, the third and fourth here and the Times review of the show here.

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The New York Times: ‘My Brilliant Friend’: A Fairy Tale of Youth Gives Way to Messy Adolescence

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Gal Beckerman, Alicia DeSantis, Nicole Herrington – Nov 26, 2018

This conversation includes spoilers for the first four episodes of “My Brilliant Friend.”

Episode 3 of “My Brilliant Friend” opens with two new actresses playing Lenù (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila (Gaia Girace), who are now teenagers. The girls’ lives are also diverging in new ways: Lenù is heading to a classical high school in Naples; Lila is working with her brother in her father’s shoe repair store. But that doesn’t mean they are any less competitive, and puberty brings new ways for Lenù to measure herself against her old friend. Meanwhile, tensions mount as a new generation of men vie for power in the neighborhood along battle lines drawn by their parents.

Once a week, over the four weeks the series airs on HBO, we are gathering a rotating group of Elena Ferrante fans from across The New York Times newsroom to discuss the show. You can read our discussion of the first two episodes here.

This week, Nicole Herrington and Alicia DeSantis, editors on the Culture desk, and Gal Beckerman, an editor on the Books desk, jump into Episodes 3 and 4.

GAL BECKERMAN As the third episode opens, we get a time jump that moves Lenù and Lila into their teenage years of burgeoning sexual awareness and acne trouble. I was impressed with how seamless the transition was between the child and teenage actresses who play the girls, and especially the opening, which smartly and swiftly uses a dream sequence to move it all forward. But there were other ways that the show, in its design choices, signaled the other big transition, a shift in perspective from the parent’s world to the children’s. Same streets, but not so drab and gray. There were pops of color. A bit more life and possibility in a passing pastel pink dress. Part of this was the move from the 1940s into the postwar boom of the 1950s, but it also gave the visceral sense of youth emerging into their own, claiming the neighborhood.

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