Review: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante


Review: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

My life these past two weeks has been consumed by Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which, like the character Lila, have proven to be “terrible, dazzling.” This deep and captivating portrayal of two women’s friendship is set against the poverty and violence of their village and the political turmoil in Italy. I was struck by these women, Elena and Lila, and their ambitions and intense relationships with language, reading, and learning, viewing education as the ultimate escape from their lives.

It’s nearly impossible to describe Ferrante’s writing, impeccably translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, but it seems unique in contemporary Italian literature. It’s not flowery, but sparse implies some lack of power and feeling that could never be attributed to Ferrante.

And Ferrante herself is a small piece of the allure of her novels, as she writes anonymously. I don’t have the intense desire to know her that I see in the book world but I also strongly agree with her sentiments published in The New Yorker here.

I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t. . . . I very much love those mysterious volumes, both ancient and modern, that have no definite author but have had and continue to have an intense life of their own. They seem to me a sort of nighttime miracle, like the gifts of the Befana, which I waited for as a child. . . . True miracles are the ones whose makers will never be known. . . . Besides, isn’t it true that promotion is expensive? I will be the least expensive author of the publishing house. I’ll spare you even my presence.

The Story of the Lost Child, the last and final book in the series, comes out September 1st! 

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