My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (The first of the Neapolitan Novels)


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (The first of the Neapolitan Novels)Is this one of the best authors writing today? “One of the great novelists of our time”, says the New York Times Book Review. Adjectives such as stunning, innovative, compelling, inventive, visceral, immediate, enthralling… litter her book covers and the reviews online. In this novel, the first of four novels following the same pair of friends who grew up together in 1950s Naples, she is said to have started an “unconditional masterpiece”. Reviewers marvel at her “unselfconscious and brutal, diligent honesty”, in what is lauded as “the truest evocation of a complex and lifelong friendship”. And yes, the friendship between Elena, the narrator, and Lina is fascinating, compelling and beautifully created. But what is more, this is great writing by someone with lots to say about what it means to be human and get on with life.

The Guardian on Ferrante…

“In a 2003 written interview, Ferrante said, “The true reader, I think, searches not for the brittle face of the author in flesh and blood” but instead for “the naked physiognomy that remains in every effective word”. Whoever Ferrante is, in the novel she is free to invent, to fabricate, to play, to revisit old wounds, to be less than beautiful. This is what writing can do: create a space for the savage within, for the contradictory and the wild, and make it real. There may be no consolation except the art itself, but what a pleasure for those of us who get to read it. I would not want to forget what Ferrante herself so eloquently stated in one of her letters: the mystery of literature is in some ways its difference from the person who wrote it, the unfathomable effacement of self that leads to its creation.”

Of the whole series…

“Ferrante’s project is bold: her books chronicle the inner conflicts of intelligent women (professors, novelists) who, having made their way to Florence or Rome and to good jobs, find themselves confronting memories of the crude violence and misogyny of their youth. Shaken by a surprising event, they lose their grip on reality, lapse into a Neapolitan dialect full of obscenities, and are drawn into hallucinatory quests to heal old emotional injuries. The books’ taglines might be “No self can be left behind”: in Ferrante’s world, no character can escape her past.”

“My Brilliant Friend” is a great start to the series. What English authors of this generation are writing so well about so much?

Mr A


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