Friday, July 1, 2016

Ferrante Again. . . and some plans. . . and an apology from a bad blogger

A month after I last posted on Elena Ferrante's four-volume Neapolitan series, and there's no longer any point in pretending that I will be able to write what I'd once hoped to.  Goofily, however, I'm not quite ready to give up on having a really satisfying conversation about these books, which have so deeply engaged me, which provoke so much thinking about womanhood, friendship, motherhood, and how those three conditions or states interact and how much they're inflected by the cultural context. As well, so much to think about stylistically and structurally. . .

I have this foolish idea that I may try to organise a read-along of the first novel in the series, My Brilliant Friend, not until Pater and I have moved into our new home in September, but something that takes a manageable approach to reading and posting, perhaps a chapter at a time. . . I'm hoping to draw more readers over from my other blog, but I want to do some planning first so that I don't get myself caught up in commitments I can't meet.

For now, I apologise profusely, but I'm reneging on my promise to write more about the Neapolitan series  -- it's either that or sneak away from the blog in shame and never post my reading again, and I'm not ready to do that. In fact, tomorrow I'm going to give you my list of What I've Read So Far in 2016, since we're now halfway through the year -- maybe we can compare notes. Meanwhile, to round out our conversation about Ferrante for the moment here are some thoughts fellow reader Dottoressa sent me by email quite some time ago, with my apologies for taking so long to share them with you:

 As I said once before, Ferrante writes  so intense,so brusquely,there is no  embelishment,only reality,naked truth.  Without  exempt,she is unfeigned and cruel to anyone,herself in the first place.
Thinking about her books  my feelings  and impressions often change,there are so many facets in her descriptions of personal relationships

 Elena and Lila,two friends,seem to find the missing part one in the other,they exist like yin and yang,intertwined from the beginning to the end ,needing the other one like a mirror,inspiration,appreciation,finding their strenghts. They are best friends as well as rivals,they compete and help each other with ambivalent feelings .

They are often  in confrontation with everyone,cruel to the wold,family ,lovers,husbands,inlaws. 
It was tough time to be a girl in Naples, but Elena(author?),due to her inteligence and hard  work,desperate because of  the lack of her family support, struggles through the reality of Naples and Italy,south and north,social  effervescence,struggling through classes and Italy itself. This world is brutal,raw,even ugly

She writes rarely about happiness,it is all drama ,pain,fear.insecurities. Her characters seem to be afraid to show love ,showing love is like showing weakness and than there must be  some punishment waiting in the future. 

Men characters are mostly weak,unreliable,even when they have the power of money,position,connections   family support,even when they are brutal,driven by passion (I am not sure  would love be proper word for their emotions),wish  for possessing,revenge,greed…
Women are (or have to be )strong,or they lose everything,respect,selfrespect,support,even sane mind. They are often driven by strong,fatal  feelings,feelings  that threat to destroy(or are destroying) their future.

I find very interesting to observe Elena's and Lila's relations with their children.  There are no median in their feelings,from  insensibility,even neglect to obsessive love or temporary hate.

I could write for hours….

When I was  15,16 years old, in 1974 or 1975 I visited Naples with my parents.I am very sorry now that this trip was blurred with Rome,Capri and Pompei,more interesting for a young girl, but in my memories stayed  beautiful colours,light,music and indefinite fear(we were alarmed by our guide not to walk alone or in small groups in the dark)


  1. A read-along! Ooh, that sounds like fun... (Maybe you will have a chance now you're in Van. full-time to grab those other three books from the library. I am so, so interested to hear what you think about them. And they're tiny...I promise! ;) )

    Dottoressa, you have described Ferrante's work so well...especially when you said 'there is no embellishment'...that's what leaves us so affected, isn't it?

    I have been reading The Judgement of Paris but am thinking I want some espionage...maybe John Le Carre? (and I cannot remember how to invoke my alternate keyboard to put an accent on that 'e'...) A trip to the library is in order...

  2. Dear Mater,thanks for having my review here- frankly,my dear,I forgot what did I write at all! It was interesting to read it!
    Thank you,dear Georgia!
    If you figure the way how to write accents-please tell. I have problems with french and german accents and am sure that people, randomly reading,find me illiterate. Even more,I have croatian keyboard and can change it only to english letters.
    I have read his first books long time ago,than there were only films,but the last one was The Most Wanted Man
    Read-along would be fun!

  3. The Judgement of Paris seems very interesting-I love this period and Impressionism!

  4. I would love the read-along idea. I read My Brilliant Friend back in January and I would read the whole series again because I believe that Ferrante's work addresses life during a certain time in Naples and how two very intelligent women manoeuvre in a time when birth family and social class were so important. I recently read Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. It made me think about Fate and life and about the all-powerful author of fiction. I also read Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín. It's a novel of a young widow (40+) in Ireland who deals with the roles of worker, sister, mother without the buffer of her husband. Only 2 months until I visit Ireland.

    Dottoressa, I use a Mac but I get my accents by holding down the letter key of the word until I get a choice of accents, each with a different number. Then, I use the number key to select the accent that I need. It works for me in French and Spanish although my keyboard is English.

  5. Thank you Madame Lá-bas,it was very good advice,for a start-and than I slide to the accent I want (but,I'm afraid that I don't have the right direction in my choices,only " á " ,sorry)
    I agree with you,on Ferrante,as well as Life After Life,how little changes could change the Fate and ways of the Life.
    Long time ago I wanted to read Started Early,Took my Dog from her and than have forgotten. So,I started on Thursday (without a dog!) and am reading it ,alternating with Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed.
    For reading on the beach-still weeks to go,but there are some conditions to fulfil-paperback,not small letters :-)- I've bought Americanah from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
    Nora Webster sounds very interesting! I hope that you'll have wonderful fall in Ireland!

  6. I'm so pleased to see some interest, even enthusiasm, in my read-along idea. I'll see what I can come up with. Even in this tiny reading group we seem to have here, we have such good company for exploring and expanding a novel together. I love the titles we're bouncing around here! Georgia, I really enjoyed The Judgement of Paris, quite a few years ago now, and I turn back to it every now and then as a refresher. Very rarely read espionage although I'm a big fan of murder mysteries; not sure why that is. . .
    Dottoressa, Americanah will keep you engrossed at the beach, but will also give you much to think about. I read it two or three summers ago and thought it was brilliant. Keep meaning to read more Adichie as others have told me they liked other titles better. And I'm a huge fan of Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mysteries -- wish she'd write more of them, but that doesn't seem likely -- I think she gets bored with genres/structures and likes to keep trying something different (as with Life After Life) -- I really like what you say, Mme, about the "all-powerful author of fiction" and I think that powerful narrator is at play in both Ferrante and Atkinson, for sure.
    Mme, you've reminded me that I need to read Nora Webster -- I'm such a fan of Toibin (wouldn't it be great to find/make time to reread the entire oeuvre of writers we admire? I've done that for a few, but then there are always so many new things I want to read -- impossible!). You must be having fun reading in preparation for your travels - so much wonderful literature has been written in and about Ireland! Have you read any Anne Enright? Devastating family novels written and set in Ireland, so good on contemporary Ireland. And there are some great mystery writers there as well. . .
    Dottoressa, I'm using my MacBook Air more and more now, and I've packed my PC until our next move, but when I was using it (in case that's what you're typing on ), I used to use a chart like the one here: I have no idea if it works for a Croatian keyboard though. . .

  7. Ireland...Edna O'Brien...(Wait! I must reread The Country Girls; I saw it on my bookshelf and had forgotten it. Any similarities to My Brilliant Friend?)

  8. Thanks,Mater,I would try.
    And what about Angela's Ashes by Frank Mc Court?
    I find almost all of Irish books very good and very sad.
    So,I like Roddy Doyle

  9. Barbara from GuelphJuly 18, 2016 at 8:19 AM

    Hi Mater

    Very interested in a read along for the Ferrante. I gulped them down as they came out, totally absorbed in the ruthless honesty, stark immediacy and almost brutal realism of this friendship/antagonism. I recently have reread them and am anxious to talk about them with others who have been stunned by them as I have not encountered anyone other than my own oldest daughter who has found them as compelling. Looking forward to the discussion.

  10. Mme, I see that Georgia and Dottoressa have fattened up your reading list. . .
    Barbara, I'll post some details very soon, but I'm planning to start our read-along at the beginning of September -- before that, I may try to post some suggestions for reading -- some questions we might want to think about for our conversation about the novel. Sounds as if you're more than ready -- I'm looking forward to it as well!