My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

_MG_3792 Elena Ferrante deserves your attention. There is something in her works that makes you abandon your life just so you can devour a dose more of a great quality literature. “The Days of the abandonment” was my introduction to her novels. It stuck me with its frankness and reminded me that life could have endless turning points in which we lose and find ourselves. The book is rather claustrophobic and gloomy, however it contains a precise psychological depiction of the “abandoned woman”. “My Brilliant Friend” is something completely different in its dynamics, structure and emotion. This is the first book of the Neapolitan trilogy and evidently attracted the attention of the most prominent literary critics. Here Ferrante collects more characters, places them in a poor Neapolitan suburb, turns the time back to 1950s and sets the story of two eleven-year-old girlfriends, Elena and Lila. The novel starts with a short introduction of the families in the neighborhood and their members. The story is narrated by Elena who is the more obedient one of the two friends, the impeccable, the submissive, the one that diligently cares about school work and ceaselessly reads books to prove herself worthy, but not to her parents, nor her teachers or the rest of the children, but only to her best friend Lila. Lila on the other hand is stubborn, unbridled and intelligent, she possesses a sheer magnetism that doesn’t rest concealed for those around. In the characters of those two girls Ferrante draws the parallel between the established patriarchal tradition of the time and the onset of women’s emancipation. Born in a slum in post-war Italy, the children from the Neapolitan neighborhood are forced to face reality under a different angle, often deprived from their childhood, exposed to street violence and class segregation, they have to find their way of survival. The domestic nature of the novel enhance it as more readable and dense. When I borrowed “My Brilliant Friend” from the library and I was immediately distrustful just by looking at the book cover, it couldn’t be any uglier, however what lies underneath it is something that has more subtlety than silk, its more addictive than heroin, its not historical, nor cultural but yet carries a sincere meaning – the ordinary (with a great deal of exceptions) lives of two girls from the slum. Naples depicted in the novel would lack the glamour of the city centre, the spills of red wine or the insights of a fine epicurean, rather you will be thrown in a rathole of violence, destitution and prejudicial thoughts. And you will enjoy it because what manifests through the pages of this book has been written with a refine and agile literary style. _MG_3799

Days Of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

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Elena Ferrante is amongst the most prominent contemporary Italian authors, however she is almost a phantom since no one really knows who she is. Her personality is clouded with mystery as she refuses to reveal who she is, standing behind the statement that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors”( James Wood, The New Yorker – January 29, 2013 ). Her works, however, posses the charming force of a very refined and elegant literature.

“The Days of the Abandonment” took my breath away. This is a book that could make you ill.

Ferrante has relied on a very classical scenario – a husband abandons his wife and children for a younger lover. The triangle is a simple geometric figure, but when its shape is drafted in a love relationship, its complexity takes boundless dimensions.

Of course, such a storyline sound rather banal, threadbare and tedious, however once you start reading you would become astonished by the depth and originality of the novel.

Olga is 38-years-old, married with two children – a woman devoted on her family and domestic work, while one day, at the very first sentence of the book, her harmonic world cracks under the demonic impact of the departing husband.

The portrait of a caring and loving wife at once diminishes and what comes instead is the repulsive and vulgar shadow of the abandoned woman. Olga lands in a vicious psychological labyrinth, where the accepted in the society moral virtues are deprived of any value.

Ferrante is merciless to the protagonist, she gives her a slap after a slap, she hurls her at a corner and strips slowly every layer of her tortured soul. The tone of the novel is bold, sharp and rigid. There are moments, where you would want to shout at Olga, to shake her off her thoughts and rescue her, however the author keeps digging in the wound until she reaches the bottom – the emptiness. Ferrante emphasizes on the matter of how frightening fragile is the woman’s soul and provides to the reader the psychological aspect of living through the abandonment.  She reveals depths which not many of us have reached, but she doesn’t let you agonize in despair because salvation always lurks somewhere out there.

The scattered in the novel debris of one completely broken marriage demonstrate how elastic woman’s psyche could be – although the hardship, it will never break – it will only bend.

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