As long as I’ve been a reader, I’ve never had a favourite author. Sure, I’ve loved a variety of books and book series and even went on to study literature in university, but any time someone asked me who my favourite author was, I’d draw a blank. There were too many stories to read, and I never found an author’s biography I wanted to read from start to finish.
You may have heard of this author. Her name is Elena Ferrante, and she is the pseudonymous Italian novelist most notable for a four-volume series beginning with My Brilliant Friend. It is a rich and intense story of two friends, Elena and Lila, who grow up in a working-class neighbourhood in Naples after the second world war. The subsequent volumes The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child continue their story from childhood to maturity while witnessing a city and country that is transforming in ways that transform their friendship.
Ever since I caught #FerranteFever, I’ve wondered what makes Ferrante different from all of the other authors I’ve read. I’ve discovered that falling in love with a book requires a special kinship with its author. The author knows nothing about you, and yet you feel like your most intimate self is understood. That is precisely how I feel when reading Ferrante’s books. The intimate self that I understood in My Brilliant Friend is shown through the interdependence of Elena and Lila’s friendship. Not only does Elena, the narrator, tell us how interdependent she is to Lila, but we simultaneously see how this interdependence is rendered. There lies the truth about the complex and contradictory emotional nature of female friendships.
Make no mistake, these books are addicting. Once I turned the first page, I was lost, and was practically unreachable in our world. I didn’t want to stop. By the third volume, I smartened up and cleared my schedule for a few days to ensure I had no distractions that would take me away from the book. There’s something about Ferrante’s writing that involves you with the action of the story, and I felt affected by Elena and Lila’s experiences.
My Brilliant Friend has been translated and published in 48 countries making it a literary phenomenon. It has become so popular that HBO is partnering with an Italian film company to adapt the 4-volume story into a 32-episode series. It is set to premier at the Venice Film Festival this month, and the first season will premiere on HBO in October. I’ve never been so excited for an adaptation, subtitles and all!
I highly implore everyone to lose and find themselves in Ferrante’s novels. It’s a turbulent and affecting experience that leaves you with a satisfying ache of finishing a story you don’t want to leave, yet you can’t stop thinking about. But if you’re like me, you may just find your new favourite author.
— Eleni Z.