The Lying Life of Elena Ferrante

The Lying Life of Elena Ferrante

A POWERFUL NEW NOVEL set in a divided Naples by ELENA FERRANTE, the New York Times best-selling author of My Brilliant Friend and The Lost Daughter.

Elena Ferrante in her books has practically always told the contrast between the most murky desires and the brightest aspirations that every human being collects within himself.

In these stories of contrasts Naples is the metaphor, the scenario and the cause. Both in the tetralogy of “The brilliant friend” and in the preceding novels the city is divided into two: misery, meanness, narrow-mindedness on the one hand and wealth, magnanimity, nobility on the other. Most of the time these two parts correspond to physical places: the lowlands, the degraded suburbs on one side and the center, the hills on the other.

But they are above all two places of the soul and often in Ferrante’s books what is told is an escape, from a destiny, from a city, from a family whose frightening vitality risks obliterating the protagonist, who instead laboriously it does or in any case takes place and becomes other than what Naples imposed on it.

It is a Manichean vision but narratively functional to these stories of escape, rather than of growth. In this new novel we therefore find these themes, the story is that of a 14-year-old girl who hears her father comparing her to her sister, her aunt, a terrible and terrifying figure of her childhood.

woman with smeared eyes in studio
Photo by Thiago Matos on

From there comes the need to know it and thus becomes aware of the long years of quarrels and conflicts between the two and of their diversity expressed also by the places in which they live; the suburban and degraded neighborhood in which both were born but where only the aunt remained, the Vomero where the father moved. It is inevitably divided in two and the book tells the two long and tiring years in which it finally comes to terms with these contrasts. Too bad it doesn’t work at all.

The story develops in a rigid way, the girl is implausible, some characters are perplexing, especially this division between respectable and poor people, between the cultured and the uneducated, these sharp contrasts … a thesis precisely, which does not give rise to feelings or participation.

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