Frantumaglia-A Writer’s Journey by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: Frantumaglia-A Writer’s Journey by Elena Ferrante (2016) 4 Stars ****

Italian writer, Elena Ferrante, is recognized as one of the greatest novelists of all time. The word “frantumaglia” (frohn-too-mah-lee-uh) was coined by the author’s mother. ” Frantumaglia: A heterogeneous mass of material that’s hard to define. You know how when you have in your head a few notes of a tune but you don’t know what it is, and if you hum it, it ends up becoming a different song from the one that’s nagging at you? Or when you remember a street corner but you can’t remember where it is? To give a label to those fragments I use a word that my mother used: frantumaglia. Bits and pieces whose origin is difficult to pinpoint, and which make a noise in your head, sometimes causing discomfort.”

Frantumaglia gives us insight into Elena Ferrante and all her books through email interviews. She does not do speeches or book talks, accept rewards, speak on the telephone or show her likeness on a photograph, sketch or a painting. I will focus on the author’s responses and not the questions of the myriad interviewers.

Ms. Ferrante believes good writing stands by itself and has no need of an author’s presence. She also states that it is the media who demand the author, but the readers are happy with just the books.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain out of the public eye. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. She will not say what that day job is, other than to mention it allows her the freedom to write. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. She insists her writing is not anonymous. Her books have an author named Elena Ferrante.”

Frantumaglia is divided into three parts:
Papers 1991-2003
Tesserae 2003-2007
Letters 2011-2016

Ms. Ferrante is the author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, The Lost Daughter, and The Neapolitan Quartet or The Neapolitan Novels as it is known in the United States. This quartet is comprised of My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child. These books are dealt with in different sections of Frantumaglia where interview questions and author responses are organized sequentially to correspond with publishing dates.

Favorite women authors? Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Elsa Morante, Clarice Lispector, and Alice Munro.

Character ideas? Echoes of many people.

Concern as an author? Ms. Ferrante discusses the difference between verisimilitude (the extent to which a literary text is believable and imitates life) and authenticity (writing in the original, natural language of the author) and how verisimilitude can make things more difficult for authentic women writers. When asked for the names of male writers who write about women: “You ask me about male writers who describe women with authenticity. I don’t know whom to point you to. There are some who do it with verisimilitude, which is very different, however, from authenticity. So  different that when verisimilitude is well orchestrated it risks asserting itself to the point of making the truth of female writing inauthentic. And that is bad. And it’s the reason that the pure and simple genuineness of women’s writing is always inadequate; that I, a woman, write is not sufficient; my writing has to have adequate literary power.”

Why only 4 stars? Many of the questions and responses are the same or have great overlap. I grew impatient as I seemed to read the same thing over and over. A few of the interviewers asked probing questions which led to an engaging experience. Most  could not get past the author’s lack of media presence. What’s the point of arguing this issue? It is what it is. Conduct your interview on a high level and garner praise, or get stuck on an immovable issue and stagnate. Your choice.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

 

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Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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