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

 

Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (2013) 5 Stars ***** (Book 3 of The Neapolitan Novels) 

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Lenu, the narrator, and her closest friend, Lila, are now in their twenties and thirties. Their relationship is still characterized by push and pull—to all appearances polar opposites who really are not so different after all. Both are strong, determined, ambitious, sexual in different ways, feminists, victims of unwanted sexual advances, social activists, politically aware, searching risk takers, reluctant mothers who act independently with decisions that further their personal goals at the expense of family obligations. They both upset the peace as they turn their backs on traditional expectations and seek out situations to place themselves at the top of their games. Which one do you think is more generous to family and friends with time and money? You might be surprised, but then again, maybe not!

This book and the whole series are set against the backdrop of the eternal political battles in Italy among Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Communists. Political views interfere with relationships. When violence erupts, it is their family, friends, and neighbors who are at the center. Mistrust abounds but the characters do their best to pretend they don’t see or don’t suspect, not wanting to believe the worst or contribute to information leading to capture by the police.

Lenu now lives in Florence with her good, but boring and aloof husband and two daughters, at first enjoying fame from her critically acclaimed book and public lectures on feminism and the plight of women. Lenu then hits a low point in her creativity as her popularity declines and she temporarily devotes herself to household responsibilities. Needing a catalyst to jump-start her life, Lenu rekindles a relationship with an old flame which destroys the tranquility of her family life.

Lila has remained in Naples now working at the sausage factory, and having left her husband, is living in near poverty with her son and an old friend, Enzo, who accepts the lack of reciprocal love and happily offers a modicum of financial support and protection. Lila becomes an advocate for the workers at the sausage factory and her outspoken, demanding ways result in a restructuring of her place of employment. The relationship with Enzo gradually grows as they study together to learn new skills to improve their plight. While Enzo initially is thought to be the superior one, Lila quickly overtakes him as new opportunities and demand for her services pull Lila out of her financial slump.

While people admire the accomplishments of those who succeed, there is always the feeling of abandonment. Sure, you’re rich and famous but you turn your back on the rest of us who need you in our lives. What would happen if we all walk away? We helped raise you up, and where are you now?

 

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. 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. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, books two and three are scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this HBO series. I look forward to reading and reviewing the last book in the series.

The review for The Story of the Lost Child will be published on January  16, 2019.

Ciao bella!

 

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

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

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