So, confession. I only just read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
I always seem to be just that bit later, that bit behind everyone else. Sometimes it seems like the world is talking about something, and you haven’t quite caught up. It’s always been like for me though (For instance, I refused to read the first two Potter books right at the start because they were too popular, thankfully my parents saw through that and got them anyway).
The book – indeed the whole series – has been on my radar for a while, and I only picked it up in January, finally giving into my intrigue. I put it on my TBR pile and left it. I kept picking it up and meaning to start it, but other things took over.
And then a colleague at work said they’d just started reading this Italian series, after reading something about, by someone called Elena –
‘Ferrante,’ I finished. ‘Elena Ferrante? My Brilliant Friend? It’s the next book on my reading list.’
That wasn’t exactly a lie – I’d picked it up and put it in my bag, unstarted, but this conversation spurred me on to actually pick the book up and read.
As my colleague had said, it took a while to get going. But I persevered, determined to get into it (and have something to talk about the following week). And then it clicked, I loved these characters – I was invested in their lives and I wanted to know more. I kept reading and was bereft when I got to the end.
It’s safe to say that these books are now a new obsession. I need to get the next three (and I’m so glad that there ARE more to read) right away.
Elena herself is a fascinating anomaly in this modern world of social media and self promotion. Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym, and I was fascinated to read an interview with her recently. On her anonymity and Elena Ferrante she said:
No, Elena Ferrante is the author of several novels. There is nothing mysterious about her, given how she manifests herself – perhaps even too much – in her own writing, the place where her creative life transpires in absolute fullness. What I mean is that the author is the sum of the expressive strategies that shape an invented world, a concrete world that is populated with people and events. The rest is ordinary private life.
She further says that she made the decision to write under this name because of a
wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become one’s public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies.
In this world of social media, it’s always fascinating to read about someone who eschews all that. Many writers are famous for it – Harper Lee, of course, who passed away recently, refused to do interviews and in the years since To Kill a Mockingbird was released did very little publicity – as did many other famous American authors. Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame noticeably doesn’t have a social media presence, and nor does Stephanie Meyer. Daphne du Maurier was notably publicity shy, and even commented
“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
Aside from the fascination surrounding the author, the series is a fascinating one, detailing life and change in Naples, starting in the 1950s – and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next ones.
Sure, I’m a bit late to the party – but I’m here to stay.
Read more about the series here.
Have you read My Brilliant Friend? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to talk about it!