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Translated by Ann Goldstein
A New York Times Notable Book, 2014
Since the publication of the acclaimed My Brilliant Friend and The Story of A New Name, Elena Ferrante’s reputation has grown enormously. Her novels about the friendship between Lila and Elena, about the mysteries of human relationships, are utterly compelling.
In Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the two protagonists are now in their thirties. Lila, married at sixteen, has left her husband and the comforts of her marriage, and has now joined the workforce. Elena has left the neighbourhood in Naples, been to university, and published a successful novel, all of which has brought her into a wealthier, more cultured world. Both women are seizing opportunities to flee a life of poverty, ignorance and submission. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by an unbreakable bond.
Read an article about Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series in New Humanist.
‘Those Who Leave is as expansive and broad as it is intimate…Ferrante writes with the kind of power saved for weather systems with female names, sparing no one, and Those Who Stay is a tour de force. I don’t want to read anything else.’
‘[Ferrante’s] charting of the rivalries and sheer inscrutability of female friendship is raw. This is high stakes, subversive literature.’
‘Ferrante is an expert above all at the rhythm of plotting…Whether it’s work, family, friends or sex–and Ferrante, perhaps thanks to her anonymity as an author, is blisteringly good on bad sex–our greatest mistakes in life aren’t isolated acts; we rehearse them over and over until we get them as badly wrong as we can.’
‘In the past decade, no fiction writer has made it more necessary to think about the performative aspect of being a woman than Elena Ferrante. Her novels, written originally in Italian and translated beautifully by Ann Goldstein, are ferociously engaged with the ways in which a woman—as a daughter, a teenager, a lover, and, most dramatically, a mother—is a kind of person in drag, speaking through a costume that slowly becomes all that one knows of her…It’s Ferrante’s ability to capture both the mirror and the woman standing before it that makes her a writer to be reckoned with.’
‘Nothing you read about Elena Ferrante’s work prepares you for the ferocity of it…This is a woman’s story told with such truthfulness that it is not so much a life observed as it is felt.’
‘Great novels are intelligent far beyond the powers of any character or writer ot individual readers, as are great friendships, in their way. These wonderful books sit at the heart of that mystery, with the warmth and power of both.’
‘Elena Ferrante is one of the great novelists of our time. Her voice is passionate, her view sweeping and her gaze basilisk…In these bold, gorgeous, relentless novels, Ferrante traces the deep connections between the political and the domestic. This is a new version of the way we live now—one we need, one told brilliantly, by a woman.’
‘When I read [the Neapolitan novels] I find that I never want to stop. I feel vexed by the obstacles—my job, or acquaintances on the subway—that threaten to keep me apart from the books. I mourn separations (a year until the next one—how?). I am propelled by a ravenous will to keep going.’
‘Elena Ferrante’s magnificent “Neopolitan novels” trace the relationship between two headstrong Italian women…But these books are more than autobiography by other means. They also look outward, offering a dissection of Italian society that is almost Tolstoyan in its sweep and ambition. They are, into the bargain, extraordinarily gripping entertainment; the plot in this latest instalment twists and turns, like a Naples alleyway, towards a sequel-enabling conclusion. Novel by novel, Ferrante’s series is building into one of the great achievements of modern literature.’
‘it is a testament to Ferrante’s achievement that, at the end of this third book and anticipating the fourth, it seems there’s limitless potential for Lina to reinvent herself again… Lina’s golden talent could wear thin as a device in the hands of a less skilled writer, but the story that follows over the decades from the friends’ childhood is too well realised – and too well populated with memorable characters – for this to be a problem.’
‘Ferrante’s project is bold: her books chronicle the inner conflicts of intelligent women…Her writing has a powerful intimacy…a bona fide literary sensation–the famous writer nobody knows.’
‘The best thing I’ve read this year, far and away…She puts most other writing at the moment in the shade. She’s marvellous.’
‘The best angry woman writer ever.’
‘The Neapolitan series stands as a testament to the ability of great literature to challenge, flummox, enrage and excite as it entertains.’
‘There is nothing soft or easy about these books. They are almost rebarbative in their refusal to be nice. They are also captivating in their high intelligence, their evocation of the still-powerful past, and their propulsive narrative drive.’
‘Ferrante’s novels are deeply personal and intimate, getting to the very heart of what it means to be a woman, a friend, a daughter, a mother.’