Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Books: My Brilliant Friend. A Novel by Elena Ferrante, 2011

This is the second novel by Ferrante that I read and it was a disappointing experience. It traces the friendship of two girls - Elena and Lila in Naples of the 1950s. As the publisher's description has it - the novel is set in "the poor but vibrant neighborhood" in the outskirts of the city. The phrase "poor but vibrant" is a horrible cliche which firstly does not mean anything and secondly by juxtaposing poverty and vibrancy masks a disdain for poverty which (thank God...) can be at least "vibrant"...At the beginning of the novel the girls are eight years old. Ferrante tries to imbue the details of their life with great significance - social and psychological which the two child characters cannot sustain. That is the problem with all novels about children - or stories told through the point of view of children - they are "retrospectively" excessively and annoyingly smart. The adult narrator transpires through the fake child's point of view and imposes her heavy schematics on the child's experience.

I guess, I have no patience for the drama of a lost doll.

In addition, the novel has dozens of characters - all very "vibrant" and "tough" - and the epic picture of a poor neighborhood, industriously built by Ferrante, feels like something I have read and seen (reference -- Italian neorealism) many many times before. The literary style that attracted me to this author in The Days of Abandonment now hangs in thin air, inflated and vain, unsupported by a story worth telling.

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