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John Lanchester: The Great Refusers, 19 October 2016

... having that wish respected. What’s interesting is that he was allowed his refusal. The case of Elena Ferrante is, or was, a little like that of Pynchon. She made the choice simply to write her books while saying no to all the other side of it. As she put it in an interview, ‘I have not chosen anonymity. My books are signed. Rather, I have withdrawn ...

‘We’re identical’

Christopher Tayler: Elena Ferrante, 8 January 2015

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay 
by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Europa, 419 pp., £11.99, September 2014, 978 1 60945 233 9
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... determined not to lose it, she loses it, she gets herself back together: that’s the plot of Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment (2002). Olga, the narrator, a mother and stalled writer who’s 38 at the time of these events, knows that words like ‘angry’ are often used to diminish and dismiss legitimate grievances, and understands the ...

Wiggle, Wiggle

Daniel Soar: Elena Ferrante, 21 September 2006

The Days of Abandonment 
by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Europa, 189 pp., £7.99, May 2006, 1 933372 00 1
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... Elena Ferrante’s narrator, Olga, whose husband has left her, is too wrapped up in her own misery to remember, really, that other people exist. But there is one figure from her Neapolitan childhood she can’t forget: a neighbour, a bustling matriarch of the old school with large skirts and a clutch of nurtured offspring ...

I was blind, she a falcon

Joanna Biggs: Elena Ferrante, 9 September 2015

The Story of the Lost Child 
by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Europa, 473 pp., £11.99, September 2015, 978 1 60945 286 5
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... Are​ Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels even books? I began to doubt it when I talked about them with other people – mostly women. We returned to life too quickly as we spoke: who was your Lila, the childhood friend who effortlessly dazzled everyone? Or – a question not happily answered – were you Lila? S ...

Slammed by Hurricanes

Jenny Turner: Elsa Morante, 19 April 2017

The World Saved by Kids: And Other Epics 
by Elsa Morante, translated by Cristina Viti.
Seagull, 319 pp., £19.50, January 2017, 978 0 85742 379 5
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... ideas and feelings – could be compelling and, at the same time, have great literary value,’ Elena Ferrante – whoever that is – told a Norwegian journalist in 2015. Ferrante has mentioned Morante several times as one of her favourite writers, and may even have chosen her own pen name for the ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... Oates writes in a day? Do they monitor Karl Ove Knausgaard’s border crossings? Did they know who Elena Ferrante was before the editors of the New York Review of Books did? Or how much Martin Amis drinks these days, and where? These scenarios seem unlikely. But perhaps they keep a file on Toni Morrison, who – as a photo that recently went viral made ...

Several Doses of Wendy

Robert Baird: David Means, 10 August 2016

Hystopia 
by David Means.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 33011 9
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... heavies like Infinite Jest and Underworld and 2666, the multi-volume massifs by Hilary Mantel, Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Did it matter that Means (with his wife) was the dedicatee of one of the most celebrated megaliths of the past quarter-century, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections? Of course not. Or that Means had worried, not ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: Anonymity, 19 January 2017

... outed (or claimed to be outing) the writer of the Neapolitan novels concealed behind the pseudonym Elena Ferrante. Has the press – or anyone else – any moral right to do this? Is an author’s identity an aspect of her personal privacy, to be disclosed or withheld as she chooses? Or is it information which belongs as much in the public domain as the ...

On Not Going Home

James Wood, 20 February 2014

... over the ‘smoothly global’, untranslatable felicities over windy width – and Elena Ferrante over Kamila Shamsie? In the end, a case was being made for well-written, vital, challenging literature, full of sharp local particularities, wherever it turns up in the world; and so there was inevitably something a bit random about the ...

Like a Manta Ray

Jenny Turner: The Entire History of Sex, 21 October 2015

The Argonauts 
by Maggie Nelson.
Graywolf, 143 pp., £23, May 2015, 978 1 55597 707 8
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... in a safely padded space. But increasingly people are bored by this padding, by the rules that, as Elena Ferrante has put it, demand ‘a measuring stick, a calendar’ inserted between ‘you and the facts, the emotion to be narrated’. (‘That’s what we both hate about fiction, or at least crappy fiction,’ Nelson muses, after she and Harry get ...

The State with the Prettiest Name

Michael Hofmann: ‘Florida’, 24 May 2018

Florida 
by Lauren Groff.
Heinemann, 275 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78515 188 0
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... and cheese’ or ‘a European novel on the nightstand that filled me with bleach and fret’ (Elena Ferrante is my tip for that). ‘I put on,’ she says, ‘my don’t-fuck-with-me face.’ Groff’s characters are generally on the defensive, even when not under attack: they can be relied on to know their way to the nearest sharp object, even in ...

Itemised

Fredric Jameson, 8 November 2018

My Struggle: Book 6. The End 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 1153 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 84655 829 0
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... of thousands of copies and become a literary sensation, on the order of Roberto Bolaño or Elena Ferrante (both also somewhat autobiographical, it should be added). So the more satisfactory response would be to take a poll (preferably worldwide) and find out what its readers think. I believe the result would be that they cannot tell you whether ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... language; it may make their fortune: Anthea Bell (Englishing Sebald) and Ann Goldstein (voicing Elena Ferrante) propelled the authors to cult status beyond their own shores. Like a shrub moved to a sunnier position, writers may thrive when transplanted. Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts have won startling numbers of readers in the translations ...

Life with Ms Cayenne Pepper

Jenny Turner: The Chthulucene, 1 June 2017

Manifestly Haraway: ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, ‘The Companion Species Manifesto’, Companions in Conversation (with Cary Wolfe) 
by Donna Haraway.
Minnesota, 300 pp., £15.95, April 2016, 978 0 8166 5048 4
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Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene 
by Donna Haraway.
Duke, 312 pp., £22.99, August 2016, 978 0 8223 6224 1
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... her 1997 rhapsody, Zeroes + Ones.More recently, ‘the manifesto of Donna Haraway’ was listed by Elena Ferrante as one of the three books that has most influenced her as a writer (the other two were Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti by the philosopher Adriana Cavarero, and Elsa Morante’s House of Liars).* Lenu’s 1970s, gobbling her way through ...

The earth had need of me

Joanna Biggs: A nice girl like Simone, 16 April 2020

Becoming Beauvoir: A Life 
by Kate Kirkpatrick.
Bloomsbury, 476 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 350 04717 4
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Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me, a Memoir 
by Deirdre Bair.
Atlantic, 347 pp., £18.99, February, 978 1 78649 265 4
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Diary of a Philosophy Student, Vol. II: 1928-29 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Barbara Klaw.
Illinois, 374 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 0 252 04254 6
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... she thought her mother and father had with each other. They became ‘the two inseparables’. (Elena Ferrante mentions the protagonist of The Days of Abandonment reading Beauvoir’s late novella The Woman Destroyed; but, to me, Zaza and Simone could be foresisters of Lila and Lenù of the Neapolitan quartet.) After a day at Meyrignac eating apples ...

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