We The Italians | Italian books: My Brilliant Friend

Italian books: My Brilliant Friend

Italian books: My Brilliant Friend

  • WTI Magazine #157 Nov 18, 2022
  • 136

“Two girls talking about books. They are Rory Gilmore, the protagonist of the TV series Gilmore Girls, and Michelle Obama, the real one. Rory, an avid reader, recommends the first lady an (endless) series of books to read while traveling for the Let Girls Learn initiative. Michelle will choose only one: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante”. 

My Brilliant Friend is a book written under the pseudonym Elena Ferrante and published in 2011. It consists of four books, with My Brilliant Friend being the first one. The book follows the story and lives of two friends – Lila and Elena, starting from childhood and into adolescence, living in the outskirts of Naples.

The author deeply explores the friendship and relationship between the two following their personal growth, their interactions between one another and the positive and negative feelings that go through. Elena Ferrante does not focus solely on the characters, but she also describes how the neighborhood, the country and society at large change. It is a narrative book filled with stories and facts, fast-moving, deep and delicate; it overturns situations and unveils secrets. This first instalment ends having portraited only one part of the lives of the two characters, with many more stories to tell and the cycle of life to be followed.

The second book The Story of a New Name (2012) picks up where the first one has left off, at the point of Lila’s wedding, who has not turned 18 yet. Her friendship with Elena continues between fondness and envy, unexpected turns and life’s events.      

The third instalment is called Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2013) and it accompanies this beloved friendship through the hardships and joys of adulthood. In fact, Lila has been married and has a child and Elena is about to become a writer.

The final book is The Story of the Lost Child (2014) which closes the circle as the two friends – who have shown their differences and succeeded in remaining close – find themselves back in the city where their friendship had begun.

Throughout the story of this friendship, Ferrante is indeed able to tell the tale of a city, a nation and the nature of friendship itself. The lives of these two women reflect against the backdrop of the transformation of their surroundings which in turn alter the bond between the two protagonists. The books and the story go through the seventies in Italy, touches upon politics, universities and the literary world.

Elena Ferrante is considered as one of the most important cotemporary Italian authors, whose fame and success has a worldwide reach and whose books are known and read all over the world. Time magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The saga also inspired a well acclaimed TV series – coproduced by HBO – whose script has been written by Elena Ferrante herself and whose first two episodes have been successfully presented to the Mostra del Cinema di Venezia.

The series of books gained enormous success in the United States – where it is named the “Neapolitan novels” – being on every book shelves and being widely read.

The New Yorker dedicated a space investigating whether or not Elena Ferrante’s identity has been revealed. The New York Times included the fourth and last book of the saga in the rank of the ten books of 2015. The Financial Times had Elena Ferrante in its list of “Women of 2015”, alongside the governor of the Federal Reserve and the then first lady Michelle Obama. 

Every newspaper, journal and reviewer in the United States studied and wrote about these books and passionately praised her story, her style of writing and the characters she crafted. 

Widely successful, affectionately acclaimed by its readers in Italy, the United States and many more countries. Readers can relate with these four books, they can admire the growth and development of female friendship, the changes that permeate human life and society in whole and everyone’s journey through life and its best and worst moments together with one of life’s most precious treasure: friendship.    

But anyhow: life and literature are also brilliant friends, and sometimes confuse their own limits, mutually blending into each other”.