Friday, September 13, 2019

Elena Ferrante's new novel will be in released in the Italian edition on November 7, 2019

Elena Ferrante's publisher Europa Editions has just announced that her new novel will be in released in the Italian edition on November 7, 2019, with the English edition to be released in 2020. The title has not yet been released, but the publisher released the opening lines in both Italian and English:

Two years before leaving home my father said to my mother that I was very ugly. The sentence was uttered under his breath, in the apartment that my parents, newly married, had bought in Rione Alto at the top of Via San Giacomo dei Capri. Everything--the spaces of Naples, the blue light of a very cold February, those words—remained fixed. But I slipped away, and am still slipping away, within these lines that are intended to give me a story yet in fact are nothing, nothing of mine, nothing that has really begun or really been brought to completion: only a tangled knot, and nobody, not even she who at this moment is writing, knows if it contains the right thread for a story or is merely a snarled confusion of suffering, without redemption.

As I read this paragraph I was struck by how the writing lacked the bite, the propulsive rhythm I associate with the Ferrante of the Neapolitan novels. This reminds me of Frantumaglia, a collection of Ferrante’s interviews and letters about her work, former New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani characterized as a padded, often self-indulgent volume. Kakutani noted that “the self-conscious and stilted statements [in Frantumaglia] stand in stark contrast to the visceral immediacy of Ms. Ferrante’s novels.” The excerpt from the new novel also reminds me of the language in Ferrante’s columns for the Guardian,often written in a pedestrian style, very different from the emotionally charged prose of Ferrante’s novels. I cannot help but wonder if the person who wrote the Guardian columns is the same person (or persons) who wrote the novels.

“Elena Ferrante” is, of course, a pseudonym or as she is sometimes called, “a fictional character,” camouflage for the author (or authors) of the novels attributed to Ferrante. When I first read Ferrante's novels, I was convinced they were written by a woman. There were just too many intimate details of life in a female body.

However, after Claudio Gatti’s well-documented revelation that Ferrante was Anita Raja, possibly working in collaboration with her husband Domenico Starnone, I could no longer ignore the mounting evidence that Starnone was involved in the creation of works attributed to Ferrante. Four groups of analysts using different text analysis programs independently came to the same conclusion that Starnone was in all likelihood the principal author of Ferrante’s novels. Furthermore, references to collaborative authorship abound in the Neapolitan Quartet and in Ferrante’s many interviews collected in Frantumaglia.

When writing my book, In Search of Elena Ferrante I turned to Starnone’s novels for further clues as to his contribution to Ferrante’s novels; I found many stylistic and thematic similarities to Ferrante. These similarities between Starnone’s works and those attributed to Ferrante strengthened the case for his co-authorship. However, however, I was limited to those books translated into English. I believed that if I could read Starnone’s novels which had not been translated into English, I would have an even stronger case.

My hunch was confirmed I read Rachel Donadio’s article in the Atlantic. She analyzed Starnone’s 2011 novel Autobiografia Erotica di Aristide Gambía published the same year that My Brilliant Friend appeared in Italian. Donadio describes it as a “dizzying meditation on whether men can convincingly write about women and women about men." “Elena Ferrante” actually appears as a character in Autobiografia Erotica and the narrator Aristide Gambía decides he no longer wants to write about aging men: instead he will explore women’s lives, and “the battle … to become a new woman.” Both in Autobiografia Erotica as in his novels Trick and Ties, Starnone leaves many clues about his relationship to the fictional Elena Ferrante. It certainly seems like he wants to be found out.

Also, Anita Raja might want to try her hand at a novel without the contribution of Starnone. There certainly appears little trace of him in the excerpt released. I will have to wait until the release of Ferrante’s new novel in English to test my hypothesis.