June 11, 2020
New Ferrante book received with enthusiasm abroad
by Mike Lindgren
The mysterious anonymous author who goes by the pen name Elena Ferrante has released a new novel in Europe, an event that has been greeted with long lines at recently re-opened bookshops and considerable media excitement.
The Lying Life of Adults will be published in English in the United States in September. The novel, Ferrante’s tenth, follows on the extraordinary success of the Neapolitan Quartet, four novels about a friendship between two women whose first installment, My Brilliant Friend, was published in 2012.
My Brilliant Friend and the novels that followed it quickly became cult favorites among the literati and then, worldwide best-sellers. According to a French wire service, “Italian fans queued up at midnight in November to buy the first copies of the book and then read it together in all-night vigils.”
As Merve Emre noted in the New York Times, Ferrante’s appeal is unusually strong compared to the followings of most literary novelists. Emre spoke of
“Ferrante fever,” as readers had taken to calling the frenzy that greeted the publication of each Neapolitan novel — the midnight-release parties; the grave discussions about the books’ covers; the jostling reviews, with each critic claiming to know her art more intimately than the critic who came before.
Her readers, Emre noted, are “inclined to project onto her punishing tale of female friendship the faces of women they had once loved and hated in equal measure.”
The appeal is enhanced, many believe, by Ferrante’s anonymity, which remains unsullied despite highly publicized guesses by Italian journalists. The mystery of her identity, the critic Alexandra Schwartz wrote in 2016,
has a corresponding point in the soul of the receptive reader. To fall in love with a book, in that way that I and so many others have fallen in love with Ferrante’s, is to feel a special kinship with its author, a profound sort of mutual receptivity and comprehension. The author knows nothing about you, and yet you feel that your most intimate self has been understood. The fact that Ferrante has chosen to be anonymous has become part of this contract, and has put readers and writer on a rare, equal plane.
Whoever she is, Ferrante’s popularity increased exponentially with the advent of a well-received HBO adaptation of My Brilliant Friend in 2018.
The ending of the new novel, AFP reports, “has also left many asking if this could be the beginning of a new Ferrante series, but her Italian publisher claims that even they do not know.”
Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.