Welcome to the fourth episode of ‘Cultural Obsessions,’ a series organized for the Meltemi podcast, the official podcast for La Piccioletta Barca magazine.
In this episode, Eleonora speaks with Micaela Brinsley on one of her many Cultural Obsessions: the persona and work of Elena Ferrante.
A pseudonymous celebrity, Ferrante has achieved a literary fame unusual for writers in the twenty-first century. Best known for her tetralogy together called The Neapolitan Novels, she has become well-known for writing about women in the spaces in-between, in the negotiation of their private and public selves. In forensic detail, Ferrante deconstructs friendships, the feelings of ambivalence many women have for the trappings of femininity, and the explosions that emerge from people who’ve silenced themselves in order to survive. By removing her true identity from the marketplace, Ferrante also functions as a symbol: a message advocating for creative solitude, for safeguarding prose as a sacred encounter between language and the mind of a reader.
We discuss both Ferrante’s second book, The Days of Abandonment, as well as her most recently-published text, The Lying Life of Adults. The conversation is also bookended by a discussion of the phrase ‘an absence of sense,’ the thematic anchor of The Days of Abandonment. Spanning topics as far-ranging as Italian dialects, what constitutes something as ‘womanly,’ the contemporary value of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and the history of pseudonyms themselves, our conversation itself is a critical examination, an absence of sense, and exploration of fiction as a touchpoint for better engaging with the wider world.
For those interested in reading some interviews Ferrante conducted with literary magazines, please check out the links listed below.