Elena Ferrante

She may be a pseudonym but there's no way she's not a woman.

I was going on about Jenny Diski yesterday, and Ferrante, in the domain of fiction, is equally brutal in her honesty, full of rough edges, and alive! god, how to adequately communicate how in-your-face her work is, how she is writing stuff that no woman has written so powerfully before--about herself, her feelings about motherhood, the ambiguities of all sorts of relationships, sex, desire, things that most of us would look around uneasily for the bullet with our name on it if we said them out loud (like walking around without your veil on). Her aggressiveness. Her guilt. The self-loathing. The insecurity. The vulnerability. The honesty and the self-knowledge. "She" doesn't hide anything, from herself. Her life, as seen through the books, in which the same situations and characters recur, is a work in progress, ripped out. 

Harder to define is how the way these books--which are character-based--are written contribute to their power. There's an expansiveness and a brutality that is like something out of Philip Roth. Without the deliberate burlesque, the comic exaggeration. Stylistically, not much, if any, innovation. Tonally, yes. We aren't used to women being out-there like this. I wonder how much men like these books.

I'm finishing the last of the Ferrante books, or the last to me, since I didn't read them in the order they were written. I'm reading them in Italian, ordered from Amazon Italia last year in France, lugged back in my suitcase, so this is really the last one, not just the latest translation (I hear the translations are excellent), and now what am I going to do?