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The Story of the Lost Child by Elena…
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The Story of the Lost Child (2014)

by Elena Ferrante

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Neapolitan Novels (4)

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1,084567,684 (4.27)95

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» See also 95 mentions

English (45)  German (4)  Italian (4)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All (56)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
My rating stands for the whole series of four. Truly beautiful and compelling stories, with so many layers of things to think about. ( )
  thishannah | Jul 17, 2018 |
Terminada a tetralogia temos a confirmação do que se prenunciou os três livros anteriores: a prosa de Ferrante está entre as mais finas da contemporaneidade. Seu estudo caracterológico, suas pinceladas sócio-politicas e sobretudo sua ferina descrição das masculinidades e amizades, tornam esses quatro livros obras primas imensuráveis. ( )
  Adriana_Scarpin | Jun 12, 2018 |
I am seriously, terribly happy I read the entirety of the Neapolitan novels. They are, collectively, a masterpiece. ( )
  leahlionheart | May 17, 2018 |
When I arrived in Naples I had just read the Claudio Gatti article which claimed to expose Elena Ferrante's real identity. I remembered being amazed, when it had come out back in 2016, by the fury it had provoked. People were outraged! Not just readers but literary editors too had lined up to condemn the piece – putting across, in the process, a lot of wrong-headed ideas about ‘the death of the author’ which should really have been kept separate from the ethical concerns in question.

But now I've finished the last book I think I understand the disproportionate reaction a bit better. The Story of the Lost Child is, like its three predecessors, a bit of a messy novel, stylistically indifferent, but intensely emotional and involving. And everyone struggles to understand why. Despite what some reviews imply, this kind of long, female-focused Künstlerroman is not a complete novelty – it's not a million miles from Doris Lessing's Children of Violence sequence, or AS Byatt's Frederica quartet – and even the notion of a woman trying to piece together the details of her friend's life is, if Gatti is right, probably lifted from Christa Wolf's The Quest for Christa T. But Ferrante's characters – especially the flinty, talismanic Lila – are so comprehensively imagined that they must, you feel, reflect something essentially autobiographical, something profoundly true, on the part of the author.

So I get to Naples. I've just read book four, I've just read Gatti's article. I want to go and see the rione or ‘neighbourhood’ where the books are set, which is a run-down little area of estates in the eastern suburbs called the Rione Luzzatti. I ask a few cab drivers: they won't take us to that part of town. ‘The criminal families live there,’ one leers. Then I try some tour agents – they all refuse as well. One of them even specialises in Elena Ferrante tours, but it turns out on further inquiry that they just go to the upmarket Piazza dei Martiri (where the characters go shopping when they've got some money) and the historical centre. ‘The rione is not good for tourists,’ I am told. ‘Actually, even we do not go there.’

Eventually, though, I find someone who knows someone who has a friend who will take us. (If you want to do this too, start by talking to Sophia at Looking for Lila.) Laura, who grew up in the rione herself, comes to meet us: she is super friendly and, far from being offended by our desire to gawk at her childhood stomping-ground, which is what I'd been worried about, she actually seems rather touched by it, and is genuinely excited about the chance to show us around. We walk down the famous stradone, litter-swept and bleak, and peer through grates into communal cellars like the one where Lila dropped Lenù's doll. We walk through the tunnel that marked the edge of the girls' world, where some of the lights have been smashed, the better to mug people walking back home from the nearest metro station. We walk by the school, where 11-year-old Laura had to fend off knife crime from 16-year-olds who had been held back so many times they were sitting right next to her in class. We creep into the courtyard where Lila's apartment is set and where, locals are convinced, from cross-referencing details in a variety of books and articles, Ferrante herself once lived.

Laura and her friends, she says, are proud and happy that Ferrante has now immortalised the place ‘for something positive – for books, for literature’. I am a little surprised, if only because, in the novels, the locals are not so happy when Lenù starts writing about the area.

But of course, Elena Greco is not Elena Ferrante. It's always an effort to remember that, because that's the conceit that the books are selling: an author called Elena writing a narrator who is an author called Elena. Draw your own conclusions, they suggest. And yeah, they must surely contain lots that is true, like all good fiction does. But reading these books is such an overwhelming experience that the slightest retreat from autobiography starts to feel almost unacceptable: OK, OK, maybe you've reordered events a bit, drawn out a couple of poetic coincidences, conflated a couple of minor characters here and there – but the essentials are true, right? You really grew up like this, didn't you? There's a real Lila out there somewhere…yes?

The idea that the author could be in here somewhere, waiting to be found, is helped along by the books' constant theme of authorship and unstable identities. We don't know who wrote what, only that both Elena and Lina have been writing something; Elena worries that Lina has quasi-mystically entered into her computer to tell her story her own way; then she denies it. There is an almost Nervalian reduplication of women, starting with the Lenù/Lila pairing, one blonde, one brunette, one who leaves, one who stays, one who writes fiction, the other who writes computer code;

I fair, she dark, I calm, she anxious, I likeable, she malicious, the two of us opposite and united….

Even their daughters are mistaken for each other, misidentified. And Lina is further refracted into their friend Alfonso, who looks like her and starts to dress like her, too. At times, Lina the character seems to recognise her own fluidity. She talks about disappearing, about erasing herself; she does in fact vanish without trace. And she has regular psychological episodes of smarginatura, the ‘bleeding’ of one object or person into another, which Ann Goldstein translates a little awkwardly as dissolving boundaries. All of this is, really, in the service of the fantasy of an ‘Elena Ferrante’ who can become whoever we need her to be for the novels to have the greatest power for us.

Standing in the little square, Hannah and I get a bit emotional. Actually, the area is a lot like parts of Livingston, where my wife grew up; it's like run-down, neglected suburbs in a lot of cities. To elevate this kind of urban wasteland into something transcendent seems like a heroic feat – it suddenly reminds me a bit of what Alan Moore did with Northampton, though it's even more impressive because there are no forgotten historical riches underlying the Rione Luzzatti – it's just stark, rationalist housing, built by Fascists, and subsequently ignored. Until Ferrante.

But again I check myself immediately. I'm constructing my own emotional story of what Ferrante did, the same way all readers of these books do. How much difference would it make if that isn't her apartment, if she grew up miles away in Rome, if her husband was the one with the Neapolitan childhood, the dialect? If it was all a brilliant fabrication? What would that do to our experience of the books?

It's almost – I say to Hannah – like the greatest creation in these novels is not anyone listed in the cast, but ‘Elena Ferrante’ herself. Hannah nods. But all morning we stare at every old woman we pass, searching for Lila Cerullo's face. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Apr 5, 2018 |
Holy sh*t, I'm finished. And now I might need to go back and reread the first one again. Just ... wow.

( )
  SuziSteffen | Feb 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ferrante, Elenaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldstein, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A partire dall'ottobre 1976 e fine a quando, nel 1979, non tornai a vivere a Napoli, evitai di riallacciare rapporti stabili con Lila.
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"The ... saga of two women: the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery, uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life's great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women's friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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