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I Giorni Dell'abbandono by Elena Ferrante

I Giorni Dell'abbandono (edition 2002)

by Elena Ferrante

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5152319,696 (3.71)57
Title:I Giorni Dell'abbandono
Authors:Elena Ferrante
Info:Edizioni E/O (2002), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, To read

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The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante



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English (18)  Dutch (3)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All (23)
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I have been a fan of feminist literature for many years. One such author has eluded me until a recent article discussed the Italian writer, Elena Ferrante. My first actual encounter with Ferrante’s works occurred after a trip to the marvelous independent bookstore, Inkwood Books of Haddonfield, N.J. I asked the clerk about Ferrante, and she suggested the “Neopolitan Quartet” of novels, which was sold out, but she did have a copy of The Days of Abandonment. Across the street from the shop was a coffee bistro, so went for a coffee and a scan of the novel. About an hour later, I was hooked, and I accepted the fact this was a powerful novel I could not let pass by again.

William Congreve wrote, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned. Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned” (Congreve, The Mourning Bride, III, viii). Days of Abandonment tells the story of a woman abandoned by her husband, who then takes up with a young woman half the wife’s age. The novel begins, “One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me. He did it while we were clearing the table; the children were quarreling as usual in the next room, the dog was dreaming, growling beside the radiator. He told me that he was confused, that he was having terrible moments of weariness, of dissatisfaction, perhaps of cowardice. He talked for a long time about our fifteen years of marriage, about the children, and admitted that he had nothing to reproach us with, neither them nor me. He was composed, as always, apart from an extravagant gesture of his right hand when he explained to me, with a childish frown, that soft voices, a sort of whispering, were urging him elsewhere. Then he assumed the blame for everything that was happening and closed the front door carefully behind him, leaving me turned to stone beside the sink” This is nothing more than the tiniest of spark which will turn into a conflagration of immense power.

Warning this is an adult novel on the basis of a single chapter when Olga vented all her rage, jealousy, and fury, in a scene of a rather explicit and volcanic nature. A reader will know when it starts, so it is easy to skip. This novel is the most incisive and detailed account of the agony a woman undergoes when she is abandoned by her partner. The prose is mesmerizing and gripping. I could barely put it down for a moment. Here is a scene when Olga decides to seek revenge on her husband. “He again brought his lips to mine, but I didn’t like the odor of his saliva. I don’t even know if it really was unpleasant, only it seemed to me different from Mario’s. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth, I opened my lips a little, touched his tongue with mine. It was slightly rough, alive, it felt animal, an enormous tongue such as I had seen, disgusted, at the butcher, there was nothing seductively human about it. Did Carla have my tastes, my odors? Or had mine always been repellent to Mario, as now Carrano’s seemed, and only in her, after years, had he found the essences right for him” (80-81). You can now skip to page 88 and the beginning of Chapter 18.

In a blurb on the cover, a reviewer for The Guardian wrote, “Ferrante’s novels are tactile and sensual, visceral and dizzying.” Not for the faint of heart, The Days of Abandonment is a masterpiece of the inner workings of the mind of a woman. 5 stars.

--Jim, 12/31/16 ( )
  rmckeown | Jan 7, 2017 |
Dark, disturbing....
I got this title from a list stating if you liked Gone Girl, you should enjoy this one. I don't think they compare.
Some folks commented on the Italianess of the characters and I believe that is one reason this southern girl was so disturbed by the behavior of Mario, Olga, Gianni and Ilaria. Carrano, the cellist, to me was a victim.
The Saga begins with Mario walking out on Olga, his wife of fifteen years, and their two children. Olga appears to be blind sided by this.
Olga takes it hard. After all Mario has left her for a younger woman named Carla.
Mario literally just leaves, and does not even leave a contact address or number. He comes back to the apartment occasionally, but lives an entirely separate.
The story gets very painful when Olga, the children and dog become trapped inside the four walls of the apartment with no means of outside communication.
( )
  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
Olga is a woman engulfed in the keening chaos of abandonment. Abruptly left by her husband of fifteen years, she tries to fend off the fraying ends of her sense of self while taking care of their children. Contrary to Olga's definite perception of "woman" as entity, of the type of woman she wants to be in all situations - the type of woman she has always wanted to be perceived as by her husband, even by herself, she becomes scorched and deluged in the aftermath of what has been broken.

Ferrante's The Days of Abandonment reads like a sustained note that collapses a lung. Its prose is dagger-headed, it punctures something vital along the way in both main character and reader. Olga's breaking roils in each sentence. This isn't an easy story to look away from.

Weirdly, I kept thinking of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl while I was reading this story. Namely that this was more of what I was looking for when I finally read Gone Girl after reading so many rapt and raving reviews of how Flynn was able to write an unlikable female main in such a revelatory way. Ferrante's Olga has an emotional relevance that entrenched me more firmly in this story than I was able to experience with GG.

Olga is an unreliable character, we don't get much past her perception of things and that perception is greatly weighted in a rending torrent of anger, grief, and fear. While the premise of her abandonment is one that many can relate to, many of her actions serve to make her extremely unlikable. I think there's two sides to her being unlikable actually though both play on the common perception of what a woman is allowed to be/to do. First, the emotional side; Ferrante does a very good job of layering in Olga's reactions. A woman consumed by anger or the derailment of grief, righteous or not, is often not palatable to the masses. Simply put, a woman emotionally consumed does not often bother herself with following the rules of "femininity," namely the rule that she is supposed to put herself forth in all things as an object to be consumed by other's purposes instead of her own. Secondly, the physicality of Olga's abandonment, of her anger, leads to bursts of vulgarity that also contradict the ideal of "woman." She speaks vulgarly when agitation breaks through, she beats their dog and fails to save him when he becomes mortally sick, she emotionally abandons her children and allows her anger to sway her ability or desire to nurture them, she instigates sex with a virtual stranger and is angry rather than accepting when he can't perform. I think there are a lot of people that would be able to see that yes, beating your dog and abandoning your responsibility to your children is horribly wrong. Yet there are way too many people out there that would eagerly say that each of these things is vulgar for the sole reason that she is a woman, that would insist on turning a blind eye or a bland excuse towards a man who reacted similarly. Which is why I found this to be pretty satisfying even when it was hard to read because I immensely enjoy reading work that allows woman to equal human without excuse or equivocation.

The Days of Abandonment holds the same flint and fire exhortation for me as The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Awakening by Kate Chopin did and continue to do. It's poignant while also simply being an interesting story in and of itself. I was so interested in what would happen that there were a couple brief points that stuttered for me, causing me to go back and reread parts. Past that however, Ferrante remains a strong and enjoyable writer for me. ( )
  lamotamant | Oct 9, 2016 |
Beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein)

The circle of an empty day is brutal and at night it tightens around your neck like a noose.”

Having read all four of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet last year, I thought I knew what to expect from The Days of Abandonment. Chosen by my very small book group for our May read I was very much looking forward to a book I had suggested, however I was completely taken by surprise by the tone of this novel . In time, I am glad to say, I came to love The Days of Abandonment, but it did take me a little while to be convinced. The Days of Abandonment is on the face of it the story of a woman’s descent into despair following the ending of her marriage; however it is much more the portrayal of her actual breakdown, in all its ugliness and misery. I was ill prepared for the anger and gut wrenching raw intimacy of this novel – at times that anger is almost visceral – and there are moments when the reader really would rather look away.

One day just after lunch Olga’s husband Mario tells her he is leaving her. Olga; abandoned by her husband though not really believing he means to stay away permanently – having the rug ripped away she is left floundering. Left in the apartment with her two children and the family dog, Olga experiences a dark and frightening descent into a loss of identity. Haunted by the memory of a woman from her childhood who earned herself the name the ‘poverella’ she too was a woman abandoned, left destitute. Trying to maintain a good relationship with Mario, not ready to face up to the realities of her marriage, she recalls the flirtation her husband had with the young daughter of her friend some years earlier. Olga walks the streets of her city, at odds with who she is and where her life has taken her. Becoming a distant, distracted mother, Olga is often rather neglectful while she is locked into her own despair. She clings to her children , selfishly thinking more of her own wants than their needs.

“Even if I tried to tell myself that I had given him nothing, that the children were mostly mine, that they had remained within the radius of my body, subject to my care, still I couldn’t avoid thinking what aspects of his nature inevitably lay hidden in them. Mario would explode suddenly from inside their bones, now, over the days, over the years, in ways that were more and more visible. How much of him would I be forced to love forever, without even realizing it, simply by virtue of the fact that I loved them? What a complex foamy mixture a couple is. Even if the relationship shatters and ends, it continues to act in secret pathways, it doesn’t die, it doesn’t want to die.”

It is soon apparent that her husband has another woman, and fury and bitterness consume her. Taking her anger out on whoever is in her path, Olga’s behaviour spirals out of control. Olga must still try and cope with daily life – but her children have to make their own way home from school, the dog has to be exercised but Olga is struggling to maintain normal everyday life. She can’t accept at first that her marriage could be over. She imagines that she can make Mario return to her, first by demonstrating how without him the family is unable to operate as normal, then later by showing how they are coping well. Olga enlists the children’s help in her deceptions but the children just seem to become more bewildered by the situation, more distrustful of this new mother. When Olga comes home one day to find her husband has let himself into the apartment and taken away earrings which he had bought for her, Olga rashly arranges for the locks to be changed. Despite having been – as her young daughter later reminds her – rather stupid about locks in the past, Olga consents to the fitting of a complicated double lock. Bills go unpaid, the phone no longer connects to the outside world, a mobile phone gets broken, and an infestation of ants must be dealt with.

Carrano, the solitary musician who lives in the apartment below is drawn into Olga’s fragile existence when she finds his wallet and returns it late one evening. The awkward, mutually unsatisfying sexual encounter the two have on this occasion testament to Olga’s need to have somebody want her.

So when her son and the dog both fall ill at the same time, and she finds herself literally locked into the apartment Olga must draw on reserves which she doesn’t even feel that she has in order to look after her family. Olga has to face up to the fact that things have changed, that her life won’t simply return to how it was before.

There is so much to admire in this novel, Ferrante’s writing is extraordinarily good, there is an uncomfortable honesty in her depiction of this abandoned wife. I have read – since finishing the book that the novel was greeted with some controversy upon its publication in Italy in 2002 because Olga is often hard to sympathise with, her behaviour as a woman and particularly as a mother makes it hard for us to like her. In time Olga faces up to an entirely new view of Mario starting to see him through the eyes of others, she is surprised at what she finds.

“What a mistake, above all, it had been to believe that I couldn’t live without him, when for a long time I had not been at all certain that I was alive with him.”

I am looking forward to discussing this with my book group there is in this slight novel much to talk about. I can’t help but wonder about the anger which oozes from this novel, where it might have come from – and whether the story of Olga is that of the author about whom we know so little. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Jul 3, 2016 |
not my cup of tea 2 hrs into the book on tape just feels like a very long lamentation. very realistic but too depressing to read for me. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jun 12, 2016 |
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One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.
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Doggone! Husband gone;
But not dead, just strayed and lost;
Getting used to it.

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Once an aspiring writer, Olga traded literary ambition for marriage and motherhood; when Mario dumps her after 15 years, she is utterly unprepared. Though she tells herself that she is a competent woman, nothing like the poverella (poor abandoned wife) that mothers whispered about in her childhood, Olga falls completely apart. Routine chores overwhelm her; she neglects her appearance and forgets her manners; she throws herself at the older musician downstairs; she sees the poverella's ghost. After months of self-pity, anger, doubt, fury, desperation and near madness, her acknowledgments of weaknesses in the marriage feel as earned as they are unsurprising.… (more)

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