Elena Ferrante's favourite books by female authors

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Elena Ferrante's favourite books by female authors

Nov 21, 2020, 5:09am

Elena Ferrante, the bestselling pseudonymous Italian author behind My Brilliant Friend, has named her favourite 40 books by female authors around the world ...

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, translated by Anonymous

Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann, translated by Philip Boehm

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

Outline by Rachel Cusk

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated by Ann Goldstein

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover

The Lover by Marguerite Duras, translated by Barbara Bray

The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer

Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Jenny McPhee

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek, translated by Joachim Neugroschel

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

The Passion According to GH by Clarice Lispector, translated by Idra Novey

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Arturo’s Island by Elsa Morante, translated by Ann Goldstein

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Dear Life by Alice Munro

The Bell by Iris Murdoch

Accabadora by Michela Murgia, translated by Silvester Mazzarella

Le Bal by Irene Nemirovsky, translated by Sandra Smith

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

The Love Object: Selected Stories by Edna O'Brien

A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

Evening Descends Upon the Hills: Stories from Naples by Anna Maria Ortese, translated by Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee

Gilead by Marylinne Robinson

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

The Door by Magda Szabò, translated by Len Rix

Cassandra by Christa Wolf, translated by Jan van Heurck

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Grace Frick

Good to see the translators given full credit in the original article, even if it did add to the chore of adding touchstones here. And good to see that every single author and translator is already represented on LT.

Nov 21, 2020, 8:06am

How very odd! I would not have expected her to read English translations of books written in her native (or, indeed, any) language.

Or is that the Guardian's spin?

Edited: Nov 21, 2020, 11:56am

I think that's probably a contemporary-English-user-friendly version... How many has everyone read? I'm not doing well, although I have more on the TBR list.

Have the book but not read (or completely) yet: Americanah, Malina, The passion according to G.H., Beloved, The door, Cassandra (touchstones may or may not be behaving...)

Have read: The year of magical thinking, L'amant, Les années, Lessico famigliare, The bell, A good man is hard to find, Memoirs of Hadrian

Started and abandoned: Désorientale, Interpreter of maladies, Gilead

Have read other books, if not the listed ones, by the following authors: Atwood, Jelinek, Lessing, Munro, Ortese, Roy... ETA: Némirovsky, Wolf

Edited: Nov 21, 2020, 11:11am

I've read:

Lessico famigliare
Interpreter of Maladies
Memoirs of Hadrian

Owned but not read yet:

L'isola di Arturo

Started and abandoned: Beloved

I've read also read other books by Lahiri, Ortese, Yourcenar, Morante, and Atwood.

Edited: Nov 21, 2020, 11:34am

>3 LolaWalser: How many has everyone read?

I was surprised at how much her list intersects with my interests...

I have read Americanah, The Blind Assassin, Disoriental, The Lover, The Years, Interpreter of Maladies, The Fifth Child, Beloved, Accabadora (loved it!), Gilead, The God of Small Things, White Teeth, Olive Kitteridge, The Door, and Memoirs of Hadrian. I loved or really liked most of those titles, except for Disoriental, which I found a bit lightweight, The Lover and Memoirs of Hadrian, which I hated (and did not understand) when I read it at 14. I've been meaning to revisit it for ages...

I have read other books by Ginzburg, Gordimer, Morante, Nemirovsky, Lispector, Edna O'Brien, Wolf and Yanagihara, and started but never finish Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.

Nearly all the other authors feature in my wishlist, some of them as of this morning, when I read the Guardian article ;-)

Nov 21, 2020, 12:06pm

>4 lilithcat:

Did you like Pietrantonio? I think I'll request it...

>5 Dilara86:

You're in the zone!

For people interested in influences that shaped Ferrante's writing, I think the second (much expanded) edition of Frantumaglia gives a better picture of how she reads, what she had read...

Edited: Nov 21, 2020, 12:06pm

ugh, double post...

Nov 21, 2020, 12:28pm

That list makes me want to start a book club just to read through it all. I love that the Szabo book is on there. That's one of my favorite books-I-love-but-no-one-else-in-my-life-would-like-dammit books.

Of course, being a bookseller by trade, the list also makes me start thinking of what I'd recommend to someone who loved all these. Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips. Obasan by Joy Kogawa. Umami by Laia Jufresa. The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

Nov 21, 2020, 1:24pm

>6 LolaWalser:

Yes, I did like the Pierantonio. Do try it.

Nov 21, 2020, 8:21pm

>8 southernbooklady: Don't threaten me with a good time! I'd love to do a read of this list. I've read several, but others are on my list for a someday TBR. I'm definitely bookmarking this.

I've read the following:
Americanah - excellent, recommended to all
The Blind Assassin - liked it, though not my favorite Atwood
The Year of Magical Thinking - liked it, though not my favorite Didion
The Fifth Child
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Gilead - Lola, I too abandoned this one
Normal People
White Teeth
The Door
A Little Life - perhaps in a minority as I did not care for this one

And a few more are on my TBR -- Rachel Cusk, Nadine Gordimer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Irene Nemirovsky to name a few

>8 southernbooklady: I recently read and loved Disappearing Earth! Will look into your other suggestions.

Nov 21, 2020, 8:47pm

I've read only four - The Piano Teacher, The Passion According to GH, The Lover, Beloved. All excellent. Hate how the someday TBR is insurmountable.

Nov 22, 2020, 4:36am

>6 LolaWalser: and >8 southernbooklady:

This is not helping me keep my wishlist under control...

Edited: Nov 29, 2020, 3:33pm

Speaking of Magda Szabo, NYRB has just released a new translation of her 1970 novel, Abigail.

(I was not able to determine whether this is its first English translation, but it's Len Rix, who also translated the NYRB edition of The Door that I read and enjoyed a few years ago.)

Edit to fix touchstones

Dec 3, 2020, 9:25pm

A quick follow up to my post in >13 sparemethecensor:

Magda Szabo's Abigail is excellent. I think I may love it even more than The Door.

If you've read Elio Vittorini's In Sicily, it's that type of WWII novel but with women coming of age. Can say more if others are interested. I'll also post a more thorough review on the book page.

Dec 4, 2020, 4:32am

>14 sparemethecensor: Glad someone shares my love of Abigail! The Door has a special place in my heart, but Abigail is great.

Dec 7, 2020, 1:54pm

This is very à propos--a longish article about Ferrante in general:


I was also interested to see her comments on Ferrante's latest book, which I wrote about in the reads thread--I'm not alone in being underwhelmed by it (although, as I said before, if it's just the first installment, final judgement is still pending)... She is much more clear than I was on why she was disappointed.

Dec 8, 2020, 4:09pm

I've only read a few from that wonderful list:

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin (still gradually reading through these amazing stories; I'm about 3/4 through)
The Lover by Marguerite Duras
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

I've also read works by Didion and Lahiri, just not the particular books on Ferrante's list. Also, Beloved is one of the very few Morrison novels I haven't read yet.

Dec 9, 2020, 8:40am

I noticed someone created a list over on the Lists page: https://www.librarything.com/list/42736/all/Elena-Ferrantes-40-favourite-books-b...