Tag Archives: Elena Ferrante

“The tragedy of going back”: Jhumpa Lahiri on her work as a translator

In 2012, having published four books and won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Jhumpa Lahiri moved to Rome. There, she experienced what she described as “a radical transition, a state of complete bewilderment.” A set of preconceptions had hardened around her writing, and in Italy, Lahiri hoped to jettison these in pursuit of a new vulnerability. She looked to the Italian language to reinvent herself on the page, restoring the joy and freedom in her work.

One consequence of this immersion was In Other Words, Lahiri’s memoir about language, and her first book written in Italian. (An English translation by Ann Goldstein appeared in 2015.) Just as important, in their way, were her first efforts at translation—a pair of novels, Ties and Trick, by her friend Domenico Starnone, the author of more than a dozen books and a winner of Italy’s prestigious Strega Prize. Ties, published last year, tells the story of a marriage in extremis and dissects a lifetime of accrued routine, deception, and petty resentment. When it came to light that Starnone is married to the writer who goes by Elena Ferrante, critics returned to Ties, suddenly eager to read it as a counterpart to Ferrante’s own Days of Abandonment.

Trick, Lahiri’s second Starnone translation, out in March, is another vivisection of family life, a novel as lean and unflinching as its predecessor. An elderly illustrator, Daniele, visits his childhood apartment, now his daughter’s home, to babysit his four-year-old grandson. The boy’s frenetic energy fills Daniele with foreboding, forcing him to reckon with his past and his senescence—to accept that his creative powers are waning and his body is failing him.

In a pair of phone conversations—one last year, after Ties came out, and one more recently, following the publication of Trick—I talked to Lahiri about the raw power behind Starnone’s work; about her approach to translation and her love of the Italian language; and about balconies, which are scary. 

 

INTERVIEWER

How did you come to Ties, and what made you decide to translate it?

LAHIRI

Well, I read it when it was first published in 2014. I was living in Rome, and I knew Domenico already.

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On writing women

By Bina Shah

In researching my previous column on the work of Elena Ferrante, I read how certain critics were convinced that the author was actually a man writing under a woman’s pseudonym because she wrote assertively and confidently about the domains of men, especially politics, crime, and violence. In return, Ferrante’s supporters asserted that not only could a woman write well about these domains, but that “only a woman” could know of the secret interior worlds of women and write about them as truthfully and authentically as Ferrante.

Is it possible for a male writer to do the reverse, and describe the life and mind of a female character as well as women writers must do when writing about men? A consensus has emerged amongst women readers and feminist critics of literature that many male writers have not felt obligated to create female characters who are as complex, well-rounded, and three-dimensional as the men. Read more

Source: Dawn

The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shahnaz Bashir

By Aminah Sheikh

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

My basic instinct is to write. Of course, a cause, money, adulation and fame are what writers write for but they can’t happen without the instinct. The vent that I need to articulate the deepest levels of my consciousness drives me to write. When not writing, I sing; I sing well.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My most recent book is Scattered Souls. It is a collection of 13 interlinked stories which makes it a novel as well. The connections between the stories have been determined by the interdependent diversity in suffering that run through disparate, scattered individuals as a thread, enabling each character a full role in relation to the other. But that is not how it was planned. It emerged while writing them.

The conflict situation in Kashmir is extraordinary. The stories try to evince what ordinary means to a people living (read suffering) in an extraordinary situation.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Primarily, I’m fond of experimenting with diverse formats. I also like to punctuate the narration with real elements like a letter, an ad, a song, a poem, a list, a symbol and so on. I don’t like tight climax-plots but loose-ended plots to my stories with a multi-plot embedded throughout. I like a matter-of-fact, poetic, stream-of-consciousness, compact narration generally and above all. My stories would stand alone as well as converge, with certain elements, into each other. I am fond of nouns and verbs mostly, in verbing of nouns and adjectives as tiny metaphors. I don’t approve of fiction which is written only to explore the possibilities of language not ideas. I don’t like too much of aesthetic that fails to torture the language and holds it back from telling the latent truth.

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Translated book sales are up, but Britain is still cut off from foreign literature

Today is International Translation Day. Look at any bookshop bestseller shelf in the UK and you’ll see translated names everywhere: Elena Ferrante, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Haruki Murakami, Swedish names all over crime fiction. Recent sales figures seem to suggest that the British public has steadily become more open to European and international authors: according to Nielsen, which undertook research for the International Man Booker prize this year, the number of translated books bought in Britain increased by an astounding 96% between 2001 and 2015. Translated fiction sells better, overall, than English literary fiction and made up 7% of all UK fiction sales in 2015.

But when you examine what is translated into English, only 1.5% of all books published in the UK are translations. Compare that to Germany (a bigger book market than the UK), France or Italy, where translated fiction is 12.28%, 15.9% and 19.7% of the respective markets, according to a 2015 study by Literature Across Frontiers. Read more

 

Do we really need to know the autobiography (and name) of an unknown author?

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It was too good to last. But surely the most tantalising literary mystery of our time should have been revealed in a better way? Not “outed” like a common municipal scam by going down the money trail. Italian journalist Claudio Gatti believes he did the right thing by identifying Rome-based literary translator Anita Raja as the writer Elena Ferrante, who has been almost universally acclaimed for her Neapolitan novels. She had, he believes, “relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown”.

Ferrante did no such thing. As the writer of novels that have sold in phenomenal numbers in Italy, and around the world, Ferrante’s success did not – as Gatti believes – set her up for an exposé. Read more

Kitaab Review: Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

by Chandra Ganguly

51Q9KM+iF3L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_I read Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment during my first visit to New York, which coincided with the massacre of twenty people in a café in Bangladesh. In the big city, I found myself adrift between the busyness of the city, the meaningless and brutality of the lives lost in Bangladesh and the surreal state of abandonment of Olga in this book. Nothing meant anything, I told myself, and I struggled to make sense in the three realms I crossed and inhabited — reading the book on the subway, catching snippets of news on the papers and television, and navigating the busy roads and people of this city. For me, Mario, the protagonist’s husband, began to represent the fallacies and illusions we hold about love and life that for Olga become nothing but figments of her imagination and her longings for meaning and safety. In this city, like her, I too grappled with the underlying sense of the danger in everything, “…there began to grow inside me a permanent sense of danger.” (p.27)

In the book, Mario abandons his wife and family for a younger woman. His wife in turn loses her hold on reality and on the meaning of herself and her life. But then is it not true for all of us, no matter where we are in our lives, that our lives are suffused by the meanings we give to it, to our relationships and our experiences and choices? Ferrante pushed me in this book — or perhaps was it only the timing of my reading — into questioning what I was seeing and thinking in New York, “Everything was so random. As a girl, I had fallen in love with Mario, but I could have fallen in love with anyone: a body to which we end up attributing who knows what meanings.” (p.74) Random — that is the word I kept thinking about when I read about the victims of the Bangladesh attacks. Friends who went out for dinner, business partners, a birthday party, a place to have a drink, a pregnant woman’s farewell — is life as random as the decisions we make and are our ends just as randomly decided and finalized for us? Again and again, in Ferrante’s descriptions of Mario and Olga’s relationship with him and her life after he leaves her, I saw my search for a meaning to the human state. “Nothing was solid, everything was slipping away . . . I didn’t know how to find answers to the question marks, every possible answer seemed absurd, I was lost in the where am I, in the what am I doing. I was mute beside the why.” (p.107) Read more