In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing

Europa. Mar. 2022. 176p. ISBN 9781609457372. $21.95. LIT
Around 2020, Ferrante (Neapolitan Quartet) was invited by the University of Bologna to give three lectures, discussing her work as a writer, her poetics, her narrative technique, “or anything else she wants [that] would be of interest to a broad, non-specialist audience.” Because of Ferrante’s insistence on anonymity—and the pandemic—the lectures were read by an actress. Her first essay, “Pain and Pen,” explores her desire to write (she was a voracious, sophisticated reader as a child and young adult, admiring the works of Italo Svevo, Gaspara Stampa, and Zeno, among many others) and her passion for writing, along with the two kinds of writing she feels she knows best, compliant and impetuous. “Aquamarine” begins with a quote from Denis Diderot that Ferrante adopted as a piece of advice on writing: “Tell the thing as it is.” Her third essay, “History, I,” begins with an intensive analysis of a poem by Emily Dickinson, “Witchcraft was hung, in History.” Finally, she adds a fourth essay, “Dante’s Rib,” a deep and compelling piece composed for the Association of Italianists that concluded its 2021 conference, “Dante and Other Classics.”
VERDICT These brilliant essays not only provide insights into other great writers and their work but into Ferrante’s own work as well, and will be appreciated by her many followers as well as scholars and general readers.
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