In the Margins by Elena Ferrante review – a window into the writer’s world

Four essays by the author of the Neapolitan Quartet reveal her struggles while developing her literary voice

At the beginning of Elena Ferrante’s last novel, The Lying Life of Adults (2020), the narrator recalls a moment of shame from early adolescence that left her feeling permanently untethered. “I slipped away, and am still slipping away, within these lines that are intended to give me a story,” she writes. Describing herself as “only a tangled knot”, she says: “Nobody, not even the one who at this moment is writing, knows if it contains the right thread for a story or is merely a snarled confusion of suffering, without redemption.”

The sense of self-estrangement, the ugly-beautiful imagery, the mood of anguish – these are the constants in Ferrante’s fiction, from her early first-person stories about desperate women whose lives are going to pieces to her Neapolitan Quartet that made Ferrante an international phenomenon – as well as the world’s most famous literary recluse. She has always been fascinated by the way reality is transformed into art. Who gets to tell whose story? What if the story I’m telling leads nowhere? Is fiction more truthful when seen behind a veil of lies?

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