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Naples Noir: Author Elena Ferrante

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What Henry Miller was for New York and Paris, Elena Ferrante is for Naples: No other author rivals her alluringly dark portrayal of the ancient city. The pseudonymous author’s My Brilliant Friend—the first in her popular Neapolitan Novels series—set a story of friendship and rivalry among the city’s rough outer neighborhoods. In the series, the fourth installment of which comes out in translation this fall, Ferrante shows streets beset with landslides, buildings collapsed like the wooden arms of worm-eaten chairs, and men and women, boiling with Homeric rage, who don’t manage to pass much through their lips besides the obscenities of dialect. “The city seemed to harbor in its guts a fury that couldn’t get out and therefore eroded it from the inside or erupted in pustules on the surface,” Ferrante writes in the third book, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Explaining why she wouldn’t publicly reveal her identity in a letter to her editor, the author compared her writing to sticking a finger in an open wound. For the reader, the effect is far more pleasurable.

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