Patricia Lockwood, 18 February 2021
What passes for the next thousand pages, between these harmless pastel covers? Life, all of it. Say any character’s name to me – say Pinuccia, and I will flash on her at the beach, pregnant, in love with a boy who isn’t the father, faced with the intolerable prospect of the future she has chosen, drinking coconut so her child will not be born craving it. Donato? I know where all his freckles are. Nadia? Allow me to direct you to the line in my notebook that reads: ‘I hate Nadia beyond all reason.’ In Frantumaglia, Ferrante writes: ‘The as yet unsurpassed force of literature lies in its capacity to construct vibrating bodies from whose veins anyone can drink.’ For a thousand pages we drink, body after body after body, husbands and daughters and teachers and friends, we drink directly from the neck of Naples. And we do it through the character of the writer, Elena Greco (Lenù), who is driven to master fiction as an organising force, a way of ‘finally putting everything back on its feet in the proper way’.