In a quest to broaden my horizons, I’ve taken up reading works by foreign authors that have been translated. The latest one has been the Neapolitan series by Italian author Elena Ferrante , her pen-name as she believes that isolating her identity from her work enables her to focus on the writing process better. Ann Goldstein has translated this series to English and is also seen as the face of Ferrante and thus protect the author’s anonymity. These books are such page-turners, which suck you in with their simplicity, allure and ability to induce contemplation. One of the features I abuse in Kindle Paperwhite is the ‘highlight’ option. I mean in a way it’s kind of disrupting when you’re getting into the flow of a book as a reader , and the writer within you jumps at the discovery of intricately crafted sentences that make you want to read them over and over again, and save them for later.
The series is a set of four books, told in a retrospective manner. Actually I shouldn’t be writing this analysis right now because I’m still mid-way through the second novel only. But I’m thoroughly gripped and inspired , so penning at this stage is essential before it all falls out of my head.
The story is about the relationship between two girls- Elena, the narrator & Lila, her friend and muse- and its evolution they grow. It’s not an entirely harmonious one but rather filled with confusion, frustration, brutal frankness that defies principles of kindness ; often you’ll find yourself asking the question- But why are they doing this to each other when there is so much love? The answer probably lies in the cliched adage “ A true friend knows you better than you know yourself.” And therein lies the problem and the solution.
I don’t really want to talk about the story in depth because that’s not the purpose. My fascination is with this product of a collaboration between two people- writer and translator,each unique individuals with their own creative compositions who take a story and bring it to life with different sets of words in their own languages. Look at the multitude of processes that take place. First, Elena builds a story, giving life to a city and its characters, weaving multiple themes with tactful ease that provide just enough depth without burdening the reader. Then she presents this to Ann, who has to take it all in, in its entirety first, and then dissect each chapter, paragraph, sentence, word; and then re-construct with caution to emanate the emotion and intention of the author. How does she maintain the balance between restraining the reflex of her own voice eager to gush and make its way into the words & maintaining a mechanical stance of pure language conversion? How much humility must these women have to recognize each other’s art in the final product, even if they are at differing proportions?
It’s really all so incredible to me. And I’m pretty sure that the remaining two and a half books of this series will be swiftly devoured in the span of a week, even if it means having to sit on the pot locked away from the pesky kid and daddy, not so much for the curiosity in the outcome of the story, but to permit myself to be completely seized by the outcome of infusion of two marvelous story-tellers.