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I margini e il dettato

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Questo libro accoglie quattro testi di Elena Ferrante sulla altrui e sulla propria “avventura dello scrivere”: tre lezioni magistrali destinate alla cittadinanza di Bologna in occasione delle Umberto Eco Lectures che si terranno a partire dal 17 novembre 2021, e un saggio composto per la chiusura del convegno degli italianisti su Dante e altri classici. Da queste sedi alte Questo libro accoglie quattro testi di Elena Ferrante sulla altrui e sulla propria “avventura dello scrivere”: tre lezioni magistrali destinate alla cittadinanza di Bologna in occasione delle Umberto Eco Lectures che si terranno a partire dal 17 novembre 2021, e un saggio composto per la chiusura del convegno degli italianisti su Dante e altri classici. Da queste sedi alte della cultura, la scrittrice ci chiama a raccolta contro “la lingua cattiva”, storicamente estranea alle verità delle donne, e propone una fusione corale dei talenti femminili. “Non un rigo va perso nel vento”.


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Questo libro accoglie quattro testi di Elena Ferrante sulla altrui e sulla propria “avventura dello scrivere”: tre lezioni magistrali destinate alla cittadinanza di Bologna in occasione delle Umberto Eco Lectures che si terranno a partire dal 17 novembre 2021, e un saggio composto per la chiusura del convegno degli italianisti su Dante e altri classici. Da queste sedi alte Questo libro accoglie quattro testi di Elena Ferrante sulla altrui e sulla propria “avventura dello scrivere”: tre lezioni magistrali destinate alla cittadinanza di Bologna in occasione delle Umberto Eco Lectures che si terranno a partire dal 17 novembre 2021, e un saggio composto per la chiusura del convegno degli italianisti su Dante e altri classici. Da queste sedi alte della cultura, la scrittrice ci chiama a raccolta contro “la lingua cattiva”, storicamente estranea alle verità delle donne, e propone una fusione corale dei talenti femminili. “Non un rigo va perso nel vento”.

30 review for I margini e il dettato

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    “In The Margins”…. …..”On The Pleasures of Reading and Writing”….is only 74 pages long. The Four essays are: ….Pain and Pen ….Aquamarine ….Histories ….Dante’s Rib Elena tells us that she was often distracted when she wrote. “But I was easily distracted when I wrote, and while I almost always respected the margin on the left, I often ended up outside the one on the right, whether to finish the word or because I had reached a point where it was difficult to divide the word into syllables and start a “In The Margins”…. …..”On The Pleasures of Reading and Writing”….is only 74 pages long. The Four essays are: ….Pain and Pen ….Aquamarine ….Histories ….Dante’s Rib Elena tells us that she was often distracted when she wrote. “But I was easily distracted when I wrote, and while I almost always respected the margin on the left, I often ended up outside the one on the right, whether to finish the word or because I had reached a point where it was difficult to divide the word into syllables and start a new line without going outside the margin. I was punished so often that the sense of the boundary became part of me, and when I write by hand I feel the threat of the vertical red line even though I haven’t used paper like that for years”. She has us look at the Italian writer, Italo Svevo, (who had impressed her since she was a young girl), from his book: ‘Zeno’s Conscience’, [The protagonist is Zeno Cosini], showing us that the Svevo starts the story at the very moment when he is preparing to carry out his task. She includes an excerpt from the book — and was convinced the protagonist in Svevo’s novel, Zeno Cosini, had problems just like she did only he knew more about them. (note, I listened to a sample of ‘Zeno’s Conscience’… I liked what I sampled). Then…. Elena goes on to interpret the writing of the excerpt. I won’t include it here - ha…. leaving it for ‘you’. 🙂✍️📕 Elena tells us that things became complicated when she wrote. She read a lot, but what she liked was almost always written by men, not women…… until she hit adolescence. She goes on to explain her reasons—even confessing imagining becoming a male yet at the same time remaining female. Elena was worried that she would never be able to write books like those of the great writers. Ha! I don’t think she needs to worry about this today! Elena mentions another book, that made a great impression on her: “Rime” by Gaspara Stampa (considered one of the greatest Italian poets)… “I couldn’t write like a woman except by violating what I was diligently trying to learn from the male tradition”. “From then on for decades, I wrote and wrote, locked in that circle. I would start from something that seemed urgent, absolutely mine, and go on for days, weeks, sometimes months”. “When I finished a story, I was pleased, having the impression that it had come out perfectly; and yet I thought that it wasn’t I who had written it—that is, not the excited I, ready for anything, who was called to write, and who during the entire draft had seemed to be hidden in the words—but another I, who, tightly disciplined, had found convenient pathways solely in order to see: look, see what fine sentences I’ve written, what beautiful images, the story is finished, praise me”. Praise wasn’t ultimately satisfying— Elena said she often used passages from Virginia Wolf‘s “A Writer’s Diary” I like this passage myself by Virginia Woolf: “It is a mistake she thinks that literature can be produced from the raw. One must get out of life—yes, that’s why I disliked so much of irruption of Sydney—one must become externalised; very, very concentrated, all at one point, not having to draw upon the scattered parts of one’s character, living in the brain. Sydney comes and I’m Virginia; when I write I am merely a sensibility. Sometimes I like being Virginia, but only when I’m scattered and various and gregarious. Now . . . I’d like to be only sensibility”. “Woolf’s idea seems clear: writing is camping out in her own brain, without getting lost in the very numerous, varied, inferior, modalities with which every day, as Virginia, she lives a raw life. It seemed to me, when I was young, that she was saying:?oh yes, I like being Virginia, but the ‘I’ who writes seriously is twenty people, a hypersensitive plurality all concentrated in the hand provided with the pen”. She mentions other authors and books that have influence her: ….The Unnameable, by Samuel Beckett. ….Jacques the Fatalist”, and His Master by Denis Diderot. …..The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein …..Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky ….Homer ….Alighieri Dante etc.. And a few of her own books: ….The Days of Abandonment ….The Lost Daughter ….Troubling Love ….My Brilliant Friend and the Neapolitan novels ….The Lying Life of Adults …..**I enjoyed reading about her two most famous protagonists: Elena and Lila. (the ways they absorbed each other). “In The Margins” are thoughts, sharing, feelings, — about writing— [two different types of writing: diligent writing, and writing that goes beyond the boundaries], about being a writer — about techniques and pleasures. She tells us about the topics that are included in her novels: Love, betrayal, dangerous investigations, horrific discoveries, corrupted youth, miserable lives that have a stroke of luck…… “But really I am waiting for my brain to get distracted, to slip up, for other I’s — many — outside the margins to join together, take my hand, begin to pull me with the writing where I’m afraid to go, where it hurts me to go, where, if I go too far, I won’t necessarily know how to get back. It’s the moment when the rules—learned, applied—give way and the hand pulls out of the bran pie not what is useful but, precisely, whatever comes, faster and faster, throwing me off balance”. “Beautiful writing becomes beautiful when it loses its harmony and has the desperate power of the ugly”. I don’t have aspirations on becoming a writer, but I enjoy what writers have to say about writing. I also love reading about other books and authors who inspired them ….. Besides…. I like Elena Ferrante.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    A masterclass in writing from one of the 21st century's most skilled wordsmiths. Across three lectures and one additional essay, Ferrante contemplates about the writing process, the birth of her writing style and motivation from youth through her early novels and into her later masterpieces, particularly The Neapolitan Novels. I don't have a proper review of this except to say that if you are a big Ferrante fan this is a great addition to her oeuvre. You get a lot more about her personal views on A masterclass in writing from one of the 21st century's most skilled wordsmiths. Across three lectures and one additional essay, Ferrante contemplates about the writing process, the birth of her writing style and motivation from youth through her early novels and into her later masterpieces, particularly The Neapolitan Novels. I don't have a proper review of this except to say that if you are a big Ferrante fan this is a great addition to her oeuvre. You get a lot more about her personal views on writing and how she has evolved and grown as a writer herself. It's definitely dense material. It would reward a re-read, for sure, and I can see myself returning to these lectures & essays in the future. I wouldn't recommend this unless you've read her fiction because you will get much more out of it, understanding the references to her various novels (particularly her first 3 standalones and the quartet). But if you do pick it up, enjoy getting to go behind the curtain with Ferrante and contemplate what it means to write beyond the margins.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I believe that the sense I have of writing — and all the struggles it involves — has to do with the satisfaction of staying beautifully within the margins and, at the same time, with the impression of loss, of waste, because of that success. In an opening Editor’s Note, it is explained that Elena Ferrante had been invited to give a series of three lectures on writing, open to the public, at the University of Bologna. Pandemic-related restrictions ultimately prevented her from giving the lectu I believe that the sense I have of writing — and all the struggles it involves — has to do with the satisfaction of staying beautifully within the margins and, at the same time, with the impression of loss, of waste, because of that success. In an opening Editor’s Note, it is explained that Elena Ferrante had been invited to give a series of three lectures on writing, open to the public, at the University of Bologna. Pandemic-related restrictions ultimately prevented her from giving the lectures in person, but an actress delivered them in her stead and those lectures (plus a fourth essay written for a conference on Dante and Other Classics) are compiled here in In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing. I do find it fascinating to learn of writers’ processes — and especially when I’ve read widely and pleasurably of an author — and Ferrante took this assignment seriously; the result is scholarly, thoughtful, and eye-opening. No wonder I find Ferrante’s fiction so engaging: it is a reflection of her lifetime of close reading, deep thinking, and hard won craftsmanship. Probably most suited for fans of her novels, this certainly worked for me. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) The lectures: Pain and Pen A sort of vicious circle established itself clearly in my mind: if I wanted to believe that I was a good writer, I had to write like a man, staying strictly within the male tradition; although a woman, I couldn’t write like a woman except by violating what I was diligently trying to learn from the male tradition. Ferrante was a literary child — a constant reader and praised writer of small fictions — and she was precocious enough to recognise early in life that there are rules to fiction; structures that both support and limit a writer (like the ruled lines and margins in a school notebook). In this lecture, Ferrante describes the conflict these rules created for her budding voice and she shares some of the writings that encouraged and influenced her: Italo Svevo’s Zeno’s Conscience (“My thinking seems something separate from me”), Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary (“I put in my hand and rummage in the bran pie”), Gaspara Stampa’s poem Rime (from the POV of “a lowly, abject woman”) and Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable (“I’m in words, made of words”). Aquamarine I thought: everything that randomly kindles the start of a story is there outside and hits us, we collide, it confuses us, gets confused. Inside — inside us — is only the fragile machinery of our body. What we call “inner life” is a permanent flashing in the brain that wants to take shape as voice, as writing. So I looked around, waiting, for me at the time writing had, essentially, eyes: the trembling of a yellow leaf, the shiny parts of the coffee maker, my mother’s ring with the aquamarine that gave off a sky-blue light, my sisters fighting in the courtyard, the enormous ears of the bald man in the blue smock. I wanted to be a mirror. I assembled fragments according to a before and an after, I set one inside the other, a story came out. It happened naturally, and I did it constantly. A teacher once quoted from Denis Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist and His Master as a piece of advice for the young Ferrante: Tell the thing as it is. This was advice that the young writer found paralyzing — understanding that she can only describe things as they are filtered through her own consciousness — and ultimately, Ferrante says of the main characters in her first three novels (Troubling Love, Days of Abandonment, and The Lost Daughter), “I am, I would say, their autobiography as they are mine.” Ferrante then notes some readings that showed her new ways of looking at fiction (Adriana Cavarero’s Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood and Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas) and these were the springboard to a new narrative voice (examining characters through “a necessary other”) that she would go on to use in My Brilliant Friend. Histories, I A woman who wants to write has unavoidably to deal not only with the entire literary patrimony she’s been brought up on and in virtue of which she wants to and can express herself but with the fact that that patrimony is essentially male and by its nature doesn’t provide true female sentences. Quoting from poets Emily Dickinson (“Witchcraft was hung, in History”), María Guerra (“I lost a poem”), and Ingeborg Bachmann (“We have to work hard with the bad language that we have inherited”), Ferrante makes the case that if the words we write are influenced by everything we’ve ever read (those words that set the margins of what is acceptable and possible), then women writers have the disadvantage of having not seen enough of their own language in print. Ferrante struggled with finding her own female voice — went back and forth between writing in dialect and formal Italian for her Neapolitan Novels, looking for that voice — and ultimately found it in the interplay between the characters Lila and Lenù; between what they write about each other, as women. Dante’s Rib If I had to name what really struck me as a teen-ager — and not so much as a student but as a fledgling reader and aspiring writer — I would start with the discovery that Dante describes the act of writing obsessively, literally and figuratively, constantly presenting its power and its inadequacy, and the provisional nature. Although there are a couple of references to modern writers who have critiqued Dante’s Commedia, this lecture is essentially about Ferrante’s love of Dante’s writing, and especially his treatment of Beatrice over the course of the epic. Beatrice goes from a mute paragon of girlish beauty to “a woman who has an understanding of God and speculative language, modeling her — I like to think — in the likeness of such figures as Mechtild of Magdeburg, Hildegarde of Bingen, Juliana of Norwich, Marguerite Porete, and Angela da Foligna, magistra theologorum. He does it naturally by bestowing on a female figure scientific, theological, mystical knowledge that is his, that he gets from his studies, from his rib. But in doing this — in that inleiarsi, so to speak, entering into, becoming her —he ventures to imagine, with his mystic-leaning rationalism, with his visionary realism, what is possible for women.” And so, it would seem, there are feminine role models in the patrimony (even if they were written by men) if one knows where to look for them. Overall, I think these lectures would have had more impact in person — they read like speeches more than essays — but I was fascinated to learn how deeply Ferrante has struggled to find and shape her voice. I’m definitely pleased to have added this collection to what makes up my own sensibilities.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This new Ferrante is nonfiction based on her evolution as a writer. On being a female author, on her inspirations, on her limits and so on. Deeply inspiring and glad to have started the year with this small gem that will have a great impact on me, the more time will pass.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Sometimes I wonder if working—whether as an academic, or even as a literary critic—on Ferrante might be both a blessing and a curse? On the one hand, what a treasure trove of literary, historical, philosophical, and feminist references we find in her essays. It makes reading her and analyzing her work even more rewarding: there's always another hidden reference to discover, another source you had not considered. In this particular collection, I squealed when she mentioned Cavarero's Tu che mi gu Sometimes I wonder if working—whether as an academic, or even as a literary critic—on Ferrante might be both a blessing and a curse? On the one hand, what a treasure trove of literary, historical, philosophical, and feminist references we find in her essays. It makes reading her and analyzing her work even more rewarding: there's always another hidden reference to discover, another source you had not considered. In this particular collection, I squealed when she mentioned Cavarero's Tu che mi guardi, tu che mi racconti: Filosofia della narrazione and especially the essay on Amalia and Emilia which several scholars had theorized might have been the original source for Lila and Elena's relationship. I also found it so riveting that she referenced the relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, it definitely confirmed certain theories in my mind with regards to Ferrante's relationship to writing, but also certain dynamics in the relationship between Lila and Elena. But at the same time, it can be a bit frustrating to be working on someone who is so much smarter than you; an author who is her own best critic. I think what allows Ferrante this power, the power to be her own best critic, is also the fact that Ferrante is an invention. Not to get too meta here, but I sometimes do wonder (and do get a bit frustrated): how much of this is the author behind Ferrante, how much does this person believe what she is writing, how much of what Ferrante writes here (not just the autobiographical details which I have chosen to completely ignore as "true") but rather the philosophy that she espouses, how much of that is true? Does the "real" Ferrante really love Stein and Cavarero and Muraro? Or is she merely using them because that's what an author like Ferrante is supposed to read and be inspired by? Isabelle Pinto, in her fantastic work on Ferrante and subjectivity, Elena Ferrante: Poetiche e politiche della soggettività, has said that Ferrante's works are a "fantasy of autofiction". So when we are reading these essays, are we reading an incredibly meta, high-minded work of fiction after all? Does any of this even matter? I guess in an essay collection that is all about literary truth and inspiration, about the "scribbling vein," about coming to terms with the polyphonic nature of every artistic endeavor, it maybe doesn't. But it's nice to be given the opportunity to ponder these questions. There is truly no one like Ferrante. Not simply as a fiction writer, but as a once in a generation thinker.

  6. 5 out of 5

    andreea.

    At this point, Elena Ferrante could do no wrong. This is a series of speeches delivered on the craft of writing and I especially loved the glimpses into her feminine writing and her female characters. "I'd like to take a small example that I found in my notes of long ago: the aquamarine on my mother's finger. It was a real, very real, object, and yet there was nothing more variable in my mind. It shifted between dialect and Italian, in space and time, along with her figure, which was sometimes c At this point, Elena Ferrante could do no wrong. This is a series of speeches delivered on the craft of writing and I especially loved the glimpses into her feminine writing and her female characters. "I'd like to take a small example that I found in my notes of long ago: the aquamarine on my mother's finger. It was a real, very real, object, and yet there was nothing more variable in my mind. It shifted between dialect and Italian, in space and time, along with her figure, which was sometimes clear, sometimes murky, and always accompanied by my loving or hostile feelings. The aquamarine was changeable, part of a changing reality, a changing me. Even if I could isolate it in a description-- how much I practiced descriptions!-- and gave it a "sky-blue light," in that formulation alone the stone lost its substance. became an emotion of mine, a thought, a feeling of pleasure or distress, and turned opaque, as if it had fallen in water or I myself had breathed on it." [Arc provided via Netgalley.]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Elena Ferrante could write a long-form essay about making toast for breakfast, and I would want to read it. Just a heads up, though: even though the essays in In The Margins were ostensibly written for a generalist audience, Ferrante’s language, expression, and references still feel quite advanced and academic. It isn’t a TED talk. This collection takes concentration, and probably a couple of re-reads. Read my full review of Keeping Up With The Penguins. Elena Ferrante could write a long-form essay about making toast for breakfast, and I would want to read it. Just a heads up, though: even though the essays in In The Margins were ostensibly written for a generalist audience, Ferrante’s language, expression, and references still feel quite advanced and academic. It isn’t a TED talk. This collection takes concentration, and probably a couple of re-reads. Read my full review of Keeping Up With The Penguins.

  8. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Delightful. Elena Ferrante’s thought process, critical examination of her past, education and influences expose the reader to so much Italian history while simultaneously reflecting on life explored, women’s lives and writing explored, and how it is captured and shared through the pen. I enjoyed this even tho sometimes I felt like it was a bit too put upon and a little high brow for me. I love that I got a few influential Italian novels to add to my read list. I’ve always wanted to read The Divi Delightful. Elena Ferrante’s thought process, critical examination of her past, education and influences expose the reader to so much Italian history while simultaneously reflecting on life explored, women’s lives and writing explored, and how it is captured and shared through the pen. I enjoyed this even tho sometimes I felt like it was a bit too put upon and a little high brow for me. I love that I got a few influential Italian novels to add to my read list. I’ve always wanted to read The Divine Comedy one day. 🎭 Insightful moments: “At the time I also considered myself a lowly, abject woman. I was afraid, as I said, that it was precisely my female nature that kept me from bringing the pen as close as possible to the pain I wanted to express. For a woman who has something to say, does it really take a miracle—I said to myself—to dissolve the margins within which nature has enclosed her and show herself in her own words to the world?” - 17% “Anyone who has literary ambitions knows that the motivations, both great and small, that impel the hand to write come from “real life”: the yearning to describe the pain of love, the pain of living, the anguish of death; the need to straighten the world that is all crooked; the search for a new morality that will reshape us; the urgency to give voice to the humble, to strip away power and its atrocities; the need to prophesy disasters but also to design happy worlds to come from there.” - 55% “Writing is seizing everything that has already been written and gradually learning to spend that enormous fortune. We mustn’t let ourselves be flattered by those who say: here’s someone who has a tonality of her own. Everything, in writing, has a long history behind it. Even my uprising, my spilling over the margins, my yearning is part of an eruption that came before me and goes beyond me. Thus when I talk about my “I” who writes, I should immediately add that I’m talking about my “I” who has read (even when it’s a question of distracted reading, the trickiest kind of reading). And I should emphasize that every book read carries within itself a host of other writings that, consciously or inadvertently, I’ve taken in. ” - 60% Excerpts From In the Margins Elena Ferrante This material may be protected by copyright.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    In an article written by Jhumpa Lahiri about Calvino (which a coincidentally I read just as I was writing this review) she quotes him as saying that Italian writers "always have a problem with their own language (and they live) in a state of linguistic neurosis". That is certainly true of Ferrante as revealed in this book of four essays. It does make me wonder if it is true of all writers or at least authors who are translated. Elena Ferrante describes the history and development of her writing a In an article written by Jhumpa Lahiri about Calvino (which a coincidentally I read just as I was writing this review) she quotes him as saying that Italian writers "always have a problem with their own language (and they live) in a state of linguistic neurosis". That is certainly true of Ferrante as revealed in this book of four essays. It does make me wonder if it is true of all writers or at least authors who are translated. Elena Ferrante describes the history and development of her writing and the frustrations and triumphs encountered. There are two necessary types of writing: that which is "in the margins" and that which is outside - the traditional and the unconfined, the rules and reality and the wilder and freer. The latter allowing for contradictions and the unexpected. She believes writing is a balancing act between the two, and "beautiful writing is at its best when it loses harmony". We are the sum of all we have seen, read, experienced, and it is all swirling around in our heads. Quoting from the work of Svevo, Cavarero, Woolf, Stein, Dante and others, support for the difficulty of pulling these collective voices from our brains to the page is given. "Something asks to become evident by the hand that writes", says Svevo, but according to Ferrante, it often "eludes the grasp and is lost". Woolf calls it "camping out in her own brain". Ferrante shares her frustration as a teenager, desperate to find her writing voice but having mostly male authors to draw from. If a female writer wants to express what is real and true, she needs to have the collective work of women writers, her own voice, and that of her female characters, "the autobiographical and the biographical superimposed upon one another" as Cavarero says. Ferrante believes Stein successfully does this in her Autobiography of Alice B Toklas". The author and the character learn from each other, much like the characters in The Neapolitan Novels and other E.F. books. We need that voice, both the insignificant and the brilliant. We cannot depend solely on the beauty or truth as described by men. This was an enlightening read, one that should be reread and reread and only in short doses. There was so much to think about. It will keep me thinking every time I read or pick up a pen.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    (4.5) Four excellent, candid essays on writing. The first two in particular -- 'Pain and Pen' and 'Aquamarine' -- are essential. 'For me true writing is that: not an elegant, studied gesture but a convulsive act.' 'Characters? I become passionate about them when they say one thing and do the opposite.' 'What we call "inner life" is a permanent flashing in the brain that wants to take shape as voice, as writing.' (4.5) Four excellent, candid essays on writing. The first two in particular -- 'Pain and Pen' and 'Aquamarine' -- are essential. 'For me true writing is that: not an elegant, studied gesture but a convulsive act.' 'Characters? I become passionate about them when they say one thing and do the opposite.' 'What we call "inner life" is a permanent flashing in the brain that wants to take shape as voice, as writing.'

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Hobson

    I do not confess to be an expert, or a particular fan, of the mysterious Elena Ferrante. I have ventured into one of her four Neapolitan novels. It may have sold over forty million copies, but it is not to everyone’s taste. What does interest me is when writers talk about their inspirations and what they have learnt from other writers. We all have different opinions and reactions to books or works of art and I love to hear what others saw which I may have missed. This short book is a collection o I do not confess to be an expert, or a particular fan, of the mysterious Elena Ferrante. I have ventured into one of her four Neapolitan novels. It may have sold over forty million copies, but it is not to everyone’s taste. What does interest me is when writers talk about their inspirations and what they have learnt from other writers. We all have different opinions and reactions to books or works of art and I love to hear what others saw which I may have missed. This short book is a collection of four essays. Ferrante was due to deliver the Umberto Eco lectures at the University of Bologna on three successive days. They were open to the entire city, but the pandemic prevented them being performed. Instead they have been collected in this book and a fourth essay added. While the subtitle ‘On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing’ suggests a gentle meander through some good books, the reality is rather more intense. This is probably not a book for avid Ferrante fans, but more for those who are interested in writing and literature. The first essay, Pain and Pen, begins with a fascinating memory of writing paper given to school children. Vertical lines at either side of the page contain the writing and get closer to the edge of the page as the child ages. Ferrante develops her thinking about being a woman writer. Allow me to quote that train of thought: At this point – I was around twenty, I think – a sort of vicious circle established itself clearly in my mind: if I wanted to believe that I was a good writer, I had to write like a man, staying strictly within the male tradition; although I was a woman, I couldn’t write like a woman except by violating what I was diligently trying to learn from the male tradition. From then on, for decades, I wrote and wrote, locked in that circle. She talks about Virginia Woolf, who saw writing as camping out in her own brain, without getting lost in the numerous interruptions of everyday life, and Ferrante develops this idea when looking at her own way of working: My work, in fact, is founded on patience. I start from writing that is planted firmly in tradition, and wait for something to erupt and throw the papers into disarray, for the lowly, abject woman I am to find a means of having her say. I adopt old techniques with pleasure; I’ve spent my life learning how and when to use them. In the Second essay, Aquamarine, Ferrante starts with a rule she developed for herself at the age of sixteen or seventeen: The writer – I wrote in a notebook I still have – has a duty to put into words the shoves he gives and those he receives from others. She talks at length about the aquamarine ring her mother wore and how she tried, unsuccessfully, to describe it in her writing, until it evolved into the Neapolitan mother and her dialectal voices that she was constructing in her head. Ferrante frequently refers to the book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein and how she failed to understand it on the first reading. How Stein writes her own life story, making it told by another; by Alice, her friend, partner and lover. Both autobiography and biography superimposed on one another. It allowed Stein the ability to call herself a genius, through the mouth of Alice, and set herself alongside the only others she recognised, Picasso and the philosopher Alfred Whitehead. Ferrante returns to the topic in her next essay, Histories, I, saying: …if Gertrude Stein were continuing to apply the old form, she would have to present as true the invented autobiography of some character of her creation. Instead the form receives a blow that deforms it. Gertrude Stein, a real person, calls herself the author -author- of an autobiography written by Alice Toklas, a person not invented but real, in which the autobiographical “I” talks largely not about herself but about someone else, that is Gertrude Stein, a brilliant real person. …she treats the “I” that is writing about itself – Alice B. Toklas, the source of the biographical truth – as a fiction, as a woman whose “life and opinions” must be written about in the form of autobiography, as a Huckleberry Finn is written by the pen of Mark Twain. But, having done that, she inserts a dizzying, disruptive element of fiction, which comes from the true Alice. Toklas is the real typist of Stein’s texts, she helps correct the proofs. She is therefore – as she says in the text – the reader who knows Stein’s writing most thoroughly. And, indeed, in the fiction she continuously gives the impression she’s correcting, adding, clarifying, annotating, to the point where the fake autobiography seems like a text that the two women have in fact written, one beside the other, one dictating, the other at the typewriter, pausing, remembering, reflecting. There is plenty of gold to mine in these thoughts, when set alongside the Neapolitan novels and Ferrante’s own anonymity. She proceeds to give some thought-provoking advice We have to accept the fact that no word is truly ours. We have to give up the idea that writing miraculously releases a voice of our own, a tonality of our own: in my view that is a lazy way of talking about writing. Writing is, rather, entering an immense cemetery where every tomb is waiting to be profaned. Writing it getting comfortable with everything that has already been written – great literature and commercial literature, if useful, the novel-essay and the screenplay – and in turn becoming, within the limits of one’s own dizzying, crowded individuality, something written. Writing is seizing everything that has already been written and gradually learning to spend that enormous fortune. I enjoyed this little bit of reflection about the dynamic nature of cliché – that thing that all writers are striving to avoid, but not always succeeding: True sentences, good or epochal, always seek a path of their own within clichés. And clichés were once true sentences that dug a way out among clichés. In this chain of works great and small, in every link large or small, there is hard work and accidental illuminations, effort and luck. Ferrante goes on to reflect on the arduous journey of the writer. One of her struggles was with the use of Neapolitan dialect in her novels. She notes that as soon as dialectal vocabulary and syntax are written down they start to sound false. “Once written, besides, Neapolitan seem sterilized. It loses passion, loses effect, loses the sense of danger it often communicated to me. In my childhood and adolescence it was the language of course male vulgarity, the language of men calling to you on the street, or, contrarily the sugary-sweet language with which women were taken in.” The final short essay is called Dante’s Rib. It may not be to everyone’s taste or interest. Ferrante talks about what she took from reading Dante, and also Dante’s invention of Beatrice, ascribing her knowledge and learning which for many centuries we had failed to see in the female’s role in the Middle Ages. It feels a long way from the forty million sales of My Brilliant Friend but it is a fascinating insight into the author.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    “I write people, places, times, but in words that have been inspired in me by people, places, times, in a dizzying mixture of creators with created, of forms with forms. That is, this writing is the always random result of how Delia, Olga, and Leda are recorded in the registry office of fictions, and of how I, the author—a fiction forever incomplete, molded by years and years of reading and the desire to write—invent and disrupt the writing that has recorded then. I am, I would say, their autobi “I write people, places, times, but in words that have been inspired in me by people, places, times, in a dizzying mixture of creators with created, of forms with forms. That is, this writing is the always random result of how Delia, Olga, and Leda are recorded in the registry office of fictions, and of how I, the author—a fiction forever incomplete, molded by years and years of reading and the desire to write—invent and disrupt the writing that has recorded then. I am, I would say, their autobiography as they are mine.” For the lovers of books about books, the Neapolitan quartet, the blurred lines of autofiction, the way writing informs reading and vice versa, and Ferrante’s fans generally, I can’t recommend IN THE MARGINS enough. Out in March 2022 @europaeditions (early read via @netgalley)

  13. 5 out of 5

    nicole

    elena ferrante you are so smart and i love that you love women (from a very womanly perspective indeed)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Helen McClory

    One I will comb through many times, I think, looking for quotes to share with students. It's slender but full of scintillating gems of inspiration One I will comb through many times, I think, looking for quotes to share with students. It's slender but full of scintillating gems of inspiration

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    Technically a very good book… but not at all what I was looking for from Ferrante. I find it odd that her whole project went from “let the work speak for itself” to speeches and columns and writing best books lists. I find it a bit self-serving and frankly, to me, uninteresting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I’ve been in a reading slump lately :/ but Ferrante is my fave and always brings me back. This was a very intellectual one (I feel like a few of the concepts went over my head) but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Her mind! If Ferrante has 100 fans I’m one of them!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    “We have to accept the fact that no word is truly ours. We have to give up the idea that writing miraculously releases a voice of our own, a tonality of our own: in my view that is a lazy way of talking about writing. Writing is, rather, entering an immense cemetery where every tomb is waiting to be profaned. Writing is getting comfortable with everything that has already been written—great literature and commercial literature, if useful, the novel-essay and the screenplay—and in turn becoming, “We have to accept the fact that no word is truly ours. We have to give up the idea that writing miraculously releases a voice of our own, a tonality of our own: in my view that is a lazy way of talking about writing. Writing is, rather, entering an immense cemetery where every tomb is waiting to be profaned. Writing is getting comfortable with everything that has already been written—great literature and commercial literature, if useful, the novel-essay and the screenplay—and in turn becoming, within the limits of one’s own dizzying, crowded individuality, something written. Writing is seizing everything that has already been written and gradually learning to spend that enormous fortune. We mustn’t let ourselves be flattered by those who say: here’s someone who has a tonality of her own. Everything, in writing, has a long history behind it.” Ferrante on the genius of Ferrante. A tiny book for super-fans like myself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Advanced reading copy from Europa Editions. this is one of the most satisfying and revelatory 'writer on writing' works I've ever read, she's the kind of writer and thinker that's special to get to experience in the present and not just as a piece of literary history. Advanced reading copy from Europa Editions. this is one of the most satisfying and revelatory 'writer on writing' works I've ever read, she's the kind of writer and thinker that's special to get to experience in the present and not just as a piece of literary history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Regrettably in the minority opinion that "writer on writing" books are never as interesting as the writer themself thinks. I feel badly about this. Nevertheless, there were some knockout lines: "For me true writing is that: not an elegant, studied gesture but a convulsive act." - p.19 "We have to give up the idea that writing miraculously releases a voice of our own, a tonality of our own: in my view that is a lazy way of talking about writing. Writing is, rather, entering an immense cemetery whe Regrettably in the minority opinion that "writer on writing" books are never as interesting as the writer themself thinks. I feel badly about this. Nevertheless, there were some knockout lines: "For me true writing is that: not an elegant, studied gesture but a convulsive act." - p.19 "We have to give up the idea that writing miraculously releases a voice of our own, a tonality of our own: in my view that is a lazy way of talking about writing. Writing is, rather, entering an immense cemetery where every tomb is waiting to be profaned." - p. 40

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jess | Comfort Reads

    The more I read from Ferrante, the more I love her. This is the first of her non-fiction I've read and it's given me a better understanding of both her novels and her writing process. Ferrante is a favourite author of mine, so to have these four lectures all about the literature she's read and the process behind her writing was a real treat, and I gobbled it up in two sittings. Pain And Pen She begins at the beginning of her writing life. Probably in the same way most of us learn our letters, no m The more I read from Ferrante, the more I love her. This is the first of her non-fiction I've read and it's given me a better understanding of both her novels and her writing process. Ferrante is a favourite author of mine, so to have these four lectures all about the literature she's read and the process behind her writing was a real treat, and I gobbled it up in two sittings. Pain And Pen She begins at the beginning of her writing life. Probably in the same way most of us learn our letters, no matter the language we speak; with a little girl who she calls Cecelia practicing writing down her name. This struck a cord with me, because I don't have many memories of my early school years. But one distinct memory I have from my first year of Primary School was the day I decided I'd had enough of asking my teacher to write my name on my worksheet for me. So, I went home and did what Cecelia did. Practiced my name over and over until I'd memorised how the letters should go. I did it for a sense of accomplishment, but I also got my first taste of independence. No longer was I reliant on someone else. This was something I could do myself. That's the power language has. She goes on to say we're taught to write in a way that is both liberating and restrictive. We're taught to write between the magins of a page, we're taught there are rules to follow, a right way to write a narrative. More generally, I believe that the sense I have of writing-and all the struggles it involves-has to do with the satisfaction of staying beautifully within the margins, and, at the same time, with the impression of loss, of waste, because of that success She also uses this lecture to talk about the importance of role models, of seeing yourself in writing and writers. When she was younger she mainly read male authors, and this led her to think, because she was female, she would never achieve that greatness. Until she found Gaspara Sampa, a female Italian poet who taught Elena just what women are capable of. This made me quite emotional as I remembered how, in Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels, Lenu and Lila buy together Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think Ferrante must have chosen a book by a female author, with a female character who would become a writer, for this purpose. Because she knows from experience how important it is for young women to have these writers to look up to. Aquamarine I couldn't contain myself, I was going to spill out into the world, into the other, into others, and write about them. This lecture is all about her wish to write her reality, and the difficulties and doubts that come with that. But something she once read 'it's arduous to speak truthfully, but you do your best' made her persevere. Thank goodness she did! She also starts to generously talk about her published works and some of the process that went into writing them. My favourite part was when she detailed the beginnings of My Brilliant Friend, how she was inspired by another book she read to write a book about a female friendship. It began with two girls called Emilia and Amalia, who would become the inspiration for Lenu and Lila. Histories, I With greater or less ability we fabricate fictions not so that the false will seem true but to tell the most unspeakable truth with absolute faithfulness through the fiction. She delves even more into the books she's written and how they came to be. I found it so interesting to see what she almost did with these books, and there's so much I'm going to look out for when I next reread them. Dante's Rib Throughout a lot of these lectures she explores how writing is inspired by other writing. and in Dante's Rib, she concludes that all writing is an accumulation of everything the author has read. How all writers are inspired and influenced by stories, and that in some way inevitably reflects in their own words. And yes it was never a matter of a pure transcription or a deferential homage or a faithful work of translation. Dante, even when he was reading pagan verses or the Bible or philosophical, scientific, or mystical works, entered into others words so intimately that he was able to capture their secrets of meaning and beauty, and achieve through them a writing of his own Dante's Rib was basically Ferrante fangirling over Dante's works. I've never read anything of his myself, but the way she spoke about him, especially how he wrote his female character Beatrice, has got me very intrigued. In fact, Ferrante makes a lot of literary references, and I noted all of them down as I went along. I'm thinking this will become my Summer reading list (along with a reread of the Neapolitan Novels, of course). Books And Author's Mentioned In In The Margins Gaspata Sampa - Rime Italo Svevo - Zeno's Conscience Virginia Woolf - A Writer's Diary Samuel Beckett - The Unnamables Shakespeare - Macbeth Denis Diberot - Jaques The Fatalist Laurence Sterne - The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy Adriana Cavarero - Relating Narratives: Storytelling And Selfhood Sexual Difference - A Theory Of Social Symbolic Practice Gertrude Stein - The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Emily Dickinson Ernest Hemingway Mark Twain - Huckleberry Finn Dostoevsky - Notes From Underground Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe Ingeborg Bachmann - The I Who Writes Elsa Morante Natalia Ginzberg Anna Maria Ortese Jane Austen The Bronte Sisters Maria Guerra Dante Maria Corti Luisa Muraro Overall this is a very rewarding read for both writers, and readers of Ferrante's works. My Blog My Instagram

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ceyrone

    I find it fascinating to learn about what inspires writers, their creative process, how they write, the barriers that they face. It’s explained that the author, who I am a fan of, was invited to give a series of three lectures on writing, at the University of Bologna, that was open to the public. Covid happened, and with pandemic-related restrictions, this prevented her from giving the lectures in person, but an actress delivered them in her place and this book are those lectures. There is also I find it fascinating to learn about what inspires writers, their creative process, how they write, the barriers that they face. It’s explained that the author, who I am a fan of, was invited to give a series of three lectures on writing, at the University of Bologna, that was open to the public. Covid happened, and with pandemic-related restrictions, this prevented her from giving the lectures in person, but an actress delivered them in her place and this book are those lectures. There is also a fourth essay written for a conference on Dante and other classics. I am a huge fan of this author and I think it’s because of her lifetime of close reading, deep thinking and the drive to perfect her craftsmanship, that I find her work so engaging. This is suited for those who are a fan of Elena Ferrante’s work. ‘A sort of vicious circle established itself clearly in my mind: if I wanted to believe that I was a good writer, I had to write like a man, staying strictly within the male tradition; although a woman, I couldn’t write like a woman except by violating what I was diligently trying to learn from the male tradition.’

  22. 5 out of 5

    Upasana

    In the past few months, I've gone from a Ferrante ignomarus to fervant student of her entrancing prose. So when I saw this collection of essays about Ferrante's reading and writing life, I just had to read it! In this book Ferrante talks about inspiration and craft, about the influences behind the characters of her books, the tug-of-war between Truth and realism. She brings the same fierce energy here that is typical of her fiction, but let's you peek into her process of balancing that energy wit In the past few months, I've gone from a Ferrante ignomarus to fervant student of her entrancing prose. So when I saw this collection of essays about Ferrante's reading and writing life, I just had to read it! In this book Ferrante talks about inspiration and craft, about the influences behind the characters of her books, the tug-of-war between Truth and realism. She brings the same fierce energy here that is typical of her fiction, but let's you peek into her process of balancing that energy with the demands of form, the necessity of staying "within the margins" while trying to tame the "compulsive act" that writing is. She meditates upon the difficulty-nay, the impossibility- of putting that compulsive act onto paper. To quote: "literary work couldn't seriously force the whirlpool of debris that constituted the real into why grammatical or syntactical order"; and talks about the author-text relationship. ("<...>an author who, creating the writing of Delia, Olga, and Leda, creates herself"). As with her fiction, this collection has the hypnotic force that made me feel so emotionally invested in the writing that I didn't want to let go before reading the whole damn thing. (Thankfully for my bladder it's just over a hundred pages). I've highlighted so many lines that the whole book is bathed in fluorescent, and I've a feeling I'm going to read this again and again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Frederick

    4.5 Stars. Elena Ferrante is my favorite author, so I absolutely loved this lecture series. It was very interesting to hear what she is reading, where she draws inspiration from, and how she created these characters I have come to adore. This is a must read for any Ferrante fan.

  24. 5 out of 5

    sam

    "beautiful writing becomes beautiful when it loses its harmony and has the desperate power of ugly" ferrante's writing is captivating as always and this quote is a great explanation of what makes her writing so wonderful to me "beautiful writing becomes beautiful when it loses its harmony and has the desperate power of ugly" ferrante's writing is captivating as always and this quote is a great explanation of what makes her writing so wonderful to me

  25. 4 out of 5

    dana

    it seemed to me effective for the ornate lies of the great literary catalogue to show lumps and cracks, to bang against one another. i hoped that an unexpected truth would emerge, surprising me above all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kaya

    DNF 75% The last essay on Dante did me in...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jesika

    In this volume, Elena Ferrante reflects on her experiences of reading and writing. Or, as she may more accurately indicate, trying to write. It is interesting. In parts it is illuminating regarding the intersection of these two activities and the roles of the author and reader wining a work. In part though, it seems to me that this needs to be read as speaking to the authors experience only. I'm not sure if it's that I had a different education, focusing on different texts or that this is partiall In this volume, Elena Ferrante reflects on her experiences of reading and writing. Or, as she may more accurately indicate, trying to write. It is interesting. In parts it is illuminating regarding the intersection of these two activities and the roles of the author and reader wining a work. In part though, it seems to me that this needs to be read as speaking to the authors experience only. I'm not sure if it's that I had a different education, focusing on different texts or that this is partially also the truth of readers - we build a different life of reading to anyone else - but because I haven't read so many of the texts Ferrante references, I wi admit to having been a bit lost. I did, however, enjoy discussing the sections of this book with my friend of the the course of an evening and reflecting on how I have viewed "margins" in literature - Ferrante I'd mainly focused on where the margin exists, whether she is reading/writing within or over them. I have always been more interested in writing which brings characters and experiences that exist in marginalised areas of fiction onto the page proper and reading that consumes me to the point I feel the need to fill the margins with my thoughts, reflections and immediate epiphanies. Perhaps it is in this different focus on margins that I reveal myself firmly as a reader, often reading to learn or escape, and Ferrante defines herself firstly as a writer with an innate responsibility to depict and represent life on the page.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Ferrante’s writing displays a tangible power, an almost operatic intensity and energy all of its own, and this collection of 4 essays is as expressive and thought-provoking as one would have hoped. She writes – self-effacingly – of a journey of self-transformation to become a writer, of her passion, discipline and determination. We learn of her desire to break free from the ‘cage’ and release the maelstrom of ideas and influences rushing through her mind. We feel her frustrations at every turn as Ferrante’s writing displays a tangible power, an almost operatic intensity and energy all of its own, and this collection of 4 essays is as expressive and thought-provoking as one would have hoped. She writes – self-effacingly – of a journey of self-transformation to become a writer, of her passion, discipline and determination. We learn of her desire to break free from the ‘cage’ and release the maelstrom of ideas and influences rushing through her mind. We feel her frustrations at every turn as she tries to overcome writer’s block: “… the compass that had directed me had lost its needle.” Such literary greats as Dante, Woolf, Beckett and Stein provide guidance and inspiration throughout her life. There’s a lot of soul-searching. As a young female writer, she lacks self-belief and doubts her talent; she writes to a set of self-prescribed (harsh) rules and stays resolutely within the ‘margins’ - her boundaries. Yet stimulus arrives from no less a source than Dickinson, whose poem suggests resistance and that the key to writing beautifully yet stylistically lies all around. “But History and I Find all the Witchcraft that we need Around us, every Day – ” As Ferrante remarks: “… the pure and simple joining of the female “I” to History changes History.” My thanks to NetGalley and Europa Editions for granting this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Camila Russell

    Thank you Netgalley and Europa Editions for this arc. The book is a collection of essays designed for the Umberto Eco Lectures cycle, promoted by the University of Bologna, exploring the author’s journey through reading and writing. Elena Ferrante reveals herself in these kindhearted pages. She confesses that in her childhood she thought she would never write powerful books like those of great writers. In her essays, the author reflects on the different writing methods from which her novels are b Thank you Netgalley and Europa Editions for this arc. The book is a collection of essays designed for the Umberto Eco Lectures cycle, promoted by the University of Bologna, exploring the author’s journey through reading and writing. Elena Ferrante reveals herself in these kindhearted pages. She confesses that in her childhood she thought she would never write powerful books like those of great writers. In her essays, the author reflects on the different writing methods from which her novels are born. She also evokes multiple examples taken from other voices and authors that resonates in her books. According to Ferrante, “writing is getting comfortable with everything that has already been written“. She affirms that to talk about herself as a writer is imperative to talk about herself as a reader first, and also believes that only by writing is possible to try to make a difference. Ferrante concludes that literature written by women should seek its own truth and its space in history. In the Margins is an honest panorama on her life-long passion for literature and an examination on where she finds inspiration to write her books. It is a journey into the writer’s works. I recommend it to all Elena Ferrante’s fans and for those interested in the writing process.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I read this collection of essays to be a completist of her work but I prefer reading her fiction than her description of writing. I liked learning a little about her characters and inspiration for her novels but it wasn’t much depth to be special. It seemed to me that she wanted no one to doubt her gender. The first of the four essays is a feminist manifesto of sorts.

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