Have you found it hard to read with a pandemic grabbing your attention at all times? I have. But in Elena Ferrante’s Incidental Inventions I have found a wonderful solution. Firstly, this is a beautiful book as an object. From the silky cover to the high quality paper pages and the gorgeous illustrations by Andrea Ucini, this is a book that appeals to the senses of touch and sight, as well as the mind. So every time you pick it up to read it gives you pleasure. Ferrante is the author of the Neapolitan Quartet with the first two books, My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name, adapted for a HBO series.
Incidental Inventions is the collection of 52 weekly entries for a column Ferrante wrote for The Guardian. Each is only two pages long which makes it ideal for when you are in an attention deficit moment of time. Dipping into these columns is a delight. Ferrante writes with such candour that we get to know more about her, this sometimes illusive Italian writer who does not like public speaking or face-to-face interviews. And yes, she writes a column about that too. I am totally rethinking my use of exclamation marks after reading of her view that the words create their own exclamation point so why do we need the extra emphasis. See what I did there – totally resisted putting an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence.
‘How much exclaiming the phony innovators of political communication engage in, the blowhards of power, young and old who tweet nonstop every day’
So I will be resisting phony exclaiming from now on.
Ferrante writes about Italian politics, history, philosophy, the art of writing, loneliness and marriage, and we, as readers, go with her where she takes us. Each piece is beautifully written, sometimes unsettling in its honesty and challenged me to think about our times, our relationships, and for me, the way and the what that I read. Each entry has something that fascinates, resonates or reveals and that is why, as a collection, this book of weekly columns is a delight. Ferrante does explore in her novels the concept of success and failure, through a lens of inequality – how some are excluded from success, not because of their ability, but because of where they were born or the family they were born into, and her column on Winners and Losers reveals her views so clearly and concisely.
Ferrante does only write in Italian, so the translation is important and Ann Goldstein has done this beautifully as the writing is as compelling in English as I am sure it is in the Italian. This is a book that you will re-read, that will have passages that will stay with you and will delight. And when you come to the last column The Last Time you will feel like you are saying goodbye to a new friend. Totally recommend that you get your hands on this book and dive right in.
Jane Cowell, CEO Yarra Plenty Regional Library