Book review: Days of abandonment (Elena Ferrante): A journey to the inner self

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For me, Elena Ferrante was the revelation of 2020, her Neapolitan tetralogy ,enchanting my pandemic days and nights. When I said „Farewell” to Lila and Lenu, the two heroines of the tetralogy, I decided to read everything the author had written. Thus, at the beginning of 2021, I re-entered the Ferrante’s universe, through her “Days of Abandonment”.

About the author   

Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of a well-known Italian writer, whose identity has caused much controversy over time. Italian journalist Claudio Gatti, following a diligent investigation, claimed that it is Rome-based translator Anita Raja who published behind that pseudonym. I will not dwell on this fact, however, as I find it to be an impermissible intrusion into the life of this great Creator, to whom we owe the respect for privacy. And wouldn’t it be a crime to disrupt this intimate universe? As for the assumption made by the University of Padua team (students, IT specialists, psychologists and linguists), that the author is a man, I will censor my feminist impulses, limiting myself to quoting Elena’s answer: the questions about the gender are rooted in a presumed “weakness” of female writers.

About the book

Do not sit comfortably in the armchair as you start the book. Because, no matter how comfortable you are, “Days of Abandonment” snatches you from the first line – “One day in April, right after lunch, my husband told me that he wanted to leave me.” – to bring you back to the immediate reality only after you have gone through all the emotional purgatory that follows the abandonment.

And no, it’s not about Olga’s being abandoned by her husband, it’s about the self- abandonment that she wasn’t aware of, till now. The reader quickly understands that neither the return of the husband, nor the two children, nor Otto, the wolfdog of the family, could fill the void of this self-abandonment. But how long will it take until Olga has the epiphany that the harmony with herself is the right and only way to regain balance?

In order to be able to recompose herself, she must first decompose completely: to fight with contradictory feelings, with maternal obligations, to dissect her childhood marked by the relationship with an excessively critical mother, to face social prejudice and to put the relationship with her husband under a painful but necessary magnifying glass. And Ferrante has this ability of implanting the reader so deep into Olga’s mind that nothing she says or does seems unjustifiable, even though the language is extremely vulgar and her actions are really crazy.

The author does not neglect the way the drama has reverberations for the children and for Mario, Olga’s husband – a character so present, despite absence. As for the triggers that pushed him to the decision of leaving his family, I will let the reader alone to unravel the mystery, in my attempt of preserving the joy and the surprise of reading intact.

Still, it wouldn’t be a complete picture if I didn’t emphasize the ingenuity of Ferrante’s surreal game: I must mention here the dark character from the heroine’s childhood, with whom she identifies and the symbolic destiny of Otto, the wolfdog.

Elenà Ferrantè, a’ mia brillànt scrittrìc si tu! (in Neapolitan dialect – „Elena Ferrante, my brilliant writer is you!”).


Read more book reviews in Romanian by the author on this Facebook page.

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