We have a blockbuster Italian edition of #RivetingReviews this month, our first country focus edition. A year after I launched #RivetingReviews with my reading of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, I review Ferrante’s first three stand-alone novels, which I read last month in Italy itself, a country I know and love. Ironically, just before her exposure this month, I was marvelling at how Ferrante has become an invisible but omnipresent literary force. Also in Italy last month I attended the 20th Mantua Literature Festival, the famous Festivalletteratura. By odd coincidence, I shared a lift from Bologna to Mantua with Ferrante’s Italian publishers, Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola, supposedly the only people who knew her true identity. Skating elegantly round the elephant in the room (in the car!), we discussed the extraordinary success not only of their author but of their publishing house, Edizioni E/O (Europa Editions in the UK and USA). They care passionately about introducing great international literature to Italy. Later, as I wandered through Mantua’s sun-kissed piazzas, events taking place in every historic corner, I thought to myself, “any one of those of these women could be Ferrante”. It was rumoured that she sometimes turned up at the festival. And in a cavernous, glittering Renaissance church, the event ‘Dedicated To Ferrante’, was full to the rafters of Italians worshipping at her altar. It was exhilarating. Was she perhaps sitting next to me listening?
Elena Ferrante, the writer, has been stripped naked. We know her face. The exposure is upsetting. Her books speak for themselves and always will. So, this month, as a tiny tribute to Ferrante, we are not revealing the faces of any of our reviewers, as we usually do. We hope you read their reviews on their own merits, even when they are provocative. We have novels by Emanuele Trevi, Alessandro Baricco, Donatella Di Pietrantonio, Felice Benuzzi, Franco Nasi, Mario Giordano, and ofcourse, Elena Ferrante. Alongside the review of Bella Mia, we also have an essay from its UK publisher Calisi Press. Both the review and the essay are positively glowing and I hasten to add they were commissioned independently. No nepotism or censorship on my watch! With news of the latest Nobel Prize For Literature just in (Bob Dylan!) and of the death of the great Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo, who like many of Italy’s best writers has graced the cobbles and piazzas of Mantua Literature Festival, I’d like to dedicate this edition of #RivetingReviews to Dario Fo RIP.
In November we will be reviewing the highly-anticipated English translation of Ferrante’s essays Frantumaglia. If you’d like to come along to the free book launch #FerranteNightFever, you can book here. Next month we return to our general reviews format but in December, our Guest Editor Judith Vonberg is curating a German edition of #RivetingReviews. So get riveting!
By Rosie Goldsmith