Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (Neapolitan Novels #3)
August 15, 2016 2:42 PM - by Elena Ferrante - Subscribe

In this third Neapolitan novel, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women are pushing against the barriers that would have them living a life of misery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.

Original title: Storia di chi fugge e di chi resta; fuggire is actually more fleeing than just leaving, to pick a nit.
In terms of the tempi that Ferrante gives each of the volumes, this one is Tempo di Mezzo, which tastes of purgatory, of undefined limbo. Of the four, this was the most difficult to write, Ferrante has said, though I can't seem to find the cite right now.
posted by progosk (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just finished it, and all I have to say is... I don't even know what to say. I'm wrung out and will have to take a break before plunging on to book 4. What a wild ride!
posted by languagehat at 3:55 PM on August 17, 2016

(I couldn't wait - when you do decide to launch into it, hold on to your, erm, hat!)
posted by progosk at 7:42 PM on August 17, 2016

This article by Valerie Popp at VIDA touches on something I've felt about the series; that in the U.S. the class aspect of the novels are downplayed.

Posted in this thread because it vaguely mentions things that could be spoilers through book 3.
posted by tofu_crouton at 3:16 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks, that was a good and interesting read. One thing pissed me off, though. Here's a paragraph with the first sentence omitted:
When I consider the importance of her work, my first thoughts aren’t about the subjects that seem to enthrall everyone else: violence, sex, love, motherhood, the contours of female friendship between narrator Lenu, who rises from poverty to become a celebrated novelist, and her beautiful, “brilliant friend” Lila, whose ambitions are stunted. Rather, what fascinates me about Ferrante’s novels is the verisimilitude with which she portrays the working-class woman writer’s life.
Sure, because that speaks to your working-class background; it's natural that that aspect would stand out to you, and that's what you like to think and write about! But here's the first sentence:
Yet, I can’t help but feel that the present frenzy over Ferrante is misguided.
And I can't help but respond: So any reaction that's not the same as yours is "misguided"? Other people aren't entitled to respond to the books in ways that speak to their backgrounds? Am I not entitled to love Ferrante because I'm a guy and I just can't understand the aspects that make women so excited (I didn't have the experience of girl frienemies when I was growing up, I never had to think about what dress to wear, etc.)? I'm bowled over by the depiction of what it's like to get exposed to the world of books and publishing when you didn't grow up with it, to feel like authors are some other species because you never knew anybody who wrote books, but I guess focusing on that aspect is misguided. Grr. I know I'm overreacting to a throwaway line and if I pointed it out to the author she'd probably say "You know, you're right, I shouldn't have said that, it's not what I meant," but it galls me because it's something that often pisses me off about MetaFilter: people say something is no good because they personally don't relate to it.

Whew! Now that I've gotten that off my chest: thanks, that was a good and interesting read!
posted by languagehat at 6:06 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

One thing that I really love about these books is that most women can find multiple facets of them to relate to. The socioeconomic mobility component of the plot is very very VERY important to me. I agree that these aspects have been downplayed but I think in part it's because a lot of People Who Read don't get it, and in part it's because a lot of People Who Read would rather not talk about it. It's much easier to come out and say "Wow, took me back to confusing teen friendships!!" than it is to say "Wow, took me back to that first engineering school event in college when I thought I was dressed 'business casual' until my friend took me aside to tell me I wasn't!!" It's a less universal experience but that's why it's so special to read it - I don't know a lot of people in real life I can talk to about that kind of stuff, and it's not something you exactly bring up in the workplace, is it?

And languagehat, I totally agree with you that having read the whole article, if we were to contact her and say "really, misguided?" she'd probably edit it. I don't think that's what she's trying to say in the rest of the piece. She feels other readers are missing a component of the book that was really key for her. I agree. But I'm sure there are things I missed because they didn't speak to me, too. I was a semi-closeted, often-confused queer teenager and not really interested in any kind of romantic rivalries over boys, so there was a lot that friends said they viscerally connected with that kind of floated past me.
posted by the marble index at 9:43 PM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

OK, I'm about 2/3 of the way through the fourth novel, and I'm going to post this here because I don't want to go to the relevant Fanfare post because SPOILERS, but I have to say, I don't think you can understand the series until you read the fourth one. It's like trying to understand Proust without reading Time Regained. Her overall scheme is just coming into view, and I'm bowled over. Can't wait to finish it and go to the fourth post (by which time I hope someone will have commented there!).
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

(I've just finished reading her Amore Molesto (Troubling Love) - it's not to be missed, for all kinds of insights/refractions with regards to this series...)
posted by progosk at 6:59 AM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks, my wife and I were just wondering what books of hers to follow up with. Any recommendations? (My wife in particular would probably not be up for anything too bleak/gritty/depressing.)
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on September 5, 2016

'Hat, I've seen Days of Abandonment described as portraying "a mind in a state of emergency," and wow, accurate. A difficult but resonant read.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:30 AM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the warning!
posted by languagehat at 8:47 AM on September 5, 2016

Troubling Love is, in its own way, quite empowering. And though it's more extro- than introspective, the setting is quite bleak (though somehow radiantly so).

Her children's book (The Beach at night) isn't out in translation yet...
posted by progosk at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2016

(Need to see Mario Martone's movie of Amore molesto now, myself.)
posted by progosk at 12:08 PM on September 5, 2016

Here very late but I just want to say that I have never wanted a narrator not to sleep with a man more than I wanted Elena not to sleep with Nino. I actually wrote "noooooooooooooooooooooo" in the margin. You are in your thirties, Elena! You have some experience with men now! You are too old to be falling into this trap!
posted by praemunire at 9:32 AM on August 30, 2018

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