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Bust: "5 Reasons To Love Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels With All Your Feminist Heart"

Date: Sep 1 2015

The fourth and final of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, “The Story Of The Lost Child,” was released today, and it seems like everyone is catching “#FerranteFever.” Ferrante’s four-volume series follows the complicated friendship of two women, Elena and Lila, as they grow up in Naples, Italy in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

If you haven’t picked up the Neapolitan Novels yet, you should. Here are five reasons to love Elena Ferrante with all your feminist heart.

1. Elena and Lila’s relationship shows all the complexities of female friendship.

The Neapolitan Novels devote well over a thousand pages to the friendship between Elena and Lila, and it’s still not enough. Forget stereotypical “frenemies” or “BFFs” -- Elena and Lila’s relationship defies all categorization.

2. Ferrante thinks critically about feminism.

Asked if she considered herself a feminist in a recent email interview with Vanity Fair, Ferrante wrote almost 800 words on the significance of the “personal is political” slogan and referenced feminist writers including Judith Butler and Shulamith Firestone. Ferrante side-stepped the question of identification but wrote, “In short, I am a passionate reader of feminist thought.”

3. Ferrante gives her characters sexual agency.

Ferrante doesn’t shy away from depicting the Elena and Lila’s sexual coming-of-age, writing uneuphemistic descriptions of her characters’ first sexual encounters, experiences with sexual assault, sex within marriage and extramarital affairs.

4. Ferrante shows you the feminism of the 1960s.

Although Ferrante’s novels are centered around Elena and Lila’s friendship, they also show how drastically the world changed in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. We see the impact of the sexual revolution, the Pill and feminist academics on Elena and Lila’s lives.

5. Ferrante is anonymous — despite the literary world’s sexist reaction.

Ferrante insists on remaining anonymous and does little to promote her books. Of course, some critics have speculated that this means that she must be a man. We’ve seen this same sexist reaction to anonymous or simply private female writers from Jane Austen to Harper Lee.

“I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t,” Ferrante wrote in a letter to her editor in 1991. Obviously, Ferrante’s novels are have found plenty of readers — and have so much to say.

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