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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

días del abandono

My Italian is getting good enough that I can read and not only guess at the plot of a novel, but actually follow it closely. I am reading a book by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, who is all the rage I guess. It is called the days of abandonment, not part of her Neapolitan tetralogy but a stand-alone novel.

A woman, Olga (though we don't learn her name for 50 pages) is abandoned by her husband Mario, after 15 years of marriage, with two children. She is devastated, but we never learn what she actually loves about Mario. The characterization of him is weak, and we mostly hear Olga's endless whining. I almost gave up because not much was happening. Olga prides herself on being calm and soft-spoken, but now all bets are off. She begins to swear, she comes across her husband and his new lover in a public place and beats him up. She poisons the ants that have invaded her house, then goes downstairs to sleep with an unattractive musician whom she doesn't even like, then wakes up the next morning to find out their dog, Otto, is also poisoned by the insecticide, along with her son. She tries to get help but her phone is dead (it has been for a while but she's been unable to do anything). The the lock on the door doesn't work and she can't get out of the flat to get help... That's as far as I've gotten.

Anyway, it is not great literature. It is fairly straight realism in the first person without much going on in terms of novelistic technique. The flashbacks are to a neighbor woman abandoned by her husband during Olga's childhood, who people called "la poverella." The idea is that Olga is repeating the story of the hapless woman despite her self. Olga is supposedly a writer, but hasn't written anything yet in her life, at age 38. Completely self-absorbed, she lacks any real insight into her self or others. For example, we never get an idea of what her children are really like.

I'm sure I'm the worst kind of reader for this kind of novel, but it is good for my Italian so I am going to force myself to finish it.

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