An assemblage of correspondence and interviews provides Ferrante-curious readers with a look into the mind and methods of the reclusive author.
First published in Italy in 2003, subsequent to the publication of the author’s first two stand-alone novels, this new and expanded, English-language edition of Frantumaglia (“fragments”) follows the juggernaut that is the Neapolitan Quartet (2012-2015). Interviews, letters, and other fragments from the years spanning 1991 to 2016 touch on a variety of topics, including Ferrante’s widely reported beliefs about books having “no need of their authors” once published and discussions of authors whose works have inspired or informed her own—e.g., Elsa Morante, Alba de Cespedes, Madame de La Fayette. The ambiguous dance Ferrante engages in with readers and interpreters is revealed in the assertion that she would only marginally involve herself with the screenplay for the film adaptation of her early novel Troubling Love, which ultimately translates into the provision of several pages of detailed commentary on the treatment. The author’s ambivalence about the release of the assembled “fragments” of interviews and writings themselves drove her to agree to their publication only if they were presented as an “appendix” or companion text to her novels. Her primary argument that an author’s only duty to readers is the writing of a book—and not selling it or promoting the author—permeates hundreds of pages of excerpted interviews; only rarely does anything of biographical significance sneak through. One distinctive interview, from the art magazine Frieze, does provide tantalizing details about Ferrante’s preferences in art and music, but mostly she confines herself to reiterations of her isolationist manifesto, explorations of her influences, and articulations of the struggles of female authors.
Not a good entrance point for readers unfamiliar with the author’s work, but devotees will surely pore over the bits and pieces in an effort to arrive one step closer at understanding the phenomenon that is Ferrante fever.