As an Italophile and an Elena Ferrante fan, I’m thrilled to see her nonfiction work, La Frantumaglia, finally making it into English in the form of Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey, published this fall by Europa Editions.
I know the book will intrigue American readers with the backstory of her novels and her life as a writer (I’m also thrilled that the original title has largely crossed the Atlantic intact, particularly given the unusual provenance of the Italian word, “frantumaglia,” which Ferrante culled from her mother’s speech and which she defines as a jumble of ideas or thoughts).
One could nonetheless argue, given the nature of the book—a collection of manuscript drafts, interviews and letters—that it will surely fail to stir up the same excitement as did the Neapolitan series or her earlier novels. This is the author, after all, who launched her novel, The Days of Abandonment, with the line: “One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.” Boom! Not to mention the creator of the frenzied, passionate scene between Nino and Elena in the bathroom of the house she shares with her husband, Pietro, from Book Three of the Neapolitan quartet (a scene Elena rushes into after rushing out of the arms of her young children). Whoa! How do you top that?
And of course, it’s not like Frantumaglia confirms (or denies) what Italian investigative reporter Claudio Gatti recently sprung on the literary world (if for no other reason than it had already gone to print). Gatti, as anyone remotely following Italian literature knows, believes he has pulled off an expose by studying real estate records and other documents to deduce that Ferrante is actually a translator named Anita Raja. (Edizioni E/o, Ferrante’s Italian publisher, has denied the claims.)
Yet I can confidently say the Ferrante lines that have made the biggest impressions on me are in La Frantumaglia, which was first published in Italy in 2003.
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Asymptote‘s fifth anniversary celebration in New York brought together top literary translators Ann Goldstein (translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy) and Natasha Wimmer (translator of seven Roberto Bolaño novels including The Savage Detectives and 2666) for an evening of conversation moderated by acclaimed fiction writer Frederic Tuten. Whether you couldn’t join us in NYC or just want to revisit this fun and informative discussion, this month’s Asymptote Podcast gives you a front-row seat! Podcast Editor Daniel Goulden brings you the highlights from the New School panel, which includes introductions by Poorna Swami, our own Editor-at-Large for India, and several terrific questions brought forward by audience members during the Q&A. Download your copy now. It’s almost as good as being there in person!
This event was co-sponsored by the Liberal Studies Department, New School for Social Research.
This March 3rd in New York City, we’re thrilled to be holding an event to celebrate our fifth anniversary, where we’ll be joined by two multi-award winning superstars of translation: Natasha Wimmer and Ann Goldstein. Between them, these women have brought some of the biggest names in contemporary literature to English-language readers. In anticipation of our event, here’s everything you need to know about our extraordinary guests and host, Frederic Tuten.
Award-winning translator Natasha Wimmer is best known for her translations from Spanish to English of the work of Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, who was described by the New York Times as “the most significant Latin American literary voice of his generation.”
Last year, a hashtag became wildly popular in the American literary scene for an author no one has seen and who writes in a foreign language.
This year, a different author—one whom everyone knows because she’s won a Pulitzer Prize, among other honors—is taking the nearly unprecedented step of publishing a memoir called In Other Words in dual language format. And—wait for it—the part of the book that contains her original manuscript isn’t in English.
The two authors have something in common: they both write in Italian. That, and they could be presiding over a renaissance in Italian literature (Well, they may be, if publishers, cultural organizations and/or the Italian government exploit this convergence. More on this later).
The first writer is the mysterious Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, celebrated on Twitter by the slogan #ferrantefever, and the second is Jhumpa Lahiri, a British-born, American citizen who decamped to Rome in 2012, with the unusual project of ceasing to read and write in English. (The two have something else in common: Ann Goldstein is their Italian-English translator).
One author shooting to prominence, and shining a spotlight on Italian literature from the inside, the other already enjoying almost unparalleled prominence in American letters, choosing to embark on a courageous path—one which will almost certain provoke curiosity about Italian among non-Italian readers.
Is Italian literature, both in translation and in original form, having its moment? Oh gosh I hope so.
Happy Friday, Asymptote friends! The end of the calendar year is nigh, and that means one thing: there are no more new releases (or—there are less of them, as you’ll see in next week’s New in Translation post), and there are a whole lot of year-end lists. Impressively, the New York Times’ famous top 10 includes three whole books (!) in translation (Magda Szabo’s The Door, translated by Len Rix, Elena Ferrante‘s The Story of the Lost Child, translated by Ann Goldstein, and Asne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre of Norway, translated by Sarah Death). If you’d like the scope to zoom out a bit, look at the Times’ notable 100 in 2015, thirteen percent of which is composed of literature in translation (given sad stats of the past, this is actually pretty darn good!—though the translation statistics of the past two years, available at Three Percent, make us less giddily optimistic). Finally, take a look at another English-language publication across the pond: the Guardian asks famous writers what their favorite reads of the year proved to be. READ MORE…