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471 pages, Paperback
First published September 22, 2012
He leaned over to kiss her on the mouth, but she avoided him, turning her face forcefully to right and left, struggling, twisting, as she repeated, "Leave me alone, I don't want you, I don't want you, I don't want you."
At that point, almost against his will, the tone of Stefano's voice rose: "Now you're really pissing me off, Lina."
He repeated that remark two or three times, each time louder, as if to assimilate fully an order that was coming to him from very far away, perhaps even from before he was born. The order was, be a man, Ste': either you subdue her now or you'll never subdue her; your wife has to learn right away that she is the female and you're the male and therefore she has to obey. (emphasis mine)
There was no escape. No, neither Lina nor I would ever become like the [sophisticated] girl who had waited for Nino after school. We both lacked something intangible but fundamental, which was obvious in her even if you simply saw her from a distance, and which one possessed or did not, because to have that thing it was not enough to learn Latin or Greek or philosophy, nor was the money from groceries or shoes of any use. (p. 84)
I got mad, I said, “You are both mistaken: it's I who do what Lina wants, not the opposite.”
trying to assimilate fully an order that was coming to him from very far away, perhaps even from before he was born. The order was: be a man, Ste'…
She had used, in telling that lie, a sarcastic tone and they had all sarcastically believed her, especially the women, who knew what had to be said when the men who loved them and whom they loved beat them severely. Besides, there was no one in the neighborhood, especially of the female sex, who did not think that she had needed a good thrashing for a long time. So the beatings did not cause outrage, and in fact sympathy and respect for [her husband] increased—there was someone who knew how to be a man.
"[Lina] was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was as full of varied and foolish adventures as much as mine, and that time slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other very so often to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other."Ferrante deserves the attention she has had from this series of novels. It is world-class literature that deserves a place in the pantheon. I am looking forward to Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.
I washed her with slow, careful gestures, first letting her squat in the tub, then asking her to stand up: I still have in my ears the sound of the dripping water, and the impression that the copper of the tub had a consistency not different from Lila’s flesh, which was smooth, solid, calm. I had a confusion of feelings and thoughts: embrace her, weep with her, kiss her, pull her hair, laugh, pretend to sexual experience and instruct her in a learned voice, distancing her with words just at the moment of greatest closeness.
But in the end there was only the hostile thought that I was washing her, from her hair to the soles of her feet, early in the morning, just so that Stefano could sully her in the course of the night. I imagined her naked as she was at that moment, entwined with her husband, in the bed in the new house, while the train clattered under their windows and his violent flesh entered her with a sharp blow, like the cork pushed by the palm into the neck of a wine bottle. And it suddenly seemed to me that the only remedy against the pain I was feeling, that I would feel, was to find a corner secluded enough so that Antonio could do to me, at the same time, the exact same thing.
I saw clearly the mothers of the old neighborhood. They were nervous, they were acquiescent. They were silent, with tight lips and stooping shoulders, or they yelled terrible insults at the children who harassed them. Extremely thin, with hollow eyes and cheeks, or with broad behinds, swollen ankles, heavy chests, they lugged shopping bags and small children who clung to their skirts. They had been consumed by the bodies of husbands, fathers, brothers, whom they ultimately came to resemble, because of their labors or the arrival of old age, of illness. When did that transformation begin? With housework? With pregnancies? With beatings?
the secret heart of my book. Anyone who wanted to know what gave it warmth and what the origin was of the strong but invisible thread that joined the sentences would have had to go back to that child’s packet, ten notebook pages, . . . the brightly colored cover, the title and not even a signature.And in a gesture of trust and love for her friend, Elena returns the story to Lila, admitting, “I read it again and discovered that, without realizing it, I’ve always had it in my mind. That’s where my book comes from.” It is the story of a new name.