Aminatta Forna: ‘My own books make me cry as I write – it’s pathetic’

The author on struggling with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and the book that inspired her to become a writer

The book I am currently reading
David Maraniss’s meticulous and absorbing biography of Barack Obama. I’ve also just begun Sofi Oksanen’s Purge, and have been rationing myself to one exquisite poem a day from John Freeman’s collection Maps.

The book that changed my life 
Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. The ructions of many African countries mirrored those of the South American countries, which were then rich in literature. Allende’s work resonated with me in a way no English novel could at that time. It marked a tipping point, towards becoming a writer.

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Top 10 books about cheating

From illicit James Salter to category-defying Jeanette Winterson, here are the best contemporary works about romantic infidelity

Why do we keep coming back to the adultery novel? What is it about infidelity that bears retelling across the centuries, especially now, when the ancient prohibitions against sex outside marriage have all but disappeared? These are questions I asked myself as I was writing Fire Sermon, the story of a married woman’s physical, intellectual and spiritual affair with a married poet.

I’m not sure I have all the answers. However, given the current cultural moment, I believe it’s a crucial time for female artists to write frankly and openly about female sexuality in all its forms: longing, shame, guilt, transgression, ecstasy. The assumption that male writers can have sexually transgressive imaginations while female novelists should be more demure is passé. If we’re going to secure gender equality, we must be allowed ...

Elena Ferrante: ‘The experience of writing a diary transformed me into a fiction writer’

I thought that when one writes, it makes no sense to be contained, to censor oneself

I kept a diary for several years as a girl. I was a timid adolescent; all I said was yes, and mostly I was silent. In my diary, on the other hand, I let go: I recounted in detail what happened to me every day, very secret events, bold thoughts. So I was really worried about it: I was afraid that my family, especially my mother, would find it and read it. Thus I was always inventing safe hiding places that soon seemed to me unsafe.

Why was I worried? Because if, in everyday life, I was so embarrassed, so cautious, that I scarcely breathed, the diary produced in me a craving for truth. I thought that when one writes, it makes no sense to be contained, to censor oneself, and as a result I wrote mostly – maybe only – ...

Elena Ferrante: ‘The cat brought in a snake and left it under my bed. Screaming, I chased it out’

The novelist on learning to accept fear

I’m not brave. Most of all I’m afraid of anything that creeps, and especially snakes. I’m afraid of spiders, woodworms, mosquitoes, even flies. I’m afraid of heights, and of elevators, cable cars, aeroplanes. I’m afraid of the very ground we stand on when I imagine that it might split open or, because of a sudden breakdown in the workings of the universe, fall down, as in the nursery rhyme we recited as children, playing ring around the rosy. Ring around the rosy, The world falls down, The earth falls down, All fall down: ah, how those words terrified me. I’m afraid of all human beings when they become violent: I’m afraid of them when they shout, when they insult, when they wield words of contempt, clubs, chains, weapons that slash or shoot, atomic bombs.

And yet, as a child, whenever it was ...

Elena Ferrante: ‘I loved that boy to the point where I felt close to fainting’

In the first of a new weekly series, the novelist recalls her first love

Some time ago, I planned to describe my first times. I listed a certain number of them: the first time I saw the sea, the first time I flew in an aeroplane, the first time I got drunk, the first time I fell in love, the first time I made love. It was an exercise both arduous and pointless.

For that matter, how could it be otherwise? We always look at first times with excessive indulgence. Even if by their nature they’re founded on inexperience, and so as a rule are not very successful, we recall them with sympathy, with regret. They’re swallowed up by all the times that have followed, by their transformation into habit, and yet we attribute to them the power of the unrepeatable.

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Elena Ferrante to become Guardian Weekend’s new columnist

Author of bestselling Neapolitan novels says she was keen to test herself with the ‘bold, anxious exercise’ of writing regular pieces for the magazine

Elena Ferrante, the bestselling Italian novelist of the highly acclaimed Neapolitan series, is to write her first ever regular newspaper column, in the Guardian.

The pseudonymous author’s return to writing, a year after an investigative journalist controversially claimed to have revealed her real identity, will be welcomed by fans anxious to see her next move. Ferrante has always said that her anonymity was important to her work, freeing her from the “anxiety of notoriety”.

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Ties by Domencio Starnone review – a sharply observed tale of a couple in crisis

The novel by Elena Ferrante’s huband follows a similar course to her Days of AbandonmentElena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment described a wife’s wrath at the husband who leaves her and their two children for a younger woman. Ties lays out a similar scenario from the betrayer’s point of view, which may be no coincidence, given that Domenico Starnone is married to Anita Raja, aka Elena Ferrante (allegedly). Clever, concise and astringent, it swiftly dispels any suspicion that the pair ought to just get a room or that their publisher risks bleeding the Ferrante craze dry. The narrator, an ex-screenwriter from Naples, has cause to revisit his desertion after an apparent break-in at the Rome flat he shares with his wife, the two uneasily reconciled in late age after his reckless midlife pursuit of sexual and professional desire in the 1970s. Translated at Starnone’s invitation by the US novelist ...

Yoram Kaniuk’s final novel: a case of something being lost in translation?

For speakers of Hebrew, the English translation of the Israeli writer’s last project leaves a few holes but also shows how his auto-fiction can work in two worlds Translation is a tricky business. Taking a book’s setting, physical and cultural, and trying to convey it to an audience unfamiliar with it is challenging. Doing so while maintaining the sense of the original language’s flow is even harder. Yet we rely on translation to communicate and understand cultures different than our own. In shapeshifting one language into another, and in reading the result of such a strangely magical act, a window to empathy opens. Between Life and Death – the final novel of Yoram Kaniuk, the well-known Israeli writer who died in 2013 – was released this September via Restless Books and was translated by Barbara Harshav. The book is classic Kaniuk in that it is a kind of auto-fiction where ...

Elena Ferrante: ‘I believe that books, once written, have no need of their authors’

Her Neapolitan novels have made the author a literary sensation. In this extract from Frantumaglia, a new collection of letters and interviews, she talks about her compulsion to write – and why she kept her identity secretThe first novel written under the pseudonym Elena Ferrante was published in 1992. By 2014 the name was celebrated internationally as that of a mysterious author of a highly praised series of Neapolitan novels. The writer made global headlines last month when her closely guarded anonymity was apparently unmasked by Italian journalist Claudi Gatti in the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. This is an extract from her latest book, Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey, a selection of her letters, interviews and reflections, which is published this week by Europa Editions. Letter of 21 September 1991. Sandra Ozzola and Sandro Ferri are Elena Ferrante’s publishers and founders of Edizioni E/O and Europa Editions. Her ...

Amy Schumer Talks About Her Favorite Writers

Amy Schumer 200 (GalleyCat)Amy Schumer has revealed her favorite authors. The famed comedienne and author of the soon-to-be-published The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo (pictured, via) sat for an interview with The New York Times to talk about her reading habits and the writers she holds in high regard. Some of the writers that Schumer most admires include American author Jonathan Ames, the mysterious Italian novelist Elena Ferrante and the head writer of the Inside Amy Schumer television show Jessi Klein. During her childhood, she favored all of Roald Dahl’s books, the Nancy Drew series, and the Berenstain Bears picture books. When Schumer was asked to name an author that she would want to share a friendship with, she answered: “Mark Twain. I think he was the most interesting, funniest person. He and Oscar Wilde—but Twain is No. 1 to me.”

Ferrante fever in full swing at the PEN World Voices Festival

Ann Goldstein, Elena Ferrante’s translator, sat in conversation with Judith Thurman, Roxana Robinson and Rebecca Carroll to discuss the author’s work Ann Goldstein has two coping mechanisms for translating especially difficult passages of Elena Ferrante’s novels, she told an audience at the PEN World Voices Festival on Thursday.
First, she gets up and walks around the house. Second, “I sit there thinking, ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that!’” said Goldstein. Goldstein is also head of the copy department at the New Yorker. Her translations of the Italian author’s books have garnered much acclaim. Passages about politics and history in the Neapolitan quartet were technically complicated, but the most emotionally wrenching section was the death of a beloved pet in Days of Abandonment. Continue reading...

Elena Ferrante and Clarice Lispector up for Best Translated Book award

The Story of the Lost Child and a posthumous collection of the great Brazilian author’s short stories among 10 finalists The Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, already in the running for the 2016 Man Booker International prize, has made the shortlist for the Best Translated Book award. Worth $5,000 (£3,500) to both its winning authors and translators, the prize is run by the Three Percent blog at the University of Rochester, and underwritten by’s literary partnership programmes. Ferrante was picked by judges for The Story of the Lost Child, the final novel in her Neapolitan series, which also made the Man Booker International prize shortlist last week. Translated by Ann Goldstein, the novel was called “the first work worthy of the Nobel prize to have come out of Italy for many decades” by the Observer. Continue reading...

‘Exhilarating’ Man Booker International shortlist spans the world

Turkish Nobel-winner Orhan Pamuk will compete with pseudonymous Italian Elena Ferrante and Chinese dissident Yan Lianke for prize honouring fiction in translation

Six books, set in locations including Istanbul and the Austrian Alps, during periods as mixed as the great famine in China and the Angolan civil war, telling stories of a female friendship in Camorra-controlled Naples and of a Korean wife’s transformative rebellion, have been announced as the finalists for the 2016 Man Booker International prize.

Related: Man Booker International 2016 longlist includes banned and pseudonymous authors

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The epic task of bringing the enigmatic Elena Ferrante’s books to life

Francesco Piccolo will collaborate with the pseudonymous novelist to turn her books into an Italian TV drama – but not in person

For Francesco Piccolo, being given the job of transforming one of the most exciting works of contemporary literature into a television drama is the professional challenge of a lifetime.

But the deal to dramatise the four-book series by the pseudonymous writer known as Elena Ferrante comes with a peculiar catch. To protect the closely guarded secret of Ferrante’s true identity, the award-winning novelist and screenwriter will have to collaborate with Ferrante, who retains some creative control over the project, entirely by email.

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Sydney Writers festival 2016 line-up: Gloria Steinem, Jonathan Franzen, Kate Tempest

The 2016 festival celebrates Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, and will feature award-winning poet Tempest and A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara

Feminist powerhouse Gloria Steinem will grace Australian shores in May for the Sydney Writers festival, where she will be joined by other literary bigwigs, including novelist Jonathan Franzen, 2015 Booker Prize winner Marlon James, author of A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara and beat poet Kate Tempest.

Related: Gloria Steinem: ‘Do what you love so much you forget what time it is’

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Will Elena Ferrante outlast Louisa May Alcott’s secret alter ego?

As an Italian historian denies claims that she is Elena Ferrante, we look into the history of pseudonymity for clues as to how long the secret will hold It looks as if the quest to identify the real Elena Ferrante will have to continue, following this week’s firm denial by the historian Marcella Marmo – “Really, I’m not Elena Ferrante” – who had been fingered as the pseudonymous Neapolitan novelist in an Italian newspaper. (It should be noted, though, that there is a precedent for a false denial: Joe Klein initially insisted he was not Anonymous, the author of Primary Colors). So far, Ferrante has eluded the identity detectives for 24 years, already a good score compared with other female authors who have used pseudonyms of either gender. Related: Elena Ferrante: the global literary sensation nobody knows Continue reading...