In this and in other works, Ferrante reminds us what a gift anonymity can be to the reader. How refreshing to access words without fighting through the obscuring fog of a 'brand' ... For those who wish to burrow gopher-like into the author’s mind, Ferrante has prepared a tunnel ... As much as In the Margins, is a philosophical monograph on the nature of writing, it is also a practical manual. Ferrante furnishes tips. She doesn’t present them as such — there’s no prescription, only an outline of what she’s learned and how it’s helped her (and by implication, how it might help anyone else).
... this collection of Ferrante’s lectures cannot be timelier in introducing Ferrante’s ideas and literary practices to a larger, global audience outside her immediate Italian-speaking following ... Ferrante takes readers on a journey of discovery of writing practices. She coheres the realms of life and literature to assiduously pursue answers to questions that female writers might have, on how to blaze a trail of success in the patrilineal literary world ... Ferrante does not give away definitive rules on how to write well, but she makes her definitive view on writing clear ... Ann Goldstein’s translation of this collection of essays, for the most part, is also fluid and clear, emulating the familiar voice Ferrante’s English-language readers have become familiar with. The seamless collaboration between author and translator is an unmistakable triumph, and readers are surely hoping for more novels by Ferrante, translations by Goldstein, and adaptations on the silver screen to follow from this exceptionally fruitful and longstanding relationship.
The lucid, well-formed essays that make up In the Margins are written in an equally captivating voice ... Although a slim collection, there is more than enough meat here to nourish both the common reader and the Ferrante aficionado ... Every essay here is a blend of deep thought, rigorous analysis and graceful prose. We occasionally get the odd glimpse of the author...but mainly the focus is on the nuts and bolts of writing and Ferrante's practice of her craft. The essays are at their most rewarding when Ferrante discusses the origins of her books, in particular the celebrated Neapolitan Novels, and the multifaceted heroines that power them ... These essays might not bring us any closer to finding out who Ferrante really is. Instead, though, they provide valuable insight into how she developed as a writer and how she works her magic.
Expect, then, Ferrante fans to fall upon In the Margins – a slim essay collection on the pleasures of reading and writing – as much for any clues about its author as revelations about her childhood bibliography ... Some may be disappointed, however, because although Ferrante is generous when it comes to explaining the triggers for some of her best work, she is miserly about personal details. The collection nonetheless provides a window into Ferrante’s mind ... All four essays in In the Margins...started life as lectures ... This gives them a slightly stilted tone, which can feel at odds with a writer renowned for her agile prose ... In particular, she worries she is at a disadvantage because of her gender. This leads to what, for me, is the joy of this collection: a call for more women to follow in her literary footsteps ... And if giving little away about herself is helpful, so much the better.
Together, these four essays are the closest Ferrante has come to an articulation of her literary methodology ... The portrait of the artist Ferrante offers here is at once earnest and devious. She is both less aggressive and less elusive than she appears in her interviews, laying out her ideas in a straightforward manner, defining her terms and identifying her sources, both personal and literary. In her apparently uncoded words, and in the traditional form that they take, we feel a writer chasing authenticity ... But we also feel, as in everything Ferrante writes, a brilliant subterfuge ... a convincing argument – one this reader happens to buy – but it’s also a performance of traditional authorship, the great writer explaining it all.
Fans of the bestselling Italian novelist Elena Ferrante will delight in her new collection of eloquent, revelatory essays about what motivates (and bedevils) her as a writer ... Ferrante’s critical analyses of her own work reveal how she starts with traditional literary genres, deforming them into complex, expressive works by employing impetuous writing and disrupting anticipated character developments ... The essays of In the Margins are illuminating and beguiling as they peek into the literary craft of a writer at the height of her powers.
Her anonymity...gives her a freedom in her fiction that is missing from her nonfiction work, which feels a bit circular and self-reinforcing. Still, we see glimpses of the shame, disappointment and struggle in these pages, albeit at a lower temperature. It is not at all surprising to discover the title of 'Pain and Pen.' If we are correct in assuming that Ferrante’s novels draw from her own life, it stands to reason that pain is a defining force. It also makes sense that this essay delves into her struggle to find her voice from under so many male writers ... It’s not that these essays aren’t intriguing; it’s just that Ferrante’s fiction is so compelling, often shocking in its intensity, that these lectures feel like, well, lectures. I did appreciate the way she seems to sum it all up in the end: 'The challenge, I thought and think, is to learn to use with freedom the cage we’re shut up in.'
... thought-provoking and sincere ... Ferrante digs into the politics of gendered writing to consider the particular challenges faced by women who write ... Ferrante also offers fresh and pragmatic analyses of literary greats ... Ferrante is keenly aware in these essays of the challenge of articulating the project of 'writing' to others. Rather than offering a how-to guide, she describes her process with all the lyrical yet clarifying prose of her fiction ... While each essay in the collection engages its own topic, all four cohere along this thematic through-line, offering critical insight into the question of how one can 'learn to use with freedom the cage we're shut up in.'
Although In the Margins may appeal most to Ferrante devotees like me eager to read about the ideas of fiction that led to novels like My Brilliant Friend and The Lost Daughter, the book will draw in anyone curious about literature and its creation ... Crucially, Ferrante argues reciprocity in storytelling is important not just at the personal level, but also at the larger cultural and political levels.
I margini e il dettato is a book filled with suggestions and musings that try to extract the elusive meaning of writing ... Fierce sentences...recall the voice to which Elena Ferrante has accustomed her own readers and reflect the scorching intentions, if not revelations, in which these essays are steeped. For those who like it hot.
Ferrante is serious — her touchstones as a reader here include Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett and Dante, who is the focus of the last essay. Two avant garde experimenters and a religious visionary might seem unusually literary obsessions for a devoted contemporary realist, but for Ferrante, they’re all writers who tangled with her central obsession, which is how to turn reality into art without deceitfully obscuring the process of doing it ... That seriousness, though, never feels pretentious or burdensome. Ferrante clearly enjoys, rather than merely admires, these writers. That enjoyment is infectious. A lot of the credit here must go to Ferrante’s longstanding translator Ann Goldstein, who has a challenging job here ... makes the seemingly arcane problems of the writer feel immediate and vivid. Reading it is a pleasure.
... pickings are slim ... There is, however, one real revelation in this book; it’s not a personal but a literary one ... You may have gathered that In the Margins will be most enjoyed by Ferrante completists. The rest of us may think that, however sublime her fiction, the Neapolitan recluse in reflective mode is a little too precious and opaque to be much fun. We may also suspect that, were Ms Ferrante to hand over the till receipts from a recent trip to a Naples supermercato, an Italian publisher would be perfectly happy to bring them out in hard covers, pronto.
The lectures offer considerable insight into her process and influences -- and how she has changed and adapted them over the years, noting some of the shifts and how they came about. Along with numerous specifics, she also shares the broadest strokes of her technique ... The evolution to her finding her own way is a long and arduous one; particularly noteworthy is how intensively she relied on models and imitation ... These lectures are very much about Ferrante-as-writer, and of greatest interest as such -- not least with some of the work-specific insights she offers ... In the Margins is a slim volume, but certainly of interest and appeal to those who want to know more about the writer behind the Ferrante-name. Ferrante also offers a fine little chronicle of the evolution of a writer -- unique, in its details, but also covering general ground and difficulties faced by many other writers.
A rare peek behind the curtain of the creative process of one of our most elusive authors ... In the Margins is not a book on craft; I suspect it will hold limited interest for nonfans. But for those of us whose Ferrante fever runs high, it is nothing short of a thrill to have light shed on her magic.
... wise and vigorous pieces ... There are gems aplenty here, on writing in general and about Ferrante’s specifically; that things come together for her only once they fall apart, breaking free of genre and convention, and the 'necessary other' at the heart of her widely ready Neapolitan Novels. A fourth essay considers Dante’s Beatrice. This slim but formidable book requires a special sort of Ferrante fan, but there are plenty of those.
There’s a whiff of the graduate school seminar room, especially about the first three lectures here ... Granted, these lectures were written to be delivered to scholars and other strains of intellectuals, but they feel dated, as if they were written in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, when literary theorists were still parsing the epiphanies of Roland Barthes’s famous 1967 essay, 'The Death of the Author,' and exposing the internal contradictions of literary form ... Perhaps it would be more revelatory to hear Ferrante’s responses to contemporary critical views that underscore the connection between personal identity and art ... The idea that adhering to form, as beautifully as Ferrante does in her celebrated novels, simultaneously signals the abandonment of all that’s left outside that form is a truth known to anyone who’s ever had the impulse to write. It’s Ferrante’s distinct articulation of that loss here — the voice and tone whose singularity she undermines in the other lectures — that makes the experience freshly melancholy. The other three lectures In the Margins should only hold the attention of those fans who will read anything and everything by that manufactured construct known as 'Elena Ferrante, author.' But 'Pain and Pen' has the extended poignancy that the great sportswriter, Red Smith, compressed into one deathless remark: 'Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit down at the typewriter, cut open a vein, and bleed.'
Four essays illuminate the mind of Ferrante (The Lying Life of Adults) in this dazzling collection ... The collection’s strength comes from Ferrante’s beautiful prose, as well as the fascinating look at where she finds inspiration. The author’s legions of fans are in for a treat.
Ferrante offers insights about her complex protagonists, including Lila and Lenu, in her Neapolitan novels, and the first-person narrator of her most recent novel, The Lying Life of Adults, which she conceived as a story'“in which you don’t know who the woman-character writing is' ... Enticing glimpses into a writer’s life. Let’s hope for a full-length memoir one day.
It’s not unusual to hear readers talk of how Ferrante’s novels have somehow got inside their mind. Despite its insights, I’m not sure this tour of Ferrante’s own mind offers the same rewards. The book feels uneven, tantalising in places, opaque in others. Her ideas can be distilled down into: powerful prose emerges from dutiful prose; all writing is built on the shoulders of great literature; the paradox of realism is it requires truthful lies; and it’s a real bitch to get what’s in your head on to the page. Ferrante can’t help but arouse intrigue and admiration, but I was left wanting more – ideally fiction.