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11.2.14

À mon chevet: 'I giorni dell'abbandono'

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
I spent several evenings looking at family photographs. I searched for signs of my autonomy in the body I had had before meeting my future husband. I compared images of me as a girl with those of later years. I wanted to find out how much my gaze had changed since the time when I began seeing him, I wanted to see if over the years it had ended up resembling his. The seed of his flesh had entered mine, had deformed me, spread me, weighted me, I had been pregnant twice. The formulas were: I had carried in my womb his children; I had given him children. Even if I tried to tell myself that I had given him nothing, that the children were mostly mine, that they had remained within the radius of my body, subject to my care, still I couldn't avoid thinking what aspects of his nature inevitably lay hidden in them. Mario would explode suddenly from inside their bones, now, over the days, over the years, in ways that were more and more visible. How much of him would I be forced to love forever, without even realizing it, simply by virtue of the fact that I loved them? What a complex foamy mixture a couple is. Even if the relationship shatters and ends, it continues to act in secret pathways, it doesn't die, it doesn't want to die.

I took a pair of scissors and, for a whole long silent evening, cut out eyes, ears, legs, noses, hands of mine, of the children, of Mario. I pasted them onto a piece of drawing paper. The result was a single body of monstrous futurist indecipherability, which I immediately threw in the garbage.

-- Elena Ferrante, The Days of Abandonment, pp. 163-64 (translation by Ann Goldstein)
Critic James Wood got me onto Elena Ferrante, the Italian writer who headlined his Best Books of 2013. The name is a pseudonym, and the books are written by someone who does not make public appearances. I started with this 2005 novel, the one Wood singled out as "formidable," and indeed it is. The style is intense and compact, with no unnecessary layer of fat, as the narrator, in a bold and questing voice, searches for every meaning that unfolds in a series of hallucinatory days following upon the dissolution of her marriage. I am looking forward to reading her other novels.

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