À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
While waiting for the translation of the third volume of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan trilogy, I am reading some of her other, shorter novels. L'amore molesto is Ferrante's first published book, the one whose genesis, I think, she describes toward the end of the second volume of her Neapolitan novels. Trying to finish her university thesis, a novel comes out of her, in which she writes "in the third person" about the disturbing way in which she lost her virginity. "Then I wrote a little about Naples and the neighborhood," she adds. "Then I changed names and places and situations," after which "I found that I was calmer, as if the shame had passed from me to the notebook." Ferrante, like so many novelists since the novel was invented, wrote about her own life in a different guise, but then she returned to her life, or so it seems, to write about it in a more direct way, in the first person, in the Neapolitan novels. It is in a way the same breakthrough that Karl Ove Knausgård had in writing My Struggle, which has also been on my nightstand a lot this year. As Knausgård said during a reading at the Library of Congress in 2012, "the deeper you go inside yourself, the more general it becomes, the more relevance it has."
Maybe, in the end, all that mattered of these two days without respite was the transplanting of the story from one head to the other, like a healthy organ that my mother had given up to me out of affection. My father, too, barely twenty, had chased her on that stretch of road. Amalia told us that, hearing him behind her, she was frightened. He wasn't like the others, who talked about her, trying to win her over. He talked about himself: he boasted of the extraordinary things he was capable of: he said he wanted to make a portrait of her, perhaps to prove to her how beautiful she was and how talented he was. He alluded to the colors she wore. How many words vanished who could say where. My mother, who never looked at any of her pursuers in the face and while they talked made an effort not to laugh, told us that she had glanced at him sideways just once and had immediately understood. We, her daughters, did not understand. We couldn't understand why she liked him. Our father did not appear to us at all exceptional, slovenly as he was, fat, bald, unwashed, his sagging pants smeared with paint, always grumbling about the miseries of every day, about the money that he earned and that -- he yelled at us -- Amalia threw out the window. Yet it was that man without a job whom our mother had asked to come to her house if he wanted to talk to her: she wouldn't make love in secret; she had never done so. And when she uttered the words "make love" I listened open-mouthed, I liked the story of that moment so much, without its sequel, stopped before it could continue and be ruined. I preserved the sounds and images. Maybe now I had come to that underpass so that the sounds and image would coalesce again among the rocks and shadows, and again my mother, before she became my mother, was followed by the man with whom she would make love, who would cover her with his name, who would annihilate her with his alphabet.
-- Elena Ferrante, Troubling Love (translation by Ann Goldstein), pp. 108-109