See Naples and...LIVE! On this week's episode we talk about My Brilliant Friend, the first in a four-novel series by pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante. The books trace the friendship of two girls, Lila and Lenù, growing up in post-war Naples. We talk about genius and learning, monsters and mobsters, and the city of Naples itself, both as a character in the book as well as a destination. What to see, where to go...and what to eat!
Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, a four-volume series beginning with My Brilliant Friend, relate the long and complicated friendship between two girls, Lenù and Lila, from their childhood in the slums to old age, when Lila suddenly and mysteriously disappears. The books have become nothing short of a phenomenon, international bestsellers and an HBO miniseries. Some of the fascination no doubt is with Elena Ferrante herself, pen name of an unknown author, but certainly another source of the interest lies in the city of Naples itself, and its fundamental role in all four novels. This is not the Naples of cruise ships and Capri, this is a harsh and often ugly Naples, a city of squalor and violence.
Lenù, narrator of My Brilliant Friend, reports that she left Naples definitely in 1995, just as the city was experiencing a renewal because she “no longer believed in its resurrections.” However Naples today is a surprising mix of ancient artifacts, vibrant street life, and amazing food, all with glorious views of Vesuvius and the sea. My Brilliant Friend tours have sprung up around the city, offering glimpses of Naples beyond the tourist center. And the island of Ischia, a pivotal plot location, can be reached by ferry in about an hour. While you are reading the books and watching the miniseries, start planning your next trip to Naples. Be prepared to be surprised.