‘This is my last column, after a year that has scared and inspired me.’
Bestselling author of My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante was asked by The Guardianto pen a weekly column. There was no set theme to the column, it could be whatever Elena wished it to be. Starting on 20thJanuary 2018 and finishing on 12thJanuary 2019, for a full year, Elena wrote short pieces – a completely different process to writing a novel – based on questions she asked the editors at The Guardianto send her. The questions prompted Elena to write about mothers, friends, romance, movies, climate change and all manner of subjects. Incidental Inventionsis the collection of these pieces, bound together complete with stunning illustrations by Andrea Ucini. These pieces, while short, give a fantastic insight into both the life of the author and your own life, as you are prompted to think of your own thoughts and feelings on the subject matter.
As Ferrante said in her final column: ‘I have written as an author of novels, taking on matters that are important to me and that — if I have the will and the time — I’d like to develop within real narrative mechanisms.’ These ruminations hold what could be the seeds of possible future novels, but even in short article form, they are inspiring. In the introduction, Ferrante mentions that she thought about organising the articles in a way other than chronologically, to give more meaning to pieces, to create a more thoughtful order. However, they were left in the chronological order they had originally been published in, as their beauty and resonance comes in part from them being such incidental inventions.
Ferrante has been a figure of mystery for a long time, along with being an internationally beloved author and ‘one of the great novelists of our time’ (the New York Times). These articles are beautiful snapshots – and they really are snapshots, not going past a page and a half per topic – into the life of such a renowned and mysterious author. The writing is intoxicating, drawing you deeper and deeper into the world of your own thoughts. You’ll never want to put this book down. It is the perfect gifting book for any fans of Ferrante’s, and even for a writer. It is an inspiring look at what can come from a question being asked, and also the power that words, no matter how brief, can have on someone.
As Ferrante mentions in her last article, her year writing these pieces was a year that scared and inspired her. But for those reading the articles, either at the time of publication, or in this stunning collection, it was a year of possibilities and wonder, of thoughts and fears, of opening yourself up to new possibilities. This a beautiful book, one you will cherish and reread, taking away different things each time you do.
About the author
Elena Ferrante was born in Naples. She is the author of seven novels: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love,The Lost Daughter, and the quartet of Neapolitan novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. Fragments, a selection of interviews, letters and occasional writings by Ferrante, will be published in early 2016. She is one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors.
Ann Goldstein has translated all of Elena Ferrante’s work. She is an editor at the New Yorker and a recipient of the PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Prize.