7 Books to Treat Your Ferrante Fever With
While we’re still coming across reports of fresh outbreaks of #FerranteFever, we’re assuming lots of you have treated it with the correct 1700-page dosage of Naples, imbecile Italian men and the best damn female friendship we’ve ever seen put down in writing. An incurable side effect of all this is an addiction for high-quality fiction from outside an Anglophone comfort zone that treats women characters with the amount of respect, complexity and attention they deserve. We’ve compiled a list of our best translated fiction that, while merely palliative, should tide you over for now.
Pétronille by Amélie Nothomb, translated by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)
Lila and Lenu were the stars of the whole reading experience for us at Turnaround, so it fits that we’d want more ladies going a bit nuts for each other on our shelves. Billed as a literary Thelma and Louise, this novel’s got champagne, a cameo by Vivienne Westwood and its own author as a central character (we’ll let you make your minds up on how strong a link that is to our beloved enigma, Elena). The cracking wit in this should act as a pick-me-up after the harrowing fate of Ferrante’s protagonists.
The Bottom of Your Heart by Maurizio de Giovanni, translated by Antony Shugaar (Europa Editions)
If the torrid, ill-advised love affairs and dirty dealings with the neighbourhood gangs in Ferrante were what really piqued your interest, we’ve got just the book for you. Without even leaving Naples and featuring a stunningly similar account of somebody falling/being thrown out a window, The Bottom of Your Heart is a perfect segue out of the Neapolitan Novels. The latest instalment in the Comisssario Ricciardi noir series sees our eponymous protagonist thrust into a world of unprecedented passion with Brigadier Maione after the two men share an investigation and are forced to compromise between infidelity and imperishable love.
Tristano Dies by Antonio Tabucchi, translated by Elizabeth Harris (Archipelago Books)
For the literary types out there who couldn’t get enough of Elena’s ongoing construction of the narrative of her life with Lila, here is Tristano, dying at the end of the twentieth century, having just called upon a writer to listen to the story of his life. Featuring the previously untold story of a hero in the Italian Resistance of WWII, you’ll be an Italian history pro by the end of this book.
The Women of Lazarus by Marina Stepnova, translated by Lisa Hayden (World Editions)
Popping over to Russia and swapping to an external view of women from a man’s viewpoint, The Women of Lazarus tells a part of Lazar’s life story, following three important women in it: his mentor’s wife, his own young wife and their granddaughter. This has all the turbulence of distraught families in disturbed times that we saw the Cerullos and Grecos face.
Little Jewel by Patrick Modiano, translated by Penny Hueston (Text Publishing)
If groundbreaking, worldwide-acclaimed fiction is your bag, how’s a Nobel Prize winner for you? This will also appease the mystery fan in you and act as a surrogate resolution for all the time you’ve spent wondering just what actually happened to Tina, here featuring nineteen-year-old Thérèse as she chases a mystery woman down the corridors of the metro because she thinks, impossibly, it might be her mum.
Hurma by Ali al-Muqri, translated by Thomas Aplin (Darf Publishers)
If you fancy stretching your literary horizons that bit further – and we urge you to! – Hurma journeys across the Middle East: from Yemen to a militant training camp in Sudan and onto Afghanistan to join the Jihadist cause. Its nameless heroine is simply a ‘Hurma’ – literally ‘sanctity’, an entity to be protected from violation. Disappointment after disappointment drives her to madness and impulsion in a disastrous search for sexual and spiritual (but mostly sexual) fulfilment, like an extension of Lenu’s calamitous attachment to Nino. If you can handle even more women’s suffering after the Neapolitan Novels, this one’s for you.
Two Brothers by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (Dark Horse)
For the true adventurers amongst you, this adaptation of the Brazilian novel Dois Irmãos or The Brothers by Milton Hatoum is a stark departure from Ferrante (when you’re ready, of course) in its form as a graphic novel. However, this generational tale has lots of similarities you’ll enjoy, the main shared quality being an exploration of two humans bound inextricably together; this time that of almost-identical twin brothers. One leaves to further their education while the other suffers at home, both grow older and their relationship with their hometown changes too, there’s a whole bunch of familial strife to deal with – it’s all there, in striking pen and ink illustration.
To find even more of our world literature, check out our ranges from Africa World Press, Archipelago Books, Darf Publishers, Europa Editions, Open Letter, Other Press, Restless Books and World Editions.