Elena Ferrante could write a long-form essay about making toast for breakfast, and I would want to read it. So, it was a pleasant bonus when Europa Editions (via Allen & Unwin) sent me In The Margins, a collection of her essays about topics I happen to love – reading and writing.
The collection contains four essays, originally written to be presented as a lecture series (by an actress, to protect Ferrante’s anonymity), translated into English by Ann Goldstein. Each essay offers rare insight into Ferrante’s own influences, struggles, and motivations in writing.
Even though the essays in In The Margins were ostensibly written for a generalist audience, Ferrante’s language, expression, and references still feel quite advanced and academic. It isn’t a TED talk.
Ferrante interrogates the origins of the ideas and themes she explores in her own work – as such, if you haven’t read through Ferrante’s backlist, be prepared for spoilers.
In The Margins requires a concentrated mind, and probably (like most of Ferrante’s work) re-reading. I found my mind wandering, in a way that it doesn’t when I read Ferrante’s fiction – I’m not sure if that’s me or her. The anecdotes from Ferrante’s reading and writing life, the tiny peeks behind the mask, were wonderful and memorable, but the rest will take more consideration.