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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A central scene in the Neapolitan novels: The professor's party

When they make the inevitable TV series based on Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels (maybe they've done so already? Wondering if it will be or has been made by the Italian team that put together the great but now almost forgotten series The Best of Youth), one of the key moments will have to be the party scene: Lena invited by her beloved and revered Professor (Galiano ?) to a party at the prof's apartment and told it's OK to bring a friend/date. Has no boyfriend at the moment but doesn't want to go alone; she asks Lila (who btw is sometimes also called Lina, just to make things ridiculously difficult for readers I guess) and surprisingly Lila agrees. The party is the first real awakening for Lena: she sees how the educated live, begins to speak fluent classic Italian (as opposed to dialect - something we lose in translation I'm afraid), sees the intellectual, Nino, on whom she has had a lifelong crush, sees that Nino's beautiful girlfriend is actually the prof's daughter (a twist I didn't like as it seemed to heavy-handed and novelistic, breaks the mood of a memoir-novel), and spends a lot of time speaking with young people her age about politics and ideas - something she never does with her friends from the neighborhood, where life is about fighting, struggle, vengeance, and pursuing a profit in one of the trades. On the ride home, Lila goes into a nasty tirade about how horrible the people were, how pretentious, how boring, how she wished she'd never gone. She is incredibly rude to Lena, and this tirade causes total break in the friendship - another world has opened for Lena, and she will pursue entry to that world of the educated - and Lila has realized that this door is closed to her, even tho she is the smartest and most artistic one of all. Instead of trying to change her life or form an alliance w/ Lena, she lashes out in bitterness and envy - perhaps she thinks she will persuade Lena to agree w/ her and to keep Lena in her power, but Lena is now too powerful in her own way to fall into that trap. Of course this relationship will continue to evolve - as we know from the outset of the first novel: Lila will grow, too.

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