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theguardian - 30 days ago

Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend: how does the show compare to the books?

Can director Saverio Costanzo and a cast of non-professional actors do justice to Ferrante’s radical vision of postwar Naples?“Lila is overdoing it as usual,” Elena Greco begins her story, both in Elena Ferrante’s much-loved novel My Brilliant Friend and in a feverishly anticipated TV adaptation. “We’ll see who wins this time.” And thus a narrative of 50 years of friendship and rivalry opens, transporting us back to the slum Naples district of their postwar childhood.The first in Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, My Brilliant Friend is a breathless, breathtaking love story – but not between a hero and heroine. Above all, the novels are a lingering, obsessive exercise in bringing two young woman into being. While literature is hardly short of female characters scorched on to the page by the male gaze, what makes this book so unusual is that the looking is done by another girl: and in the adaptation the emphasis is all on looking – we watch the girls watching the adult world around them. In the many passages dedicated to noticing that moment when a girl becomes a beautiful woman, Elena’s rapt description of her friend is as charged as that of any lover: “She had become shapely. Her high forehead, her large eyes that she could suddenly narrow, her small nose, her cheekbones, her lips and ears that were looking for a new orchestration and seemed close to finding it.” The reader, like everyone in the neighbourhood, can’t help but fall in love with Lila. Continue reading...

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