Fans of the Neapolitan novels and Elena Ferrante are all flipping out about the recent news that HBO will be partnering with Italian public broadcasting service RAI to create an eight-part series based on the first book in the series, My Brilliant Friend.
If you haven't read the books or if you don't know much about Ferrante, you might not quite get why the rest of us are already popping popcorn. But it's OK. We'll catch you up. Here are six reasons you should get pumped for the series starting now.
If your book club hasn't read My Brilliant Friend yet, get it on the schedule because it is just plain wonderful. Set in Naples, the four-book Neapolitan series centers upon protagonist Elena Greco and her lifelong frenemy, Lila. The books begin when the two characters meet as girls and progress through six decades of life in Naples, from primary school to marriage and careers and kids. It's deep, gorgeously written and different from the regular chick literature fare that's been circulating the last few years.
The books have been an international success since their publication, and all four books in the series have been New York Times best-sellers since their release in English in 2012. If you still don't believe, read a rave review or two.
The series will be directed by Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo, be filmed in Naples and star all Italian actors. It will also be filmed in Italian and subtitled in English for viewers in the United States. And the series is basically a love letter to Naples, from the history and people to the culture, food and music. One of the best parts of reading the books is that they so beautifully transport you to Italy, with its sights, sounds and sunlight — we're going to bet that the television series will be just as magical.
If the awesomeness of the books themselves is not enough for you, the mystery surrounding the books is also compelling. The author uses a pen name, Elena Ferrante, who just happens to share a first name with the narrator of the series. Although she's a celebrity in Italy, no one knows who she really is, and she only does anonymous interviews over email. There have been rumors that she is a man as well as rumors that her novels are heavily autobiographical, which is the reason for her anonymity. Other just say she wants her privacy.
In October 2016, Italian journalist Claudio Gatti shocked the world by coming forward and saying he might know who Ferrante really is based mostly on evidence of payments from the books' publisher to an employee. He revealed that the author is likely Anita Raja, a translator of German works living in Rome (her mother was a German immigrant to Italy who was escaping the Holocaust). The revelation was met with harsh criticism across the world, as readers and those in the publishing world agreed that we should respect Ferrante's wish to remain unknown. Ferrante (and Raja) did not comment on the article.
Along with the director, Ferrante is writing the scripts along with Francesco Piccolo and Laura Paolucci. This is another good hint that the series will live up to the caliber of the books and stay true to the original story.
My Brilliant Friend takes on female friendship in a way that has rarely been done in other works of literature (or in any art we can think of, really). First of all, although there are men in the book, they are far from the central characters — and you can be sure that a mutual love interest is not in the storyline. This is all about what brings women together and what tears them apart. You will identify with it, cry over it and call your best friend (or frenemy) to talk about it.
This series looks like it is definitely part of HBO's recent push to include more women-centered and women-produced series in their programing. And for that, we will be sure to watch and support.
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