I would like to recommend a book by Elena Ferrante, “L’amica geniale”, which in Polish translation is “Genialna przyjaciółka”.

This is a story of friendship that grows on dusty soil of a poor Naeapolitan district. The central plot seems to concentrate on amity of two girls, Lena and Lila, but these are the girls’ relations with the entire world: peers, families and their tradition, streets, the district of Naples they live, finally with Italy itself , that is the true heart of this novel.

The story is told from the perspective of one of the girls, Elena who finds out that her best friend Lila has just vanished and, what is more, does not want to be found. That is the moment when Lena decides to tell the story of 60 years of their tangled relation. And so she does- masterfully.

Because it is not only the story of adventures and girlish chit-chats, it is the story of struggle to find a place in the unwelcoming world. Thanks to Ferrante’s narrative style the reader can experience that struggle from the very beginning and observe the italian reality through the eyes of little girls, than teenagers, finally women. It is a fascinating process, when it is possible to learn the realia of contemporary world along with the characters. First observations are limited to crampy space of staircases and playground, they gradually expand with the topography of streets and the district, then one day they lead to the exploration of the city of Naples.

The style of writing used by Ferrante is truly unique. The author manages to portray not only the history of Naples, but the history of Italy itself, writing about seemingly trivial friendship of young people. The talks they have with their friends bring readers the insight into social processes that took place in Italy those days. It is as though the author had a power to tell exceptionally complex story depicting everyday, mundane situations.

Definitely worth reading!

Joanna Szymańska