Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Days of Abandonment

Thoughts on my very first Europa: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, Europa Editions 2005 - 4th printing 2008 / original 2002, 188 pages, translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein

FIRST Sentence: "One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me."

WHAT's it ABOUT: This is the story told by a mother of two children ages ten and seven of how she handled the first months after being left by her husband. It is a psychological tightrope of conflicting emotions; confusion, rage, disorientation, desperation and grief. Finally, she arrives at something that might be called acceptance -- but wow! what a ride it is to get there and the ending is one that left me unsure.

It is not for the weak of stomach.

Did I like her? Would we have been friends? Did I agree with anything she did? Could I understand? Could I even guess if I would have had any of the same feelings or reactions? At the end, was she really moving on or what exactly?

Would this make a good book club discussion book? Oh yes.

Did I curl up beside my husband, hug him and tell him* to never ever leave me? Um, yea. I did. And that was before page 30.

The author was skilled at keeping that tightrope taught, the pacing unforgiving, the descriptions both succinct, sharp and yet at times, hazy and vague. At many points, I too was lost in her thoughts only to be jolted with questions of WHAT?! Where am I? The writing kept me reading on, marching word after word; disoriented and lost just like Olga and her mind-wandering experience. I would not hesitate to read another novel by Ferrante.

RATING: Four slices of pie. Blackberry. With seeds that catch in your teeth, and no ice cream. And a crust slightly more salty than sweet.


"I had taken away my own time and added it to his to make him more powerful. I had put aside my own aspirations to go along with his. ... I had disappeared into his minutes..." p.63

"... starting at a certain point, the future is only a need to live in the past." p.92

"I thought of beauty as a constant effort to eliminate corporeality." p.97

"But enough, I had to tear the pain from memory, I had to sandpaper away the scratches that were damaging my brain." p.101

"I read and reread, but my eyes ran over the questions without understanding. Something in my senses was not working." p.107

"A broken clock that, because its metal heart continued to beat, was now breaking the time of everything else." p.107

p.69 - prehensile - "As if it were prehensile, my eye grasped the letters of the of a plaque on the building opposite." - SEIZING, TAKING HOLD OF SOMETHING. Other good definitions for this new to me word: able to perceive quickly, having keen mental grasp -and- greedy, grasping, avaricious. Actually, maybe this last definition fits the sentence better.
p.151 - tisane - "He prescribed ... tenderness for the children, tisane of normality and repose for me." - AROMATIC TEA.

* and my husband's non-emotional answer? "Uh huh, ok."