hahaha for the first time in ages the ol’ TriumphoftheNow.com magic worked and, yes, I was incredibly fucking lucky to receive a free, pre-release (just!) copy of the new Elena Ferrante novel, The Lying Life of Adults and, yes, it’s brilliant and I got to read it before you ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
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The Lying Life of Adults is the new Ferrante novel, and not just the new translation of a Ferrante novel from before she – rightfully – exploded to global literary superstardom, but like the brand new new new new Ferrante, released in the original Italian less than a year ago and freshly translated by Europa’s resident Ferrante translator, Ann Goldstein.
Is it brilliant? Yes, it is, and if you’re reading this you probably have a passing interest in the book already (or a continued, evermore creepy, interest in Scott Manley Hadley (it becomes creepier the older and more unattractive I get, the joke’s on you but seriously please do love me or at least notice me lololol haha #bpdlife!)) and so you’re probably here for the yes/no “is it shit?” question, rather than for any close textual analysis.
I mean, I don’t do close textual analysis here very often, but – when I do – I don’t think it’s a fair thing to do with a work in translation, unless it’s a critique of the translation itself. Does that make sense?
Though Ann Goldstein’s translated sentences read fucking beautifully (again), looking at the words she has chosen and the structure of her sentences is not what one looks for a review of a book whose named creator is a completely different individual. Should works in translation be treated with the same critical attention as “cover” songs produced by musicians are? The book that I read was not La vita bugiarda degli adulti by Elena Ferrante, it was The Lying Life of Adults written by Ann Goldstein as a translation of the Italian Ferrante text. On a word level, and thus on a sentence level, this is a novel created – and physically written/typed/dictated, whatever – by Ann Goldstein. If a translation is to be performed by a person, rather than by a Google algorithm that is then checked over for cohesion, then that is an act of creativity, an act of making.
From start to finish, Ann Goldstein would have written/typed/dictated every single word and thus each sentence and paragraph and chapter that comprise this novel. If I were then to look at a word or a sentence but ascribe that word or that sentence to Ferrante, I’d be lying: Ferrante chose none of the words in this novel (maybe she gave notes, but you know what I mean); Elena Ferrante didn’t write this novel, but she did create its narrative, its characters and its tone. When Spotify’s algorithms – as they often do – suggest I listen to John Coltrane playing ‘My Favorite [sic] Things’ (from the musical The Sound of Music) it does not have in big letters on the album art the name of the song and the name of the composer, the listener (me, Scott Manley Hadley) is instead told that it is, of course, John Coltrane playing the song. I am listening to it for his performance, not for the song itself.
The novel La vita bugiarda degli adulti as written by Elena Ferrante would not be enjoyable for me in the way that this novel has been, because though Italian is a phonetic language written in a Latin script so I would be able to – reasonably accurately – read it aloud, I wouldn’t be able to read it, because I am not an Italian speaker.
The words “to read”, “to write”, “to play”, “to perform” are the words used the most when speaking about creativity and creative pursuits, but – the first two in particular – these can be interpreted as very firm verbs with very clear meanings: I could copy by hand the Cyrillic alphabet, but that doesn’t mean I’d be able to write a blog post in Russian; I can read aloud a menu written in Basque or Slovenian or whatever, and be pretty certain I’m saying the words correctly while having literally no idea what any of them mean. This isn’t “reading”, but-
To read is to repeat sounds aloud as recorded in writing; to write is to write down, to put on paper. To create, though, is different, because to create is to make something new.
And Ferrante – not Goldstein – has done that here.
Ferrante’s novel is a witty, evocative and deeply moving exploration of being a teenager and waking up to the inconsistencies and the hypocrisies and the faults and the failings of the adult world, that “lying life” that we’re all deep within, regardless of how much we actually lie ourselves. Lol jk we all lie a lot, and the only people who don’t seem to be dishonest to others are telling a LOT of lies to themselves.
Yes, the book is funny. Yes, the book is wise.
Yes, it’s fucking brilliant, as you expected it to be and as it was destined to be.
Yes, please, let’s read more Ferrante. Ferrante is fucking brilliant. At least, she is, as [physically] written [out] by Ann Goldstein.
Thank you Europa Editions!
Today is the 1st September, release day for the novel. Buy direct from the publisher here.
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