The Story of a New Name

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The second book, following last year’s My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the ...
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The Story of a New Name

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The second book, following last year’s My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the cruel price that this passage exacts.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Joseph Luzzi
Every so often you encounter an author so unusual it takes a while to make sense of her voice. The challenge is greater still when this writer's freshness has nothing to do with fashion, when it's imbued with the most haunting music of all, the echoes of literary history. Elena Ferrante is this rare bird: so deliberate in building up her story that you almost give up on it, so gifted that by the end she has you in tears…As a translator, Ann Goldstein does Ferrante a great service. Like the original Italian, the English here is disciplined, precise, never calling attention to itself…Ferrante's gift for recreating real life stems as much from the quiet, unhurried rhythm of her writing as from the people and events she describes. The translation reproduces Ferrante's narrative ebb and flow while registering the distinct features of her voice.
Publishers Weekly
The second in a trilogy, book two rejoins narrator Elena Greco and her "brilliant friend" Lina Cerullo as they leave behind their claustrophobic Italian girlhood and enter the tumultuous world of young womanhood with all its accompanying love, loss, and confusion. Against the backdrop of l960s/70s Naples, the previously inseparable girls embark on diverse paths. At 16, Lila has married the prosperous local grocer, Stefano Carraci, only to discover at their wedding reception that he has already betrayed her and damned their union. Conversely Elena has chosen education, a less traditional route to free her from the stultifying village life. Lina asks Elena to hide a box of notebooks from her husband. Instead, she dumps them in the river but not without first reading them. Ferrante masterfully combines Elena's recollections of events with Lila's point of view as documented in her notebooks to drive the narrative. The women's fraught relationship and shifting fortunes are the life forces of this poignant book. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Roman à clef by the reclusive author who writes under the name Elena Ferrante (The Lost Daughter, 2008, etc.): a beautifully written portrait of a sometimes difficult friendship. Set, as is so much of her work, in her native Naples, Italy, Ferrante's latest is a study in the possibility of triumph over disappointment. Its narrator, Elena Greco, is the daughter of a man who has managed by dint of hard work to rise only to the lowly position of porter at the city government building. Elena is brilliant, but less so than her friend Raffaella Cerullo, called--confusingly, for readers without Italian--Lila or Lina depending on who is talking. Both women, born in the year of liberation, 1944, are ambitious, whip-smart, as at home in the pages of Aristotle as in the hills of their still-battered city. Their native milieu is poor and barely literate, but both have emerged from it, despite the distractions afforded by the boys they like and the violence occasionally visited by those whom they don't. Lina has always outpaced Elena in every way, not least intellectually; as Elena recalls, "I saw that after half a page of the philosophy textbook she was able to find surprising connections between Anaxagoras, the order that the intellect imposes on the chaos of things, and Mendeleev's tables." That chaos, in the first volume of the trilogy to which this volume belongs, sweeps Lina away from her ambitions toward a domesticity that seems almost arbitrary, while Elena, the very definition of a survivor, forges on. Lina, it appears, will always consider her the lesser of equals, someone who, Elena frets, "couldn't even imagine that I might change." Yet, as Ferrante recounts, it is late-blooming Elena whose turn it is to flourish, despite setbacks and false starts; this second book closes with her embarking on what promises to be a brilliant literary career and with the hint that true love may not be far behind. Admirers of Ferrante's work will eagerly await the third volume.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609451349
  • Publisher: Europa
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Series: Neapolitan Novels Series , #2
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 867
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Elena Ferrante, author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and My Brilliant Friend, among others, is one of Italy’s most important and acclaimed contemporary writers. Her true identity is unknown.

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Read an Excerpt

The Story of A New Name

Book Two of the Neapolitan novels

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

Europa Editions

Copyright © 2012 Edizioni E/O
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60945-134-9



In the spring of 1966, Lila, in a state of great agitation, entrusted to me a metal box that contained eight notebooks. She said that she could no longer keep them at home, she was afraid her husband might read them. I carried off the box without comment, apart from some ironic allusions to the excessive amount of string she had tied around it. At that time our relationship was terrible, but it seemed that only I considered it that way. The rare times we saw each other, she showed no embarrassment, only affection; a hostile word never slipped out.

When she asked me to swear that I wouldn't open the box for any reason, I swore. But as soon as I was on the train I untied the string, took out the notebooks, began to read. It wasn't a diary, although there were detailed accounts of the events of her life, starting with the end of elementary school. Rather, it seemed evidence of a stubborn self-discipline in writing. The pages were full of descriptions: the branch of a tree, the ponds, a stone, a leaf with its white veinings, the pots in the kitchen, the various parts of a coffeemaker, the brazier, the coal and bits of coal, a highly detailed map of the courtyard, the broad avenue of stradone, the rusting iron structure beyond the ponds, the gardens and the church, the cut of the vegetation alongside the railway, the new buildings, her parents' house, the tools her father and her brother used to repair shoes, their gestures when they worked, and above all colors, the colors of every object at different times of the day. But there were not only pages of description. Isolated words appeared, in dialect and in Italian, sometimes circled, without comment. And Latin and Greek translation exercises. And entire passages in English on the neighborhood shops and their wares, on the cart loaded with fruit and vegetables that Enzo Scanno took through the streets every day, leading the mule by the halter. And many observations on the books she read, the films she saw in the church hall. And many of the ideas that she had asserted in the discussions with Pasquale, in the talks she and I used to have. Of course, the progress was sporadic, but whatever Lila captured in writing assumed importance, so that even in the pages written when she was eleven or twelve there was not a single line that sounded childish.

Usually the sentences were extremely precise, the punctuation meticulous, the handwriting elegant, just as Maestra Oliviero had taught us. But at times, as if a drug had flooded her veins, Lila seemed unable to bear the order she had imposed on herself. Everything then became breathless, the sentences took on an overexcited rhythm, the punctuation disappeared. In general it didn't take long for her to return to a clear, easy pace. But it might also happen that she broke off abruptly and filled the rest of the page with little drawings of twisted trees, humped, smoking mountains, grim faces. I was entranced by both the order and the disorder, and the more I read, the more deceived I felt. How much practice there was behind the letter she had sent me on Ischia years earlier: that was why it was so well written. I put everything back in the box, promising myself not to become inquisitive again.

But I soon gave in—the notebooks exuded the force of seduction that Lila had given off since she was a child. She had treated the neighborhood, her family, the Solaras, Stefano, every person or thing with ruthless accuracy. And what to say of the liberty she had taken with me, with what I said, with what I thought, with the people I loved, with my very physical appearance. She had fixed moments that were decisive for her without worrying about anything or anyone. Here vividly was the pleasure she had felt when at ten she wrote her story, The Blue Fairy. Here just as vivid was what she had suffered when our teacher Maestra Oliviero hadn't deigned to say a single word about that story, in fact had ignored it. Here was the suffering and the fury because I had gone to middle school, neglecting her, abandoning her. Here the excitement with which she had learned to repair shoes, the desire to prove herself that had induced her to design new shoes, and the pleasure of completing the first pair with her brother Rino. Here the pain when Fernando, her father, had said that the shoes weren't well made. There was everything, in those pages, but especially hatred for the Solara brothers, the fierce determination with which she had rejected the love of the older, Marcello, and the moment when she had decided, instead, to marry the gentle Stefano Carracci, the grocer, who out of love had wanted to buy the first pair of shoes she had made, vowing that he would keep them forever. Ah, the wonderful moment when, at fifteen, she had felt herself a rich and elegant lady, on the arm of her fiance, who, all because he loved her, had invested a lot of money in her father and brother's shoe business: Cerullo shoes. And how much satisfaction she had felt: the shoes of her imagination in large part realized, a house in the new neighborhood, marriage at sixteen. And what a lavish wedding, how happy she was. Then Marcello Solara, with his brother Michele, had appeared in the middle of the festivities, wearing on his feet the very shoes that her husband had said were so dear to him. Her husband. What sort of man had she married? Now, when it was all over, would the false face be torn off, revealing the horribly true one underneath? Questions, and the facts, without embellishment, of our poverty. I devoted myself to those pages, for days, for weeks. I studied them. I ended up learning by heart the passages I liked, the ones that thrilled me, the ones that hypnotized me, the ones that humiliated me. Behind their naturalness was surely some artifice, but I couldn't discover what it was.

Finally, one evening in November, exasperated, I went out carrying the box. I couldn't stand feeling Lila on me and in me, even now that I was esteemed myself, even now that I had a life outside of Naples. I stopped on the Solferino bridge to look at the lights filtered through a cold mist. I placed the box on the parapet, and pushed it slowly, a little at a time, until it fell into the river, as if it were her, Lila in person, plummeting, with her thoughts, words, the malice with which she struck back at anyone, the way she appropriated me, as she did every person or thing or event or thought that touched her: books and shoes, sweetness and violence, the marriage and the wedding night, the return to the neighborhood in the new role of Signora Raffaella Carracci.


I couldn't believe that Stefano, so kind, so in love, had given Marcello Solara the vestige of the child Lila, the evidence of her work on the shoes she had designed.


Excerpted from The Story of A New Name by Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein. Copyright © 2012 Edizioni E/O. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted June 7, 2014

    I'm heartbroken that I have to wait until September for the next

    I'm heartbroken that I have to wait until September for the next book in the series (I understand there are 4 altogether). These are wonderful, original, and  very powerful works that introduce the reader to a world and characters that is alien and familiar at the same time. 

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