Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The devastation of abandoment

The Days of Abandonment, by Elena Ferrante, was an absolutely devastating book. It made me thoroughly miserable and I wallowed in it.

I recommend it for its honesty and its anguish. There is nothing beautiful about it, but it describes in unflinching detail the workings of the mind of an abandoned woman. I know because I am one.

The absurdity of his uttering, "Don't think it's easy for me"!

For thirty-eight-year-old Olga, her fifteen-year marriage dissolved one April afternoon, right after lunch. She spends the summer disintegrating, withering under the imagined gaze of others — the sense that everybody knows, and they judge you for it. She's turned the magnifying glass on herself, searing into her soul, as if to etch the pain there, to feel it more deeply, to make it mean something more than it is.

[On Christmas evening, our eighteenth together, I told him, "I love you," and was greeted with silence. I've spent these three months reading about all manner of marriage gone wrong. In this way I think I've stopped myself from being completely consumed by rage and from committing countless desperate and petty acts of spite.]

Olga has two small children to care for, and a dog. And she totally loses it.

It is an exhausting, unpleasant read.

I was an unpleasant person for days while reading it, full of rage and frustration and confusion and despair. Yet I needed to read it. It was wholly cathartic. I think I'm done now, reading this kind of book, at least for a little while.

Jean Hanff Korelitz in the New York Times:
"Olga's close self-scrutiny and utter lack of resulting self-awareness is particularly striking."

James Woods in The New Yorker:
"It assails bourgeois niceties and domestic proprieties; it rips the skin off the habitual."

I have more Ferrante on deck, but I need to pause first. Readers will be discussing Ferrante's work over brunch at the 17th Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even though I come from Greece and I do like a Good Drama, I believe that men are like buses. You’ve missed one, there is another one coming… and another one….The other bus could be newer or vintage, could be a double-decker or an open one and it might take you to another destination, a better one!!
And if along the way you decide that you don’t like the bus or the destination, jump off and wait for a taxi or simply walk…. Congrats for your blog by the way!!