The Story of the Lost Child,’ by Elena Ferrante
Elena Ferrante has written her story twice: once in a group of intense, highly modeled short novels whose action unfolds over a brief time span; and again in the four sprawling, rambunctious, decades-spanning works that compose her Neapolitan saga. That these two modes of storytelling — the compact and the commodious; the modern and the historical; the distilling of life into metaphor and its picaresque, riotous expansion — are so obviously the obverse of each other constitutes yet another narrative, the story of how an individual (more specifically, a woman) arrives, after the vicissitudes of living, at a definition of self. “Do you want the long answer or the short?” is the customary divide between explanations versus outcomes in the retelling of events. Ferrante gives us both the long answer and the short, and in doing so adumbrates the mysterious beauty and brutality of personal experience.