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Across the Ocean

Across the Ocean . . . About the literary sensations of Elena Ferrante in the U.S. and Jhumpa Lahiri in Italy

The Italian literary landscape has witnessed two very interesting cases in the last few years: the remarkable success in the U.S. of the four Neapolitan novels of the Italian author Elena Ferrante, L’amica geniale (The brilliant friend) (2011-2014), and the success in Italy of the Indian American author Jumpa Lahiri, who published in 2015 her first work in Italian, In altre parole (In Other Words).

The talk will discuss the works of the two authors and the reasons behind their international success.

Ferrante is the author of a half dozen novels, the best known of which is the four-volume work known as Neapolitan Novels, about two perceptive and intelligent girls from Naples who try to create lives for themselves within a violent and stultifying culture. The series consists of My Brilliant Friend (2012), The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015), which was nominated for the Strega Prize, an Italian literary award. Ferrante holds that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” She has repeatedly argued that anonymity is a precondition for her work and that keeping her true name out of the spotlight is key to her writing process.

Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhode Island. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and author of two previous books. Her debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and The New Yorker Debut of the Year. Her novel The Namesake was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Dr. Roberto Bertilaccio (Ph.D. – Universtà di Siena, Italia) is currently Visiting Lecturer at University of Delhi and Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi; he is also staff member of the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre. He has published articles and essays on Italian literature of XIX and XX century.

  • Organized by: Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Mumbai
  • In collaboration with: Somaiya Centre for Lifelong Learning