The figurative language of Elena Ferrante….

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Elena Ferrante…

I have not yet read any of the famous Neopolitan Novels by the pseudonymous Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.

Instead, following a recommendation by the New York Times Book Review podcast, I decided to start with an earlier novel, The Days of Abandonment.

While I found the plot a bit melodramatic for my taste (focusing on Italian woman’s experiences after being left by her husband), I was duly impressed by Ferrante’s writing skill and her fine use of figurative language.

Here are my favourite examples:

  • The girl, perhaps without even realizing it, and who knows for how long, had been assessing the power of her swaying body, her restless eyes, on my husband; and he looked at her as one looks from a gray area at a white wall struck by the sun.
  • Mari had been vague, like a patient who is unable to enumerate his symptoms precisely.
  • Drawn-out cries and laments…reached the piazza, as far as the palm trees with their long, arching branches, their fronds vibrating in fear.
  • She became transparent skin over bones, her eyes drowning in violet wells, her hands damp spider webs.
  • Day and night the park seemed to be pushing itself toward our house, as if with branches and leaves it wanted to devour it.
  • But I’ve always had a low voice, I can’t yell, the words fall a short distance away like a handful of pebbles thrown by a child.
  • Tender little hand, fingers of vapor.
  • Finally she invited me to dinner the following night, and although I didn’t feel like it, I accepted: the circle of an empty day is brutal, and at night it tightens around your neck like a noose.
  • Carrano’s bow as deep and refined, like the curving of a flame pushed by a gust of wind.