Confusions and entanglements behind Elena Ferrante's mothers and daughters

You don’t have to behave like a fundamentalist, I tell myself in a more or less exasperated soliloquy. It happens that in the matter of Elena Ferrante, which as a literary phenomenon already has enough secrets (starting with its identity), whenever possible it is better to be very clear. If the algorithm of Netflix does not lie at this point there are already many people who saw The dark daughter, the film that stars the ineffable Olivia Colman, but perhaps not so many noticed that behind the translation of the title the pot of possible confusion was uncovered. As a good activist of the Neapolitan cause, I went out to clarify it several times this week.

The original title of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal’s debut feature, The Lost Daughter (literally the daughter would be “lost”, not “dark”), is what triggered some cross-readings between Spanish-speaking readers and viewers. A good friend of mine – I will not say a “great friend” just to avoid adding more ingredients to this badly stirred broth – asked me a few days ago to recommend some books to take on a trip. And regarding the devotion to the enigmatic author that I instilled in him in past summers, he immediately warned me: “And I am not going to see that movie that they are promoting on TV, because I have not finished the Ferrante saga yet”, referring to the famous tetralogy de las Dos amigas, whose latest volume was translated into Spanish as … The lost girl (to finish completing the chain of mistakes, in English, it is called The Story of the Lost Child).

Better to separate the many then: although in fact a girl is lost in the film, the script is not based on that fourth part of the famous saga, but on a news above which in Spanish we know exactly as The dark daughter. In this case, the action does not take place in southern Italy, but on a Greek island where the main character goes on vacation. “Look at her calmly, it’s another story”, I encourage my friend, putting her safe from any possible spoiler about the end of the great saga, which garnered faithful throughout the world. I clarify one aspect for her, and yet later I am left with a hint of guilt: I failed to alert her that this great thriller about motherhood could guarantee her a harrowing manual Sunday.

Those who over the days came back to mention the confusion to me for firewood: relatives on the phone, coworkers at lunchtime, I repeated the increasingly oiled explanation to all of them: The dark daughter It is not The lost girl (How easy it sounds to say it like that, plain and simple). And in the same way that I am rescuing any human being lost in translation that reaches my shore, I admit that readers of the Ferrante universe will recognize more than one common element in both books. Prelude and coda? Not so much, but for example: as seen in the flashbacks of the film, in her youth Leda leaves her From daughters pursuing other desires, and Lenú, the narrator of the entire great Neapolitan caravan, “abandons” also in the final stretch his From girls. Both are dedicated to literature (Leda is a teacher, Lenú is a writer) and, as Ferrante writes without euphemisms, For these women, the institution of the family is “unbearable” without ceasing to be tremendously loving. By the way, Lenú – nickname of the protagonist of the series, which already has two seasons on HBO – is called Elena Greco, yes, Elena as the girl from The dark daughter. Como Ferrante.

In any case, the main thing about this exciting mess is that we are attached to a writer (let’s pretend she’s a woman, as she has wanted so far) who proved to be a master in the treatment of filiation, that bond so crossed by the shattering: in his dialect, a mysterious sensation that drags one for no apparent reason in directions opposite to that expected. On mothers and daughters Ferrante wrote another magnificent short novel, Annoying love, and also The days of abandonment, which together with The dark daughter, They meet at Chronicles of heartbreak.

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