Elena Ferrante on the Historic Struggle of Women Writers

Longreads

INTERVIEWER

Do you think female fiction is constitutionally weak?

FERRANTE

Not at all. I’m talking about my adolescent anxieties. For obvious historical reasons, women’s writing has a less dense and varied tradition than male writing, but it has extremely high points and also an extraordinary foundational value—just think of Jane Austen. The twentieth century, besides, was a century of radical change for women. Feminist thought and practice set in motion the deepest, most radical of the many transformations that took place in the last century. I wouldn’t recognize myself without women’s struggles, women’s nonfiction, women’s literature—they made me an adult. My experience as a novelist, both published and unpublished, culminated, after twenty years, in the attempt to relate, in a writing that was appropriate, my sex and its difference. But if we have to cultivate our narrative tradition, as women, that doesn’t mean we should renounce the entire stock…

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