History Is Addictive

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For Public Books, David Kurnick explores how Elena Ferrante’s attention to history contributes to the addictive nature of her novels and is helping to “revive” realism:

The addictive quality of the Neapolitan novels on which everyone agrees may finally derive from their unequaled sensitivity to what it feels like to be in and with history—sometimes in anticipation, often in contempt or fear, always with excitement and attention. “What time is now, what time was then,” Lenù writes in Story of the Lost Child, giving us no grammatical clue as to whether to read the words as a statement or a question. The point seems to be in that disorientation. Rarely has writing this uncompromising about the destructions of the past been so exhilarated by the openness of the present.


Jake Slovis earned his MFA in Writing from Rutgers University, where he now teaches English Composition. He is a second-generation Argentine American and has spent significant time living and writing in Buenos Aires. He currently resides in Brooklyn. More from this author →