‘Beauty of form, at least in my experience, can become an obsession that hides more complex problems—the story doesn’t work, I can’t find the right way, I’ve lost faith in my knowledge of how to tell a story. Then there are times when nothing matters but getting the story down. That is the most joyful moment, when I know the narrative is underway, and all I have to do is make it flow better.

… I look back at what I’ve done. I get rid of redundancies, I fill in what seems barely sketched, and I explore paths that the text itself now suggests to me. Then, once I finish the story, I give it a really thorough going-over. There will be various drafts and corrections, reworkings, new inserts, until a few hours before the book goes to press. In that phase I become sensitive to every detail of daily life. I see an effect of light and make a note of it. I see a plant in a meadow and try not to forget it. I make lists of words, I write down phrases I hear on the street. I work a lot—on the proofs, too—and there is nothing that can’t, at the last moment, end up in the story, become an element in a landscape, the second term of a simile, a metaphor, a new dialogue, the ­unexpected and yet not outlandish adjective I was looking for.’

– Elena Ferrante, The Art of Fiction No. 228, The Paris Review

‘A plot twist can lose substance simply because I can’t keep it to myself and describe it to a friend. The oral story immediately destroys everything—however remarkable the development I had in mind, from that moment it doesn’t seem worth the trouble of writing down.’

– Elena Ferrante, The Art of Fiction No. 228, The Paris Review

‘Every intense relationship between human beings is full of traps, and if you want it to endure you have to learn to avoid them.’

– Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child

‘Maybe, in the face of abandonment, we are all the same; maybe not even a very orderly mind can endure the discovery of not being loved.’

– Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay