Elena Ferrante: My Brillant Friend

Reading new authors makes me excited every time. It is like first date: Is she/he going to like me? Am I going to like her /him? I started reading Ferrante’s novel with these feelings. I am sympathetic to Italian life. I have the feeling that they are kinda close to our Turkish living. Cosy kitchens, strong family relations and trespassing individuals’ lives all the time having no idea of individual space. I think I was right about my stereotypical approach towards Italians. And of course there is this unseen tie between all social classes of the world. More or less same problems, same expectations from life and same disappointments.

Ferrante seemingly tells the story of two girls Lina and Lila. However, beyond these girls amazing imagination and survival strategies towards life you see Italian working class way of life. Poor neighbourhoods and increasing estrangement of young people from their families especially thanks to education. Similarly in Turkey education is still the major tool for social mobilisation. Estrangement from old habits, families and poor and ugly neighbourhoods is inevitable for educated young people.

I am putting Turkish book cover that I liked more than English cover.

This story somehow touched my heart because I had a more or less similar friendship. I am coming from a working class family too. My childhood friend and I always dreamed of being writers. She stopped school after high school and got married in couple of years later. I continued my education that I became a PhD finally. Invisible distance between us increased in years. She wrote an unpublished young adult novel couple of years ago which I did not quite admired.

When I read Ferrante’s novel, I remembered all these timeline. I had this awkward  movements when you feel like someone spied on your life. I do not think I need to say more about how beautifully written this novel is. It gave me that bitter sour feeling but I loved it.


Dostoyevski’s Demons

Photo from Daily Telegraph
Photo from Daily Telegraph

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Luke 8:26-39


This brilliant novel can be introduced as Dostoyevski’s anti-nilihist anti-socialist work. It can be considered as a harsh critique of both of these ideologies which rejected affects of religion and church over people at the time. While providing ideological critique, Dostoyevski points out the following parts as negative aspects of these movements:

*A common war against tradition and values of the society in which they flourish

*Common European roots of the ideology which hampers them to understand realities of Russian culture at the time

*Their inevitable tendency to violence as means to reach their objectives

*Their mobilization of workers as another means to arrive certain ends

*Their unorganized, and rootless character which lacks a certain belief system

*Certain leader’s abuse of common people for their different aims.

Russian Atheism has never gone further than making a joke.

On the other hand, Dostoyevski does not avoid to criticize conservatism too.

Man is unhappy because he doesn’t know he’s happy. It’s only that.

Conservatism’s failure to deal with modern revolutionary ideals is also underlined via different characters in the book. City governor’s day-dreamer mood during times of revolutionary break troughs is worth to mention as a representation of conservatism’s position against people’s seek for more democracy and power. Also, day’s elite’s lust for luxury and high social standards is criticized as blindfolding them towards newly appearing movements in the country.

 One must really be a great man to be able to make a stand even against common sense.

The touching quote from Bible at the beginning of this piece takes place in Demons’ first page. As I read thoroughly, I realized this possessed man represents Russian Empire which is poisoned by foreign ideologies as Dostoyevski claims. Dostoyevski also points a finger to sacred (or conservative) truth which he believes Russian Empire’s only independence lies within. For me, Dostoyevski as an idealist conservative tries to tell us that exported ideologies are mortal unless they are fed by realities, beliefs and culture of the society within which they appear. Otherwise, as is repeatedly said “revolution devours its own children”.