The face behind the elusive Elena Ferrante, at least in the English-speaking world, is Ann Goldstein, the American writer whose masterful translations have made Ferrante’s popular Neapolitan quartet available to English readers. Ahead of the publication of Ferrante’s newest book, The Lying Life of Adults—the novel, in a translation by Goldstein out this Tuesday from Europa Editions, has already been optioned for a Netflix original series—Goldstein recommends the best books about Italy’s historic cities, ranging from little-known gems by Pier Paolo Pasolini to outside looks into Rome and Naples by Elizabeth Bowen and Shirley Hazzard. At these books’ core are details that transport the reader—Emanuele Trevi, for instance, “is a writer who often wanders around Rome. In his new novel, Sogni e favole (not yet available in English), he describes a street I know well, the Via dei Cappellari,” says Goldstein. “But he describes a detail that I hadn’t known, a plaque indicating the birthplace of the poet Metastasio. At a moment when I have no idea when I might be able to return to Italy, it is comforting—a comfort tinged with frustration and nostalgia—to think about being in Rome.”
Something Written, by Emanuele Trevi
This is a memoir of a period that Trevi, obsessed with Pasolini’s last, unfinished novel, Petrolio, spent working at the Pasolini Foundation, in Rome. It’s a coming-of-age story that combines literary criticism, historical research, and a portrait of Laura Betti, an actress who was the head of the foundation and a close friend of Pasolini’s.