One April afternoon, right after lunch, her husband announced that he wanted to leave her.
From there Turin based Olga documents her descent into madness and rage at her abandonment. Or maybe its her abandonment of identity that she has accumulated over the years that she is talking about. A clawing away of mannerisms, skin, ego, possession and appearance. She wants to hook needles into her face and rip her skin away, claw away the red bleeding flesh till her nails scrape on the skull.
Elena Ferrante’s prose is raw and her emotions honest. She relentlessly pursues her thoughts and fearlessly pens them that hitherto unacknowledged feelings of jealousy, hatred, pettiness makes its way into the story. Like Lolita’s Humpert Humpert this is a person whose words can shoot darts, arrows and javelins.
Summer in Turin
At one point Olga is talking about the oppressive heat that Turin smolders under during the summer. The burnt smell of tree barks, the tired passersby, her lamentable condition at not being able to take herself and her kids away from that Italian furnace when a thought struck me.
How hot does it actually get in Turin in summer? The highest recorded temperature was 98.8 F. EVER.
The average temperature in my hometown this month is 98. That burst my bubble. Her’s is a pain that is experienced differently than mine. A poetic pain. A masochistic pain.
My wife and I went for a blood test one day. The experience was positively traumatic for my wife. She had to hum aloud to distract herself from the needle prick. When it was my turn I was staring intently with fascination at the sharp end piercing my skin.
Pain is experienced differently even when the event is arguably the same. The pain amplifies or diminishes as it travels to the brain. Ferrante’s pain was in her heart. It was in the years of modesty and bourgeois values that her philistine husband discarded for a nubile nymphet.
For all of Olga’s raw appeal, I did not once reproach her husband’s coup d’etat.
Of Divorces and Separations
I am at that age where my friends and cousins are either getting hitched, divorced or written off in life as perennial wanderers. Of this last variety there are woefully few in my family. Invariably I run into one or two separatees/ divorcees who wear the tag much like a martyr. Life has tricked them by not allowing them their happily ever after. They have a petulant look that reminds one of a kid whose ice cream has fallen into the dirt.
Or maybe its the other way round. It could be a reflection of those on the other side who want to see all these emotions in their eyes and voice.
I know of an Olga in real life who went through a gradually decaying marriage. The machinations of separation started unraveling a carefully branded married life. Curated public pictures now revisited by friends seemed to reveal hidden signs of antipathy. Busybodies busied their bodies (thumbs at least) on countless whatsapp groups. With uncanny orchestration normalcy and civility is embraced in the couple’s presence.
After the couple’s eventual separation, needless to say, my “Hearty congratulations” to their new status went unappreciated. It is very well that I do not have to attend many weddings, funerals, 60th birthdays, thread ceremonies and baby showers.
It is too taxing to have to think of appropriate things to say.