Lies and Sorcery
NYRB Classics, US$24.95 pb, 789 pp
Elena Ferrante declared Elsa Morante’s début novel Menzogna e sortilegio (1948) ‘fundamental’ to her literary formation. The novel is now available unabridged in English for the first time as Lies and Sorcery, in a brilliant translation by Jenny McPhee.
Like Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, Morante’s novel begins with the loss of the woman closest to the narrator, propelling a first-person epic to recover a shared past. However, this novel has little of the visceral realism that Ferrante has become famous for in the Anglophone world. It is instead a delirious mix of ghost story, romantic epic, and Künstlerroman that remains almost as difficult to categorise today as when it was published at the height of Italian neorealism.