It’s interesting because her books do seem very readable in Italian. There are occasional weird idiomatic expressions that are Neapolitan words. She talks so much about people’s use of language. She tells us when someone’s speaking in dialect. She talks about how when Lila wants to, she can speak in a beautiful, educated type of Italian. We don’t really get examples of this, but Ferrante says, “She spoke like this,” or every once in awhile Elena will also fall into dialect. There’s this moment where she no longer wants to speak in dialect, it feels strange to her, but then sometimes she can go back into it. The obvious reason Ferrante doesn’t use dialect is because many Italians wouldn’t understand it. But a second reason may be that, as an Italian professor at CUNY was saying, Neapolitan dialect is very much a spoken language, and if she were writing it, there would be no point, in a way. It would lose the character that it has as a spoken language.
Ann Goldstein talks to Katrina Dodson (Guernica)