A Neapoli­tan ‘Game of Thrones?’

Forward Magazine - - Culture -

El e n a F e r r a n t e ’ s Neapoli­tan Novels be­came a lit­er­ary phe­nom­e­non. Will a tele­vised adap­ta­tion of the books meet sim­i­lar suc­cess? The au­thor, who writes un­der a pseu­do­nym, has kept her iden­tity stu­diously un­der wraps even af­ter a re­porter, last fall, claimed to have “un­masked her” as the daughter of a Jewish Holo­caust refugee.

The New York Times’s Jonathan Horowitz asked if the se­ries, on which HBO is col­lab­o­rat­ing, might be­come a suc­cess sim­i­lar to that of the network’s “Game of Thrones.”

“Un­for­tu­nately, ‘My Bril­liant Friend’ doesn’t pro­vide the same kind of plot points,” Fer­rante re­sponded.

Horowitz orig­i­nally reached out to Fer­rante while re­port­ing an ear­lier story on the Neapoli­tan chil­dren au­di­tion­ing to play the two cen­tral roles, Lila and Lenú, in “My Bril­liant Friend,” the first of Fer­rante’s four Neapoli­tan Novels. Fer­rante missed his dead­line, but still had thoughts to of­fer on the chil­dren try­ing for a chance at star­dom.

“They know lit­tle or noth­ing about books,” she com­mented. “They are spec­ta­tors who hope to be­come ac­tors, ei­ther for play or a shot at de­liv­er­ance.”

Asked by Horowitz if she would pre­fer to cast chil­dren who had ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up in con­di­tions sim­i­larly rough to those ex­pe­ri­enced by Lila and Lenú, Fer­rante was cir­cum­spect.

“Child ac­tors por­tray chil­dren as adults imag­ine chil­dren to be. Chil­dren who are not ac­tors have some chance to break free of the stereo­type,” she said.

While she’s ab­stain­ing from cast­ing de­ci­sions — “I don’t have this skill set,” she said — Fer­rante is ad­vis­ing on the show’s script.

As for “Game of Thrones,” “My Bril­liant Friend” is nei­ther as bloody nor as fan­tas­ti­cal as its pre­de­ces­sor. But the two are both book se­ries pow­ered to fame — and the small screen — based on the ve­he­ment af­fec­tion of a base of loyal fans. That’s not a force to un­der­es­ti­mate.

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