There is one form of power that has fascinated me ever since I was a girl… the power of storytelling.
In this May, 2019 essay, novelist Elena Ferrante writes that the “Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) made a great impression on her in her youth.
In this work, which is at the origin of the grand Italian and European narrative traditions, 10 youths — seven women and three men — take turns telling stories for 10 days.
The young Ferrante liked that seven of Boccaccio’s ten narrators were women. (In the framework that Boccaccio contrives for his tales the storytellers are passing the time while shielding from the Black Death in a country villa. It was seven centuries before Netflix.)
Ferrante’s conclusion seems as vital today as it was in the 14th century and last May:
The female story, told with increasing skill, increasingly widespread and unapologetic, is what must now assume power.
Elena Ferrante is the author of the four Neapolitan novels: “My Brilliant Friend,” “The Story of a New Name,” “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” and “The Story of the Lost Child.” This essay was translated by Ann Goldstein from the Italian.
(Elena Ferrante, “A Power of Our Own,” NYTimes, 5-17-19. The photograph is from Moya Lothian-McLean, “She Was Just Walking Home,” NYTimes, 3-17-21))
(c) 2021 JMN