The Days of Abandonment – Elena Ferrante – Quotes

Now, just thinking about it, I felt like whipping the air of the pinewood harder and harder, like a child, to evoke the spirits, perhaps to chase them away, and the more energy I put into it, the sharper the whistle became. I burst into laughter, alone, seeing myself like that, a thirty-eight-yar-old woman in serious trouble, who suddenly returns to her childhood game. Yes, I said to myself, we do, we imaging, even as adults, a lot of silly things, out of joy or exhaustion. And I laughed, waving that long thin branch, and felt more and more like laughing.

I spent the night and the following day in reflection. I felt occupied on two fronts: I had to keep hold of the reality of the facts while sidelining the flow of mental images and thoughts; and meanwhile try to give myself strength by imagining I was like the salamander, which can pass through fire without feeling pain.
Don’t succumb, I goaded myself. Fight. I feared above all my growing incapacity to stick to a thought, to concentrate on a necessary action. The abrupt, uncontrollable twists frightened me.

Mario, I wrote, to give myself courage, had not taken away the world, he had taken away only himself. And you are not a woman of thirty years ago. You are of today, take hold of today, don’t regress, don’t lose yourself, keep a tight grip. Above all, don’t give in to distracted or malicious or angry monologues. Eliminate the exclamation points. He’s gone, you’re still here. You’ll no longer enjoy the gleam of his eyes, of his words, but so what? Organize your defenses, preserve your wholeness, don’t let yourself break like an ornament, you’re not a knickknack, no woman is a knickknack. La femme rompue, al rompue, the destroyed woman, destroyed shit. My job, I thought, is to demonstrate that one can remain healthy. Demonstrate it to myself, no one else.

A woman can easily kill on the street, in the middle of a crowd, she can do it more easily than a man. Her violence seems a game, a parody, an improper and slightly ridiculous use of the male intent to do harm.

I decided, enough pain. To the lips of their nocturnal happiness I would attach those of my revenge. I was not the woman who breaks into pieces under the blows of abandonment and absence, who goes mad, who dies. Only a few fragments had splintered off, for the rest I was well. I was whole, whole I would remain. To those who hurt me, I react giving back in kind. I am the queen of spades, I am the wasp that stings, I am the dark serpent. I am the invulnerable animal who passes through fire and is not burned.

I have to relearn – I said to myself – the tranquil pace of those who believe they know where they’re going and why.

I wanted to be me. If that formulation even made sense. Or at least I wanted to see what remained of me, once he was removed.

You can find my review of The Days of Abandonment here.

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