The city of Naples has always been a continuous discovery: it always hides glimpses full of ideas. Discover the chat we had with Maurizio Pagano, author of “I luoghi dell’amica geniale” (The places of the brilliant friend) and of the sequel, “La smemorata dei luoghi geniali“( The forgetful of the brilliant places).
Those who have read the famous tetralogy by Elena Ferrante and have seen the TV series of the same name by Saverio Costanzo, have let themselves be drawn into that fascinating universe, made up of authentic characters and places, against a retro background. From these premises, the adventure of Maurizio Pagano, a Neapolitan writer, originally from Rione Luzzatti, was also born. While reading the story of Lila and Lenù, he didn’t just identify with it, but recognized familiar places and even faces. So, he got inspired for his books and started organizing tours in the neighborhood, delighting the fans of the story.
How did you construct “the forgetful”, the protagonist of your novels?
The forgetful one has a particular story and like many characters in my books has a basis of truth. One day I was walking through the streets of my district and I met a distinguished woman, in her seventies, who was looking at the group of houses that make up the so-called rione nuovo: the Ascarelli district.
She gave me the impression that she was a woman trying to get some details, as if she wanted to remember something, as if she was looking for something that would make her understand where she was.
I walked past her and after a few meters I stopped to look at her: she was perfect, she was my character. She was the link between Ferrante’s works and what Francesco Russo, co-author of “I luoghi dell’amica geniale” (The places of the brilliant friend) and I had in mind.
The story of the forgetful woman came out of the blue, it was the missing link, the connection to present our neighborhood, not through the eyes of someone who lived it in passing or for some time, but from someone who knew the neighborhood deeply since the ’30s. In this my father, class of ’25, who passed away last November, facilitated us greatly.
What was your intent in telling the story of the Rione Luzzatti?
The purpose was to shed light on a neighborhood and a population that from Ferrante’s stories and, later, from the TV series, came out with broken bones: the misery of a post-war neighborhood is told, generalizing the bad business. The intent was to tell the true rione Luzzatti, the real population, the origins, the people who still populate it and make parallels, especially in “La smemorata dei luoghi geniali” (The forgetful of the brilliant places) with characters who really existed and with events that really happened.
Tell us about the embankment, a mysterious place mentioned in Ferrante’s bestsellers.
The embankment is nothing but a pile of rubble. In the post-war period, it was decided to sacrifice the Ascarelli field, damaged but not completely destroyed by bombing, as well as the XXVIII October swimming pool that was adjacent, to make room for the rubble of an entire city. On that rubble then settled derelicts, vagrants and homeless: people desperate and hungry from the war, who sought among that rubble to rebuild a place to call home. This, later, brought delinquency to a neighborhood that was anything but infamous.
Andreoli’s library, is the theater where the reading competitions take place in My Brilliant Friend.
Professor Collina’s Popular Circulating Library was one of the few protected places in the neighborhood. It was and still is, in some ways, the place where culture meets in the Luzzatti neighborhood.
It was born thanks to the intuition of Professor Agostino Collina, who understood the needs of the young people of the neighborhood in the post-war period: to be able to give them a safe place where they could study in depth and even more fight against the school dropout with remedial courses for those children who were forced against their will to work to support their families. A true point of reference for the entire neighborhood.
How did the idea for the second book come about?
The “forgetful” woman still had so much to tell. That woman who scanned the ward to remember, also had her own story and her own tales to offer. The “forgetful” is the voice of the neighborhood that slowly remembered facts and characters mentioned in My Brilliant Friend. Rafilina ‘a pazza put together the pieces of many true stories, of many objective truths told by those who recognized themselves in the famous books and in the TV series, by those who made the same choices as Ferrante’s characters. The forgetful, Rafilina ‘a pazza, is the Luzzatti district.
Who is the typical user of the tours you organize? Give us some anticipation
Even before the airing of the first season of the TV series “My Brilliant Friend“, the visitors were mainly foreign readers and fans of the tetralogy: they arrived in the rione and I intercepted them because I wrote my books in the Andreoli Library.
Most of the time I would find myself talking for hours walking with them and explaining the places that were in the books and those that are no longer there. Then there was a real boom in the aftermath of the TV series.
Before the pandemic we had also had the Campania Region, which, thanks to the Councillor for Education, Lucia Fortini, had indicated our initiative to the school directors of Naples and province.
The tour, when it resumes, will have a route through the neighborhood and a theatrical part written for some actresses who took part in the filming of the TV series.
The stages of the route: the Gianturco station
The bridges of Gianturco Station, terminus of Line 2. The subway was the most important link that the Rione Luzzatti had with the rest of the city. The Gianturco stop is close to the rione and to get there you have to cross some underpasses. In My Brilliant Friend, the protagonists, as in a sort of rite of passage to grow up, go through the tunnel and take the big road that leads to the sea.
The Rione Luzzatti
The Rione Luzzatti rises in Naples, in via Taddeo da Sessa, in the eastern outskirts of Naples. Once a marshy area, it was reclaimed on the proposal of Emanuele Gianturco. The district, built between 1914 and 1925, was and is formed by a series of parks, called “cancelli” by the inhabitants, with their respective basements. Here, there were also some sports facilities: a swimming pool, but also the first stadium of Naples, whose construction was financed by the industrialist Giorgio Ascarelli.
The Andreoli Library
The Andreoli Library, in Via Leonardo Murialdo, 7. It is open to the public from Monday to Friday, from 9 to 19, except in August. Originally, it was animated by the volumes and the strength of mind of Professor Collina, who seems to have inspired the Ferrantian character of Maestro Ferraro. Today, the facade of the building features one of the murals through which, for some years now, the area has been redeveloped.