Delia’s Elevator
A Short Story by
Elena Ferrante

Edited by Martha King
Translated by
Adria Frizzi

This short story, excerpted from the volume After the War: A Collection of Short Fiction by Postwar Italian Women, edited by Martha King, was published by Italica Press in 2004. It is the first work by renowned author Elena Ferrante translated into English.

Here are many of the elements of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels that would become so well known to the English-reading public a few years later.

Like Lenù, the narrator of My Brilliant Friend and the other Neaplitan novels, the protagonist of “Delia’s Elevator” is a woman whose memories and connections to her Neapolitan family and friends both define her as a writer and exclude her from her past life.

But, like the Neapolitan novels, “Delia’s Elevator” is as much about how writing and language define us as it is about the cities in which we live or the human connections that we make or break.

In the days after her mother’s death, Delia, a young woman living in “a different city” returns to Naples to close up her parents’ apartment and to collect the few memories of her childhood.

Everything about her past home reminds her of her struggle for an independent and modern identity: her siblings’ quick flight from Naples after the funeral, her mother’s Neapolitan dialect and her attempts to speak Italian to her daughter, her parents’ constant arguments and resentments, her fears and unpleasant memories of her old neighborhood and building, her childhood’s secret refuge — the elevator she would ride past her parents’ floor to sense some kind of secret freedom — and her failed attempts to connect with her mother as another woman seeking her own autonomy and dignity.

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