At the Los Angeles Times, Didier Jacob interviews Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous author of the massively popular “Neapolitan novels.” In the four-volume story of friends Lila and Lenù, the city of Naples — sprawling, crumbling, beautiful, violent — is less a setting than a character; in the interview, Ferrante talks about her own experience of the city.

One has to be very fortunate not to be touched even slightly by violence and its various manifestations in Naples. But perhaps that’s true of New York, London, Paris. Naples isn’t worse than other cities in Italy or in the world. I’ve spent a lot of time coming to an understanding of it. In the past, I used to think that only in Naples did the lawful continuously lose its boundaries and become confused with the unlawful, that only in Naples did good feelings suddenly, violently, without any break, become bad feelings. Today it seems to me that the whole world is Naples and that Naples has the merit of having always presented itself without a mask. Since it is a city by nature of astonishing beauty, the ugly — criminality, violence, corruption, connivance, the aggressive fear in which we live defenseless, the deterioration of democracy — stands out more clearly.

Read the interview