Silvia Avallone explores the darkest corners of friendship in the internet age

On the one hand Elisa, a shy and introverted teenager. On the other hand Beatrice, a I-you-seen fighter who does not shy away from any metamorphosis in order to exist. Opposites attract, a friendship develops between these two lonely little girls, the first indifferent to appearances and the second investing everything in appearances. Elisa, a lover of literature, prefers the labyrinths of the novel and poetry to the paths of fashion, transvestism and make-up, which her friend frantically searches.

We are in the 1990s, already in the middle of the last decade of the 20th century, the internet came, then the first blogs, then social networks, widening the gap between the girl who only swears by books and the one , which swears by books, further enlarges images. Is the Internet a machine for making knowledge available to all, or a brainwashing machine? In any case, Elisa and Beatrice are two good students, each ambitious in their own way; One wholeheartedly resists the upheaval he represents, and the other plunges into it with enthusiasm and opportunism until she becomes an iconic influencer.

terrible collision

This fused friendship, which incessantly tears them to the point of hate, spite, rejection and reunion, thrives in the Italy of those years and in well-defined and very well-represented family circles. It is Elisa holding the pen, she is 34 years old, mother of a teenager and writing her first novel. The narrator grew up in Biella (like Silvia Avallone herself), raised by a quirky mother in this small Piedmont town north of Turin, alongside her brother Niccolo, a punky who always farted and was utterly lost.

Also read: Elena Ferrante as a teenager

As a teenager, she was alone with her university dad, a pioneer of digital technology, in a small coastal town in Tuscany, referred to only by the letter T, where she met her friend Beatrice in high school. We go to Bologna a few years later, where Elisa is studying literature at her famous university (like Silvia Avallone, philosophy option). Even if both go to the same university and share the same apartment with Lorenzo, Elisa’s friend Beatrice, she lives in Bologna on another planet, the sciences of statistics. It is not this kind of divergence that will cause a terrible quarrel between the friends, but rather an affair of the heart, betrayal and jealousy.

From Ferrante to Avallone

The strength of this often moving novel, despite sometimes bombastic dialogues and some slips in platitudes, lies in the almost tangible presence of the characters and its anchoring in the social reality of contemporary Italy, where the author skillfully mixes several themes: friendship, of course, the dawn of digital technology around the turn of the century, but also loneliness, fear of abandonment, loss, the difficulty of being a parent and, above all, finding your way around.

Among the great successes of Italian literature are Elena Ferrante and The wonderful friendbut again, as if to echo, and almost two generations later, this time in northern Italy, Silvia Avallone and A friendship. Avallone emerged in 2010 at the age of 25 with her first novel Acciaio, translated into 12 countries, sold more than 350,000 copies and adapted for cinema by Stefano Mordini. In French steel was published in 2011 by Liana Levi. Set in the small Tuscan industrial town of Piombino, where the author lived, this novel already gave pride of place to two teenage girls against the backdrop of a very real steel mill that crushes men and destinies.

Read again: Elena Ferrante signs a heartbreaking farewell to the ‘Prodigious Friend’ with ‘The Lost Child’


Silvia Avallone, A friendship. Translated from the Italian by Françoise Brun. Liana Levi, 526 p.

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