G’Ra Asim in Baffler:
In her 2002 novel The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante deftly dissects just the kind of seemingly vestigial social and historical baggage that remains central to contemporary gender identity. It’s an audacious, unflinching look at the things that are still important to women and why. Reeling in the wake of her husband’s unexpected abandonment of her for another woman, thirty-eight-year-old Olga is vexed by the realization that her sense of self is tethered so tightly to her social roles as mother and wife. The novel’s title is fitting not only for its reference to the sudden dissolution of a marriage, but for Olga’s dereliction of the duties that have come to define her. Bills still pile up, the dog her husband left behind still requires care, and ants threaten to overtake the house when Olga neglects her once undeviating house-cleaning routine.
…I’m skeptical that a total understanding of another’s experience is ever the necessary threshold for thoughtful coexistence, but great literature provides insight into the experiences of others that might be otherwise inaccessible, and can be a vehicle for the kind of empathy that foments social progress. The Days of Abandonment is richer and more nuanced than a merely schematic handbook for post-sexist masculinity, but Ferrante does detail the perils that attend treating relationships as a zero-sum game in which a man willfully waxes at a woman’s wane.