Books International Literatura Europa Picture Books Reading Themes

Europa Editions Picturebooks (Part Two of Two) in Elena Ferrante’s “The Beach At Night”

This is Part Two of my Europa Editions picturebook special post. If you know of any other titles that we should hunt down, do let us know.

The Beach At Night

Written byElena Ferrante Illustrated by: Mara Cerri Translated by: Ann Goldstein
Published byEuropa Editions, 2016. First published in 2007. ISBN: 1609453700 (ISBN13: 9781609453701).
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge fan of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. An ambitious part of me hopes to share my thoughts about the books before our current reading theme ends, but we shall see where that idea leads me eventually. This particular illustrated story may be perceived as somewhat connected to Ferrante’s stand-alone novel The Lost Daughter, which I read while I was in Korea last year. I am glad I documented that reading journey in my Litsy App.

One may even perceive the missing doll in The Lost Daughter as kin to Celina in The Beach at Night, the name of the doll who was left in the beach by a five year old girl named Mati. The young girl is distracted by her new plaything, a cat, that her father has bought for her.

I hesitate to call this a picturebook, since the story is meant for a more mature audience. It is a much longer narrative, more like a vignette, or a disturbing illustrated short story. There is also darkness here that is woven into a magical realism, borderline surreal story, where dolls possess words that their human has fed into them through play and heartfelt conversations.

This little-known fact, however, is something that the villain in the story, The Mean Beach Attendant with his Big Rake, is aware of. And while he was disappointed that there were no jewels left in the sand, he knows how the words plucked out from a Doll’s being has value in the market:

Everything in the story is reified, from the burning flames to the crashing waves to the doll’s consciousness with the words that she clutches jealously and protectively to the center of her body so that the Mean Beach Attendant would not be able to access it.

Whether or not Celina finds her way back to five year old Mati, I shall leave for you to discover. This is a story that would remain with me for a long time to come.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

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