The first novel in Elena Ferrante's four part series, My Brilliant Friend, is to be adapted into an eight-episode Italian drama series for HBO and Italian state broadcaster Rai. Production is set to begin this summer.
Based on My Brilliant Friend, published by Europa Editions, the HBO-RAI original series will be filmed in Italian in Naples and adapted for TV by Elena Ferrante alongside Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and the series' director Saverio Costanzo. The premiere is planned for 2018.
Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani of Wildside, an Italian television and film production company owned by FremantleMedia, and Domenico Procacci from production company Fandango are producing the Italian-language series, with Jennifer Schuur for Wildside and Fandango in the role of executive producer. They are expecting 32 episodes to cover all four books, with HBO so far on board for the first eight episodes. FremantleMedia will be the series' international distributor.
At the heart of the plot for My Brilliant Friend is Elena Greco, an elderly women who, when the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship. She met Raffaella Cerullo, who she has always called Lila, in the first year of primary school in 1950. Set in a dangerous and fascinating Naples, their story thus begins and goes on to cover over 60 years of their lives, trying to describe the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and – in a way – her best friend, her worst enemy.
Through Nielsen to date, My Brilliant Friend has sold 236,608 print copies in the UK for £2.5m, while across Ferrante's books in total she has surpassed sales of half a million copies.
Italian journalist Claudio Gatti claimed to have found the true identity of the reclusive Ferrante in October, alleging it was freelance translator Anita Raja, once the co-ordinator for an imprint of Italian writers at Ferrante's Italian publisher Edizione e/o. The unmasking at the time was met with anger and disappointment from the literary community, although booksellers said the added interest would be likely to boost sales of the title.