My Brilliant Friend (Italian: L'amica geniale), TV series, based on Ferrante's second Neapolitan Novel and titled My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name (Italian: L'amica geniale – Storia del nuovo cognome)

But it isn't clear who is the titular “Brilliant Friend?” Is there something lost in the translation? Is it just a catchy title?

I can guess it means either Elena, or how Elena and Lila view each other, but it isn't clear

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    @BCdotWEB it seems the Elena finds Lila as brilliant also, no? and Elena doesn't feel so brilliant, no?
    – Ori Marko
    Mar 23, 2022 at 7:26
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    I do not know, I have not watched the series nor read the books. I wouldn't be surprised however, if one of them explicitly refers to the other. Or perhaps it does refer to both.
    – BCdotWEB
    Mar 23, 2022 at 7:29
  • @BCdotWEB - "perhaps it does refer to both". having read the books and about to watch the third series, I would say that this is my take. Mar 28, 2022 at 13:07

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I think that "Brilliant" is how they both view each other, and that who is the "brilliant friend" shifts back and forth throughout their friendship. There's a certain edge of envy in their friendship. In the beginning, Lila is seen to be a prodigy, and Elena at one point says:

" When Lila stopped misbehaving and effortlessly outdid me, the teacher praised me first, with moderation, and then went on to exalt her prowess. I felt the poison of defeat more acutely when it was Sarratore or Peluso who did better than me ... Certainly I trained myself to accept readily Lila’s superiority in everything, and even her oppressions”(p32).

Then, Elena is able to continue on her education and Lila is not - Lila is jealous that Elena can continue down the path that she thought would be her way out of the neighborhood. While Elena moves into (and struggles in) the world of academia, Lila works in a factory and remains entrenched in the poverty of their childhood. Elena continues to find success as a writer and becomes known as 'brilliant' in her own right, but is still heavily affected by criticism she receives by Lila, who Elena continues to view as being the 'brilliant' one.

The dynamic between them is heavily influenced by these cycles of jealousy. I think that the phrase 'my brilliant friend' holds both bitterness and idolization of the other, summarizing their consistent rivalry throughout their lives. It implies a sense of resentment over the other's achievements, while also defining them by their relationship to the speaker.

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