It's hard to think of a recent book-to-screen adaptation more fervently anticipated than My Brilliant Friend, the eight-episode first season of the HBO series based on Elena Ferrante's novel of the same name.
The first in Ferrante's quartet of Neapolitan Novels, My Brilliant Friend is the story of Elena and Lila, two young women growing up in Naples in the 1950s. Over the course of the novel, each girl struggles with what it means to be smart, what it means to be beautiful, and what it means to be a friend, set against the backdrop of a country struggling to define itself socially, economically, and politically in the years after World War II.
While HBO has set shows in Italy before, including Rome and The Young Pope, My Brilliant Friend is the network's first to be presented in Italian (and, in fact, the first major HBO series to appear in a language other than English)—specifically, the Neapolitan dialect, one often hard to understand even for native Italian speakers.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2019 issue of Pacific Standard.