Advertisement
Books

Elena Ferrante’s identity is revealed against her wishes (but we’re staying mum)

Elena Ferrante books
Books by the pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante are international bestsellers.
(Europa)

An Italian journalist claims to have uncovered the identity of Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous author whose “Neapolitan Novels” have become a worldwide literary sensation.

In an article published in the New York Review of Books as well as in news outlets in France, Germany and Italy, Claudio Gatti writes that financial and real estate records indicate that Ferrante is an Italian translator living in Rome.

Do you want to know who, exactly, is the author of “My Brilliant Friend,” “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” “The Story of the Lost Child” and “The Story of a New Name”? If yes, click here. If not, read on — we’re not telling.

Ferrante had closely guarded her secret. The author specifically said — in her rare interviews — that she treasured her anonymity.

Advertisement

“I simply decided once and for all, over 20 years ago, to liberate myself from the anxiety of notoriety and the urge to be a part of that circle of successful people, those who believe they have won who-knows-what. This was an important step for me,” she told Vanity Fair last year in an email interview with Elissa Schappell. “Today I feel, thanks to this decision, that I have gained a space of my own, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful,”

Gatti looked at the financial records of Edizione E/O, Ferrante’s Italian publisher, and tracked payments that led him to conclude who the real Ferrante is. Sandro Ferri, the co-owner of Edizione E/O, told Gatti the company would neither confirm nor deny Ferrante’s identity. Ferri called the report “an invasion of privacy,”

Ferri continued, “If this is an article that intends to make revelations about Ferrante’s identity, I’m telling you right now that we will not give answers.”

Gatti’s article was met with outrage by many in the literary community, including Roxane Gay, Ruth Franklin, Philip Gourevitch and Pamela Paul, decrying the journalist’s exposure of Ferrante’s true identity.

Advertisement

Rob Spillman, the editor and cofounder of the literary magazine Tin House, called Gatti’s report “immoral” and “unethical” and suggested that readers consider canceling their subscriptions to the New York Review of Books.

In the New Republic, journalist Malcolm Harris questioned the need for the report, writing, “The Translator remains — for most journalistic intents and purposes — a private person. We got Elena Ferrante; what makes us feel entitled to more?”

Gatti defended his report to the Guardian, asserting that “she and her publisher seemed not only to have fed public interest in her true identity but to have challenged critics and journalists to go behind the lies. She told us that she finds them ‘healthy.’ As a journalist, I don’t. In fact, it is my job to expose them.”

He pointed to a letter from Ferrante to her publisher in which the author wrote, “I don’t at all hate lies, in life I find them useful and I resort to them when necessary to shield my person, feelings, pressures.”

That letter was published in “Frantumaglia,” a collection of Ferrante’s nonfiction that appeared in Italy in 2003 and will be published in the U.S. on Nov. 1. It’s the closest Ferrante has gotten to an autobiography, and includes letters, interviews and personal writing — some of which may be the kind of shield she referred to in that letter.

Gatti told the Guardian, “I believe that by announcing that she would lie on her own ‘autobiographical’ essay, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown.”


Advertisement