Will the real Elena Ferrante please stand up?

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The pseudonymous Italian author Elena Ferrante has captivated readers around the world with her bestselling Neapolitan Novels, a four-book series that explores the friendship of two women from Naples.

But who is she?

Ferrante’s series -- “My Brilliant Friend,” “The Story of a New Name,” “Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay,” and “The Story of the Lost Child” -- has hit bestseller lists in Europe and the U.S., but the author has refused to reveal her (or his) true identity.

Readers and scholars have been trying to determine who Ferrante is for years now. An Italian professor, Marco Santagata, is the latest academic to claim he’s solved the mystery. According to Santagata, Ferrante is actually Marcella Marmo, a history professor at the University of Naples Federico II, the Guardian reports.


But Marmo, an author whose books include “The Knife and the Market: The Camorra Before and After the Unification of Italy,” denies that she’s the writer of the acclaimed Neapolitan Novels.

“Truly, no, I am not Elena Ferrante,” Marmo told an Italian newspaper. She says she’s read only the first novel in the series.

Santagata says he reached his conclusion by studying yearbooks of a Pisa school from the 1960s. “Marcella Marmo corresponds to my identikit,” he said.

Edizioni E/O, Ferrante’s Italian publisher, also denied that Marmo and Ferrante are one and the same. “We deny that Elena Ferrante is Marcella Marmo and we hope to go back to talking about the book and not the identity of the author,” the press said in a statement.

Marmo emailed Slate a link to a news story in which she denies being Ferrante. “Notoriety has no upside. It’s never pleasant. Thank you to everyone who thought that I could be a happy bestseller writer, but as I’ve already tried in vain to say in recent days, I am not Elena Ferrante,” she said.

Marmo continued: “Despite having left no possibility for doubt, the story that I am behind Ferrante’s identity continues to circulate. I politely ask the press to put away the mystery stories and leave me to my work in history.”


The historian had a suggestion of her own, saying she thought Ferrante could be Silvio Perrella, a male Neapolitan writer and literary critic. Asked to comment by an Italian newspaper, Perrella declined.

Marmo’s denial is unlikely to stop the speculation over Ferrante’s real identity, although the historian told the New York Times that identity is, after all, a complicated issue.

“[O]ne always has more than one identity,” Marmo said. “I’m Neapolitan, Italian, a woman, a professor, a European and also a citizen of the world.”