Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Readers respond furiously to ‘unmasking’ of author Elena Ferrante

elena-ferante-neapolitan-1.jpg

Ever since her first novel, Troubling Love, was published in 1992, nobody has known the true identity of bestselling Italian author Elena Ferrante.

The name printed on the cover of her books was a pseudonym, and the author made it clear that she had no interest in revealing who she really was. With the 2011 release of My Brilliant Friend, the first of her Neapolitan Novels – a four-book series about two girls growing up amid the grim violence of Naples – Ferrante’s literary star began to rise. But even as her novels were translated into multiple languages and interest in Ferrante’s identity increased, she held on staunchly to her anonymity.

Ferrante has been forthright about her reasons for wanting to write anonymously. Dismissive of the cult of literary celebrity, she does not believe that a writer’s identity should affect readers’ interpretation or enjoyment of a novel. In an email interview with The Gentlewoman earlier this year, she listed her reasons for writing under a pseudonym.

“The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become one’s public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies,” she wrote.

naples

Naples, the Italian city where Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels are set.

While the mystery of Ferrante’s anonymity heightened interest in her work, her novels are also endlessly fascinating on their own merit: complex, sharp and tender-hearted explorations of female friendship, poverty and youth.

And so fans of Ferrante’s have responded with fury to the news that an Italian investigative journalist has ‘unmasked’ the author – against her wishes.


Read more: Italian judge orders sex offender to buy feminist literature for victim


Claudio Gatti allegedly used financial and property records to identify Ferrante as a translator from Rome, revealing his findings in articles published in the New York Review of Books and the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

But since the news broke of Gatti's so-called "revelation", many readers have taken to Twitter to denounce his investigation as an unnecessary and aggressive intrusion.

Gatti has defended his decision to expose Ferrante’s identity, telling BBC Radio 4 that he “did it because she was a very much public figure”, and suggesting that the author’s real life story does not tally with the biography presented by her publishers.


Read more: In praise of Matilda, Roald Dahl's most inspiring heroine


However, the latent sexism in Gatti’s investigation has been widely remarked upon: in the first instance, his obsession with her autobiography. It’s a well-established fact that women are often asked to explain exactly how their creative output correlates to their “real lives”, in a way that is rarely required of men. (We can’t simply enjoy one of Adele’s songs for its lyrics and melody and emotion alone: we want to know exactly who she’s writing about, and why she isn’t over him yet.)

It’s assumed that women must be drawing inspiration for their book or song or film or painting from a place of experience, rather than pure imagination. 

And in the same week that saw Kim Kardashian mocked on social media after being robbed at gunpoint in Paris, Ferrante fans also pointed out a bitter irony: that whether a successful woman chooses to seek publicity and fame or eschew it entirely, she will inevitably be punished.


Image: iStock

Related

iStock_85074351_MEDIUM.jpg

This bookshop is offering a lifetime supply of free books

murder-orient.jpg

Daisy Ridley and Judi Dench to star in new Agatha Christie movie

reading autumn.jpg

The best new books to read in October 2016

Comments

More

JK Rowling invented Quidditch to ‘annoy men’ after row with her ex

The Harry Potter author is such a badass

by Kayleigh Dray
07 Dec 2016

Watch Emma Watson star in chilling new trailer for The Circle

We’re getting serious Black Mirror vibes from this social media thriller

by Kayleigh Dray
07 Dec 2016

Read an exclusive extract from 2017's most hotly anticipated novel

Devour the first three chapters of the psychological thriller here

by Sarah Biddlecombe
06 Dec 2016

Stylist's pick of the best new books for 2017

From family sagas to crime thrillers

by Sarah Shaffi
05 Dec 2016

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: First look at new TV series

Elisabeth Moss dons Offred’s famous red gown for the first time

by Kayleigh Dray
05 Dec 2016

The Girl on the Train author, Paula Hawkins, is back with second book

In a Stylist.co.uk exclusive, here's everything you need to know

by Sarah Biddlecombe
29 Nov 2016

You can now spend the night in the world's first library hotel

Why not cosy up in your own book nook?

by Sarah Biddlecombe
29 Nov 2016

You can now read Jane Eyre in Charlotte Brontë’s own handwriting

A luxury edition of Brontë’s original manuscript has been reprinted.

by Moya Crockett
28 Nov 2016

Mary Berry to meet with ‘civilised’ bookworms who shun #BlackFriday

Forget #BlackFriday; Mary Berry is all about #CivilisedSaturday

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Nov 2016

10 beautiful books to buy as Christmas presents this season

by Scarlett Cayford
24 Nov 2016