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27.6.16

Who Is Elena Ferrante?

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Elena Ferrante's books have been high in our estimation at Ionarts. While the Italian author, whoever she is, has become extremely popular reading in the United States, she has met with less enthusiasm in France, where her Neapolitan novels have not been fully translated into French yet. Suspicions about Ferrante's real identity are running high in France, where the idea that she is the pseudonym of a male writer has taken root. The latest example is an article by Delphine Peras (Elena Ferrante, énigme littéraire fascinante, June 26) in L'Express (my translation):
In the era of unbridled narcissism, where the quest for celebrity has become a universal truth, here is a case completely counter-cultural: Elena Ferrante is at once a writer beloved throughout the world (more than 2.5 million copies sold, with translations in 42 countries) and the nom de plume of a writer about whom we know nothing. Or almost nothing. No photos, no media interviews, no signing sessions, no participation in a festival somewhere. She has never shown herself. She or he? For some suspect a man is hiding behind this pseudonym. [...]

Other indications have filtered through: originally from Naples and born at the start of the 1940s, like her narrator, a college graduate, she supposedly lived abroad, especially in Greece. But the mystery endures, and as her success grows, journalists are proposing other trails: in Italy, some believe the author is none other than Domenico Starnone, writer and screenwriter, also Neapolitan, born in 1943, well well... Winner of the Strega Prize, the equivalent of the Goncourt, he is notably the author of Lacci, which supposedly has strange similarities, in style and story, with Ferrante's I giorni dell'abbandono.

Unless it is his wife, Anita Raja, a translator of German, a discrete person, and even on the editorial staff at E/O [Ferrante's publisher]. The managers of the company have denied it in vain, the hypotheses are multiplying: a long article by Marco Santagata, published in March in Corriere della Sera, suggests that behind Elena Ferrante hides one Marcella Marmo, a university professor in Naples, a student at the prestigious Scuola Normale in Pisa in the 1960s, like Elena Greco. Denied again, by both the writer in question and the editors, the only ones to know the identity of the unknown author.
How long before someone tries to hack into the publishers' computers to uncover the identity of Elena Ferrante? Whoever she is, we are looking forward to reading her Frantumaglia: An Author's Journey Told Through Letters, Interviews, and Occasional Writings, which will be published in the United States this November.

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