If you are at all interested, below I have collated a number of articles over the last week about the non-consensual unveiling of (probably? potentially? possibly?) Elena Ferrante’s ‘true’ identity. I wrote a small piece about it last Monday, after the story broke for us in Australia that morning. It was my first commission I think. (You’d think I’d remember a first commission… but I don’t.) Amy Gray from the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre saw me leave a comment on her facebook page about it, and I guess it was my thoughts about how it’s an example of a woman outed by a man, against her very clear wishes to remain anonymous AND my comment that there was something of interest in the outer’s article about literary influences. Anyway, Amy asked me to write. I almost said no, it’s not my comfort zone as a writer, I write novels and bad blog posts, not articles or essays, but then I decided that I would, I would do it, because I had an opinion and thought it wouldn’t be too hard to do. And it wasn’t. Instinctively I chose not to name the person Claudio Gatti – the outer – has decided is Ferrante. And due to word limits, I couldn’t expand my arguments in the way I would have liked, but anyway, here it is:
For context (you probably should read these first, but me being me, I’ve put me at the top. Because: me. You should also read Amy’s piece on Clementine Ford and her new book, Fight Like a Girl.) But context to the Ferrante thing:
The original article in the New York Times, by Claudio Gatti, investigative journalist:
And two response pieces:
Stop the siege of Elena Ferrante by Stephanie Kirchgaessner on Tuesday.
Elena Ferrante Didn’t Owe the World Anything by Elissa Schappell for Vanity Fair a couple of days ago.
So what do you think? Do you care if an author writes anonymously? Should they be held to a different standard? Do you care if their given biographic details do not match reality? How much does truth count in fiction? I am reminded of the Helen Darville/Demidenko story, the Norma Khouri story and the James Frey story, but this is different I think.
These are all really valid questions but for me, if a writer chooses a pseudonym, chooses it and uses it from 1992, then hits fame in 2011, and all along has been clear about her intention, and has also been clear that she will do what it takes to preserve that secret – including lie if necessary – then she should be left alone. But then another part of me thinks it was only a matter of time. Bottom line is I hope she doesn’t stop publishing.
EDITED to include article from Jeanette Winterson’s Guardian article
The malice and sexism behind the ‘unmasking’ of Elena Ferrante