So, the debate is raging over who is Elena Ferrante and whether it was ethical on the part of the Italian journalist Claudio Gatti to allegedly reveal her true identity. For those who are unaware of the whole episode, Elena Ferrante, is the pseudonym of a popular Neapolitan author whose novels have gained great popularity across the world, especially in the English-speaking world.
The author has remained anonymous over the years and has refused to reveal who she is. The only information she has willingly given out is claiming that she is indeed a woman and not a man pretending to be one. My friends in France were quite confident that she is French because of the similarity between the themes of her books and those of some contemporary French writers
But the journalist Gatti decided to go on his own hunt and find out who is actually writing these novels. His research, which involved going through records of financial transactions and real-estate documents led him to make the purported revelation in late 2016 that the real Ferrante is actually a lady called Anita Raja who works as a translator for the same company which publishes Ferrante’s novels.
While the news hasn’t been confirmed or denied, debate rages on about the ethical validity of such an endeavor.
Was this an act of great journalism or a gratuitous invasion of a writer’s privacy?
Interestingly, I have found through my own little bit of research, basically just surfing the net, that those in the English world seem to be absolutely outraged with the Italian journalist’s action.
They are firmly of the opinion that if a writer does not wish to reveal his or her identity, it is nobody’s business to be going out of their way to unmask it. But has the revelation caused any kind of damage to the reputation of the author or to the popularity of the books? Certainly not.
So, then why the outrage? The only way one can justify criticism of the journalist’s action is if it impinged upon the work or the working capacity of the author. That shouldn’t be the case. While claiming no great expertise of the processes that go on within the mind of a great writer, I do think that there is nothing in her writing which is based on maintaining anonymity or keeping her identity a secret.
Yes, there was a time when some female writers wrote under male pseudonyms and periods where writers hid their religious or ethnic identity to avoid discrimination. But Elena Ferrante doesn’t seem to be facing any such threat. Plus, her writing seems to have made her a fortune.
Some people may ask whether her pseudonym made her more appealing to a wider audience. Again, I would say, that is not the case. The name Elena Ferrante does not have any special quality which makes it more appealing than any other name.
The fact that the translations of her English novels have made her a worldwide celebrity shows that the appeal of her works is not limited to a strictly defined demographic. Personally, I was really interested to know more about this lady. Why was that? Was I being unnecessarily curious or was it her work that made me desire to know more about the author?
In my humble opinion, all of us love to know more about the author whose works we like. The reason being that we seek to locate the source of those wonderful stories which hold us in awe and keep us hooked. How much are they based on real life and how much are purely imaginative?
If they are purely imaginary, how did the writer get blessed with such a great imagination? Was it a natural talent or something cultivated? As you can notice, all these queries have nothing to do with the racial, linguistic or gender identity. They arise out of a very basic and non-discriminatory curiosity that all lovers of literature have.
So, even if Anita Raja is the true Elena Ferrate, there is no reason for her to worry. Her fans and readers would remain loyal. Besides, not much else of her true identity would come out. So, she can continue to be under the radar and avoid the celebrityhood that writers often have thrust upon them. Most of all, the creativity that produces great novels and stories should not depend on anonymity.