Quite an uproar this week about the author Elena Ferrante. This will probably have annoyed the ‘famous for being famous’ Kim Kardashian because it diverted attention away from her and her talentless egocentric husband.
I’d heard of Elena Ferrante, though I haven’t read her Neapolitan novels. Lots of other people have though. She’s flogged over two million copies in 39 countries since the first in the series rolled off the presses a few years ago. Pretty good going.
But all was not what it seemed. An Italian journalist, Claudio Gatti, reported in The New York Review of Books that Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym. The real person is Anita Raja, a translator at the very publisher that puts out her works.
She’d been dropping hints since 2003 that her autobiographical details might not be exactly accurate, and I suppose in some ways she set herself up for the fall in what she has referred to as ‘an ugly campaign’ to establish her real identity. Reactions to her reactions to her being named have been markedly polarised, and I’m not sure which camp I fall into.
The privacy police went in with full riot gear to defend Raja’s ‘right’ to anonymity, slagging off the ‘disgusting journalism’ that outed her. One Orange Prize winner said that many writers admired and envied Ferrante’s anonymity, ‘…because it’s very difficult now to be a writer without having a public profile.’ Possibly.
The other camp basically told her to grow up and get on with things. Another Orange winner said, ‘I think writers need to be a bit robust about comeback…it’s fair enough they should find out. They find everything else out, don’t they?’ A valid point, that. As was the argument that JK Rowling had been pretty stoical when it was pointed out she authored the Cormoran Strike novel under the name Robert Galbraith.
Some wild-eyed loonie even went so far as to say that nobody has an absolute right to privacy. I’m not buying that argument for a second.
For me though, the for/against arguments aren’t the point. The point is that Gatti put two and two together when he found that Raja had an expensive house, and had received substantial bunches of wonga at the time royalties had been paid out on Ferrante’s works. Got down to some investigative hackwork, got her financial information.
To paraphrase TFF’s campaign team when the NYT blew the whistle on his financial track history, the only story here is how the details were obtained.