The Naming of Elena Ferrante

Cross-posted from: Everyday Victim Blaming

The identity of Elena Ferrante is a secret well-guarded by her publisher. At the request of Ferrante. Ferrante has made it clear on multiple occasions that she does not want her art confused with her real life. This may not seem something that our campaign would necessarily concern ourselves with but there are multiple reasons why women deserve anonymity and even more reasons why breaching their anonymity puts women at risk of male violence.

As many of the writers we’ve linked to below demonstrate, authors owe their audiences nothing more than what they write – and even then audiences are not entitled to new material. What concerns us, and is referenced by some of the authors below, is the refusal to recognise the reason why a woman would want to keep her real life private. As with Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy, there is a complete refusal to recognise the reality of male violence against women and girls. Claudio Gatti, the journalist (and his publisher) who believes he’s entitled  to know the real name of a woman despite her refusal demonstrates a total disregard of women’s safety.

Ferrante’s decision to remain anonymous may simply because she values her privacy – something that all women are entitled to. It may be as a way of protecting herself from online harassment and abuse that many women writers experience. It is also entirely possible that her anonymity is a way of protecting herself from male violence – both historical and potential. Ferrante has every right to do so and Gatti, and others before him, simply do not have the legal or moral right to doxx Ferrante just because they don’t like successful women writers (and there is more than a whiff of misogyny here). 

Doxxing women is part of the continuum of violence against women and girls. Ferrante may be able to protect herself better than other women due to her financial resources but that does not mean she deserves to be doxxed or harassed.

The outing of Elena Ferrante and the power of naming by Lili Loofbourrow

…No one knew who the “real” Elena Ferrante was until this week, when a journalist who, perhaps in an eager bid to make a name for himself, tracked her down using financial records and seems to have exposed her real identity. (I will not reveal the name he suggested here.)

There is much disagreement over whether this was a reasonable thing to do. On one side are those who believe the recent success of Ferrante’s books (she is the author of seven novels, including the four celebrated “Neapolitan novels” that have won her worldwide acclaim) makes her a public figure worth exposing. Her extraordinary sales figures make her real name newsworthy, they argue. On the other side are those who believe Ferrante’s rejection of personal fame amounted to a conscientious objection to the way we receive literary art, and female literary art in particular. I am in the latter camp.

Why does this literary tempest in a teapot matter? What’s in a name, after all? What does it mean that she refused to be named, and instead named herself? This is not a clear instance of a woman taking on a male pseudonym (like George Eliot) or using initials (like J.K. Rowling) in order to circumvent a sexist literary marketplace. Ferrante just chose a different Italian woman’s name. Why do this? And why is it a big deal for her to be exposed? …

Who cares who Elena Ferrante really is? She owes us nothing by Suzanne Moore

Rifling through someone’s bins looking for clues about their life or identity is considered a tabloid activity performed by low-lifes who sell information on celebrities. In this game celebrities “owe” us something because we made them, therefore we can take them apart via such intrusion.

Now we have the literary equivalent, and it stinks to high heaven. Elena Ferranteis an Italian novelist whose Neapolitan quartet have become bestsellers. Once you enter Ferrante’s world, you are changed by it. She writes so brilliantly about the transformation of women’s lives. Our bodies, our hearts, our politics. The books speak of what keeps us together and what takes us apart. We know nothing about her own life, as she has chosen – as is her right – to be anonymous. Not for her the book tour, the literary festival, the glam author picture. “I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” She has given other, more complicated, meta-explanations of her desire to protect her anonymity, which are to do with the nature of fiction itself. … E

Elena Ferrante has her reasons for anonymity – we should respect them  via @ConversationUK

 ….The dust from the media storm will take a while to settle. The history of anonymous authorship is also a history of triumphalist “unmasking” at the hands of self-appointed public servants who assume the right to trumpet the spoiler – and who also, if there is justice in the world, tend to suffer their own exposure as the parasitic charlatans they often are.

Gatti thinks he has unmasked the “real author” of Ferrante’s acclaimed books – something that has been the subject of much speculation in the past – but even were this latest round of revelation to turn out to be “true”, there are bigger fish to fry here. The violation of anonymity brings with it, kicking and screaming in Gatti’s face, a host of problems at the heart of power and identity. This is an ethical, political, but also a literary issue of the deepest concern to all of us.

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