And yet this sentiment of a seemingly bygone era are the words of the contemporary Italian author Elena Ferrante in a 7 November 2014 interview in Io donna, the magazine that accompanies the Italian newspaper Corriere della sera.
The formula seems to have worked well for Ferrante. No one knows her true identity, but her books, particularly her four books set in Naples, have been read and loved by millions of readers in twenty countries around the world.
My blogging friend, Claire, over at the wonderful Word by Word has read the English translations and written about them over on her site.
Ferrante’s stories follow Lena and Lila, two girls growing up in poor families in post-war Naples. The four novels allow us to follow their lives from the 1950s up until 2010. Ferrante writes about complicated themes – the love-hate relationships within families, the violence in the poor Naples neighborhood in which her characters live,and the competitive and envious relationship that exists between close female friends.
Speculation abounds as to Ferrante’s real identity. It’s been said the writer is actually a male (Just my two cents: I’ve read the first novel in the original Italian, and I find it extremely hard to believe it was written by a man). It’s also been rumored the author uses a nom de plume because the story is biographical.
Whatever the reason the author chooses to remain anonymous, today it’s a radical choice. Is what Ferrante says true? Is an author’s work done once she completes her novel? Should the work be judged on its own merits, without the need for an author to promote and allow us a window into her life?
In Ferrante’s case, anonymity certainly hasn’t damaged her sales. But it doesn’t seem a formula easy to replicate.
What do you think, readers and writers? And if you’ve read Ferrante’s books, what do you think about them?