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The Outing of Elena

I had to stop the presses today and get on my soapbox. (I've featured my post from a couple of days ago about Ernest Hemingway to the right so you don't miss it!)

I can’t even begin to describe how upset I am about the outing of Elena Ferrante. Who is Elena Ferrante? That’s a great question! And the proper answer is that we should never know. Yet, the Internet is abuzz this week because an Italian reporter announced that through diligent research of, among other things, personal financial records, he can reveal (drum roll please…) that the mysterious author writing under a pseudonym is?

Exactly. It doesn’t matter. Except to the author who chose to keep her private life private by writing using a nom de plume.

For those unaware of Ms. Ferrante or her work, (as was I before the news hit), she is the author of a series of best-selling novels about two friends growing up in Naples, Italy after WWII. Her work has many admirers, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and actor James Franco. She has reached the top of numerous best-sellers lists with each one of her novels.

This week, an Italian reporter named Claudio Gatti published two articles in various literary magazines outing the real author as an Italian translator who is married to a well-known Italian novelist. His hypothesis has caused quite a stir, which hasn't been particularly favorable to the supposed investigative reporter. Many fans of Ferrante’s work, and others who are not even familiar with it argue that the doxing of an author, who has specifically chosen to remain anonymous for whatever reason, steps WAY beyond the boundaries of public decency.

To make matters worse, Gatti also implied that perhaps the reclusive author collaborated with her better-known husband to create the hugely popular works! Feminists and others have decried such a position, suggesting that Gatti not only violated the writer’s privacy, but is demeaning her abilities. “How could a mere woman be so creative?” it seems to imply.

From what I can gather, Ferrante fans do indeed speculate as to the reclusive author’s identity. There are even scholars who study the texts for clues as to who she may be. Since this story broke in The New York Review of Books over the weekend, many fans have voiced that her anonymity made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. No one really needed to know the author’s identity for the books to be considered worthy of literary recognition and commercial success.

So, does it really matter who authored the work? Ms. Ferrante, whoever she may be, will certainly financially benefit from the outing. Readers who’d never even heard of her books will likely be purchasing them. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? I’m also sure many writers are wondering why on earth she wouldn’t want to take credit for the books that have already been deemed worthy by the literati. Most of us certainly dream of making it to the big leagues; to be recognized for all of our hard work and talent. But clearly Ms. Ferrante did not want the accolades and adulation that come with best-seller success. It doesn’t matter why. She has a right to privacy. Period. End of sentence.

What are your thoughts about this exposé? Do all successful people deserve to be served up to the public whether they want to or not? Is Ms. Ferrante like other celebrities, so it just goes with the territory? How do you feel about writing under a pseudonym? Is it something you’ve ever considered?

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