ROME — Follow the money trail is an adage of investigative journalism. But can that approach reveal the identity of a globally popular author? Some fans of Elena Ferrante’s novels think that’s going too far.
Claudio Gatti, an investigative journalist for Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, claimed Sunday he has probably discovered the true name of Ferrante, who’s popular for a series of novels exploring the lifelong friendship of two girls in Naples.
Gatti wrote that real estate records involving the purported actual writer, as well as revenue and payment details involving Ferrante’s publishing house Edizioni e/o, indicate that Ferrante is a Rome-based book translator married to a Neapolitan writer.
His article was also published by The New York Review of Books, which headlined its version, “Elena Ferrante: An Answer?” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper also published Gatti’s article, while French investigative website, Mediapart, carried it as well.
The Italian reporter wrote that “after a months-long investigation it is now possible to make a powerful case for Ferrante’s true identity.” He contends that the real author had a years-long relationship with Ferrante’s publishing house as a translator of German literature.
Gatti says the publisher, Edizioni, e/o, refused comment, adding that one of its owners contended his investigation constituted an invasion of privacy of both Ferrante and the publisher. Edizioni’s Rome office was closed Sunday.
The apparent revelation of Ferrante’s identity prompted a widespread backlash that questioned whether the age-old practice of using a nom de plume ought to be subjected to such scrutiny. Countless authors have found literary freedom by writing under a pseudonym to preserve their anonymity. To embark on a series of detective novels, J.K. Rowling famously wrote under the name Robert Galbraith.
But whereas Rowling was attempting to cloak her fame, Ferrante remained anonymous in the hope of protecting her privacy. She has previously, in written interviews, suggested she would stop writing if her identity was revealed.
“I’ve never wondered about Elena Ferrante’s true identity,” author Roxanne Gay said on Twitter. “Who cares? That info doesn’t change my life. Or make her books better. Ban men.”
“Maybe Elena Ferrante has very good reasons to write under a pseudonym. It’s not our ‘right’ to know her,” tweeted British novelist Jojo Moyes.
Ferrante has a loyal following. Her publishers’ website notes that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she enjoys reading Ferrante’s novels, describing them as “hypnotic.”