Elena Ferrante

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Elena Ferrante
GenreLiterary fiction
Notable worksNeapolitan Novels
Years active1992–present

Elena Ferrante (Italian pronunciation: [ˌɛːlena ferˈrante]) is a pseudonymous Italian novelist. Ferrante's books, originally published in Italian, have been translated into many languages. Her four-book series of Neapolitan Novels are her most widely known works.

Time magazine called Ferrante one of the 100 most influential people in 2016.


Elena Ferrante is the name used by the author of many novels, including the four-volume work titled the Neapolitan Novels.[1][2] The Neapolitan Novels tell the life story of two perceptive and intelligent girls, born in Naples in 1944, who try to create lives for themselves within a violent and stultifying culture. The series consists of My Brilliant Friend (2012), The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015), which was nominated for the Strega Prize, an Italian literary award.[3][4]

Ferrante holds that "books, once they are written, have no need of their authors."[5] She has repeatedly argued that anonymity is a precondition for her work[6] and that keeping her true name out of the spotlight is key to her writing process.[7] According to Ferrante,

Once I knew that the completed book would make its way in the world without me, once I knew that nothing of the concrete, physical me would ever appear beside the volume—as if the book were a little dog and I were its master—it made me see something new about writing. I felt as though I had released the words from myself.[8]

The first appearance of her work in English was the publication of a short story, "Delia's Elevator". translated by Adria Frizzi in the anthology After the War (2004).[9] It narrates the movements of the title character on the day of her mother's burial, particularly her return to her safe retreat in the old elevator in the apartment building where she grew up.

The fourth book of Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet, The Story of the Lost Child, appeared on The New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2015.[10] Her first novel after finishing the quartet, The Lying Life of Adults, was translated into English by Ann Goldstein and played with the stereotypical teenage-girl-coming-of-age structure.[11]


Despite being recognized as a novelist on an international scale,[12] Ferrante has kept her identity secret since the 1992 publication of her first novel.[8] Speculation as to her true identity has been rife, and several theories, based on information Ferrante has given in interviews as well as analysis drawn from the content of her novels, have been put forth.

In 2003, Ferrante published La Frantumaglia, a volume of letters, essays, reflections and interviews, translated into English in 2016, which sheds some light on her background. In a 2013 article for The New Yorker, critic James Wood summarized what is generally accepted about Ferrante, based in part on letters collected in that volume:

a number of her letters have been collected and published. From them, we learn that she grew up in Naples, and has lived for periods outside Italy. She has a classics degree; she has referred to being a mother. One could also infer from her fiction and from her interviews that she is not now married ... In addition to writing, "I study, I translate, I teach."[5]

In March 2016, Marco Santagata, an Italian novelist and philologist, a scholar of Petrarch and Dante, and a professor at the University of Pisa,[13] published a paper detailing his theory of Ferrante's identity. Santagata's paper drew on philological analysis of Ferrante's writing, close study of the details about the cityscape of Pisa described in the novel, and the fact that the author reveals an expert knowledge of modern Italian politics. Based on this information, he concluded that the author had lived in Pisa but left by 1966, and therefore identified the probable author as Neapolitan professor Marcella Marmo, who studied in Pisa from 1964 to 1966. Both Marmo and the publisher deny Santagata's identification.[1]

In October 2016, investigative reporter Claudio Gatti published an article jointly in Il Sole 24 Ore and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that relied on financial records related to real estate transactions and royalties payments to draw the conclusion that Anita Raja, a Rome-based translator, is the real author behind the Ferrante pseudonym.[14] Gatti's article was criticized by many in the literary world as a violation of privacy,[6][15][16] though Gatti contends that "by announcing that she would lie on occasion, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown. Indeed, she and her publisher seemed to have fed public interest in her true identity."[6] British novelist Matt Haig tweeted, "Think the pursuit to discover the 'real' Elena Ferrante is a disgrace and also pointless. A writer's truest self is the books they write."[15] The writer Jeanette Winterson, in a Guardian article, denounced Gatti's investigations as malicious and sexist, saying "At the bottom of this so-called investigation into Ferrante's identity is an obsessional outrage at the success of a writer – female – who decided to write, publish and promote her books on her own terms."[17] She went on to say that the desire to uncover Ferrante's identity constitutes an act of sexism in itself, and that "Italy is still a Catholic country with strong patriarchial attitudes towards women."[17] Others responding to Gatti's article suggested that knowledge of Ferrante's biography is indeed relevant.[18][19]

In December 2016, the controversial Italian prankster[20] Tommaso Debenedetti published on the website of the Spanish daily El Mundo a purported interview with Raja confirming she was Elena Ferrante;[21] this was quickly denied by Ferrante's publisher, who called the interview a fake.[22]

In September 2017, a team of scholars, computer scientists, philologists and linguists at the University of Padua analyzed 150 novels written in Italian by 40 different authors, including seven books by Elena Ferrante, but none by Raja. Based on analysis using several authorship attribution models, they concluded that Anita Raja's husband, author and journalist Domenico Starnone, is the probable author of the Ferrante novels.[23] Raja has worked for E/O Publishing as copy editor and has been editing Starnone's books for years.

Ferrante has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that she is actually a man, telling Vanity Fair in 2015 that questions about her gender are rooted in a presumed "weakness" of female writers.[24]


Several of Ferrante's novels have been turned into films. Troubling Love (L'amore molesto) became the feature film Nasty Love directed by Mario Martone, while The Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell'abbandono) became a film of the same title directed by Roberto Faenza. The Lost Daughter, the 2021 directorial debut film of Maggie Gyllenhaal, is based on the novel of the same name. In her nonfiction book Fragments (La frantumaglia 2003), Ferrante speaks of her experiences as a writer.

In 2016, it was reported that a 32-part television series, The Neapolitan Novels, was in the works, co-produced by the Italian producer Wildside for Fandango Productions, with screenwriting led by the writer Francesco Piccolo.[25] In September 2018, the first two episodes of the renamed My Brilliant Friend, an Italian-language miniseries co-produced by American premium cable network HBO and Italian networks RAI and TIMvision,[26] were aired at the Venice Film Festival.[27] HBO started airing the complete eight episode miniseries, focusing on the first book in The Neapolitan Novels, in November 2018.[26] The second series of eight episodes was aired in 2020.

On 12 May 2020, Netflix announced a new drama series based on The Lying Life of Adults.[28][29]


  • L'amore molesto (1992; English translation: Troubling Love, 2006); filmed as Nasty Love (1995)
  • I giorni dell'abbandono (2002; English translation: The Days of Abandonment, 2005)
  • La frantumaglia (2003; English translation Frantumaglia, 2016)
  • La figlia oscura (2006; English translation: The Lost Daughter, 2008)
  • La spiaggia di notte (2007; English translation: The Beach at Night, 2016)
  • L'amica geniale (2011; English translation: My Brilliant Friend, 2012). OCLC 778419313.
  • Storia del nuovo cognome, L'amica geniale volume 2 (2012; English translation: The Story of a New Name, 2013). OCLC 829451619.
  • Storia di chi fugge e di chi resta, L'amica geniale volume 3 (2013; English translation: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, 2014). OCLC 870919836.
  • Storia della bambina perduta, L'amica geniale volume 4 (2014; English translation: The Story of the Lost Child, 2015). OCLC 910239891.
  • L’invenzione occasionale (2019; English translation: Incidental Inventions, 2019). OCLC 1102387847.
  • La vita bugiarda degli adulti (2019; English translation, The Lying Life of Adults, 2020). OCLC 1126993616

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ a b Donadio, Rachel (13 March 2016). "Who Is Elena Ferrante? An Educated Guess Causes a Stir". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  2. ^ Turner, Jenny (October 2014). "The Secret Sharer. Elena Ferrante's existential fiction". Harper's Magazine.
  3. ^ Wise, Louis (21 March 2015). "Elena Ferrante: mystery creator of her Neapolitan Novels". theaustralian.com.au. Archived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Elena Ferrante: Journalist defends unmasking 'anonymous' author". BBC.com. 3 October 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b Wood, James (13 January 2013). "Women on the Verge: The Fiction of Elena Ferrante". The New Yorker. Retrieved 29 January 2013 – via Newyorker.com.
  6. ^ a b c Shepherd, Alex (2 October 2016). "The NYRB's argument for doxing Elena Ferrante is not very good". The New Republic. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  7. ^ Domonoske, Camila (3 October 2016). "For Literary World, Unmasking Elena Ferrante's Not A Scoop. It's A Disgrace". The Two-Way. National Public Radio. Retrieved 22 January 2021 – via NPR.org.
  8. ^ a b Ferri, Sandro; Ferri, Sandra (Spring 2015). "Interview: Elena Ferrante, Art of Fiction No. 228". No. 212. The Paris Review. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  9. ^ King, Martha (2004). After the War: A Collection of Short Fiction by Postwar Italian Women. New York: Italica Press. ISBN 978-0-934977-55-5.
  10. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2015". The New York Times. 3 December 2015.
  11. ^ "New Stories, Old Pieces: On Elena Ferrante's "The Lying Life of Adults"". Cleveland Review of Books. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  12. ^ Waldman, Adelle (15 January 2016). "The Ideal Marriage, According to Novels". The New Yorker. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Università di Pisa UniMap".
  14. ^ Gatti, Claudio (10 October 2016). "Elena Ferrante: An Answer?". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  15. ^ a b Staff writers (3 October 2016). "Backlash for Reporter Who 'Outs' ID of Anonymous Writer Behind Elena Ferrante". Sky News. Yahoo! Lifestyle. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  16. ^ Alexander, Lucy (5 October 2016). "Why is the exposure of Elena Ferrante causing such outrage?". BBC News Online. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  17. ^ a b Winterson, Jeanette (7 October 2016). "The malice and sexism behind the 'unmasking' of Elena Ferrante". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  18. ^ Emre, Merve; Gutkin, Len (6 October 2016). "The Elenic Question". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  19. ^ Bennett, Catherine (8 October 2016). "Why the prissy reaction to Ferrante being unmasked?". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  20. ^ Dewey, Caitlin (30 June 2016). "Meet the internet's 'greatest liar' Tommaso Debenedetti, whose hoaxes have fooled millions". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  21. ^ Debenedetti, Tommaso (10 December 2016). "Anita Raja a Tommaso Debenedetti: 'Yo soy Elena Ferrante'". El Mundo (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  22. ^ Staff writers (5 October 2016). "Anita Raja conferma su Twitter: 'sono io Elena Ferrante. Ma ora lasciatemi vivere (e scrivere) in pace'. Ma dalla casa editrice smentiscono: 'tutto falso, è un fake'". LaNotizia. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  23. ^ Savoy, Jacques (September 2017). "Elena Ferrante Unmasked". Université de Neuchâtel. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  24. ^ Schappell, Elissa (27 August 2015). "The Mysterious, Anonymous Author Elena Ferrante on the Conclusion of Her Neapolitan Novels". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  25. ^ Moylan, Brian (9 February 2016). "Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels set for TV adaptation". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  26. ^ a b "My Brilliant Friend Debuts Sunday, Nov. 18 on HBO". HBO. 13 September 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  27. ^ D'Addario, Daniel (2 September 2018). "TV Review: 'My Brilliant Friend' on HBO". Variety. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  28. ^ "The Lying Life of Adults | Announcement | Netflix". Netflix. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  29. ^ "Netflix & Italy's Fandango to Develop Series Based on Elena Ferrante's 'The Lying Life of Adults'". 12 May 2020.
  30. ^ Groff, Lauren (21 April 2016). "The 100 Most Influential People: Elena Ferrante". Time. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  31. ^ "'Anonymous' author on international Man Booker longlist". BBC News. 10 March 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  32. ^ "Elena Ferrante could be the first-ever anonymous Booker winner". The Times of India.
  33. ^ "2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards Results". Independent Publisher. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  34. ^ Chad W. Post (14 April 2014). "2014 Best Translated Book Awards: Fiction Finalists". Three Percent. Retrieved 18 April 2014.

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