An Italian journalist may have found Elena Ferrante in freelance translator Anita Raja, despite decades of the novelist keeping her identity firmly under wraps.
On Sunday, translations in French, German, English and, of course, Italian were published detailing the investigation that led reporter Claudio Gatti to name Elena as Anita. The co-ordinated international release of the revelations is a testament to the global obsession with Ferrante and her novels. Her books, likely the work of Raja, have been translated into everything from Dutch to Arabic — selling tens of millions of copies worldwide.
— Vulture (@vulture) October 2, 2016
Following Gatti’s trail is as thrilling as one of Elena’s novels, and, furthermore, utterly convincing. He leaves little room for Anita to continue living in obscurity. Dozens of parallels link Ferrante and Raja, perhaps the most convincing of which is the material wealth that flooded the latter woman’s pocketbook as her possible pen name grew in popularity. During the same time, she also acquired an apartment in one of Rome’s most exclusive neighborhoods as well as a country home outside of Naples.
“The growth in the publisher’s revenues are also closely paralleled in the growth of Anita’s own payments from Edizioni [Elena’s publishing house] over the same period, which I obtained from an anonymous source. In 2014, Raja’s compensation increased by almost 50 percent, and in 2015 it grew again by more than 150 percent, reaching an amount that was about seven times what she received in 2010, when the market for Ferrante’s books was still confined to Italy.”
— hassan zerehi (@hassanzerehi1) September 19, 2016
It’s difficult for fans, especially more bookish private types, to rectify their thirst for knowing who Elena is and respecting her privacy as a human being. As Gatti attempted to contact Anita and her publisher, he was told just as much. He does, however, offer at least one interesting justification for the work that led to the newly-found-out Ferrante: Her non-fiction book, Frantumaglia, appears to have been quite dishonest about her supposed origins.
“These crumbs of information seemed designed to satisfy her readers’ appetite for a personal story that might relate to the Neapolitan setting of the novels themselves… None of the details corresponds to the life and background of Raja. Like the mother of Elsa Morante, Elena’s mother was a teacher, not a seamstress, and she wasn’t Neapolitan. Ferrante was born in Worms, Germany, into a family of Polish Jews who emigrated from Wadowice, a town west of Krakow.”
It’s not like all of this was some grand conspiracy, either. Elena, or Anita, was quite clear about the fact that she would lie when asked about her past. Still, Gatti says that this “relinquished [Ferrante’s] right to disappear behind her books.” Others, critical of his choice to expose Raja, have claimed that his piece was lowbrow at best and misogynistic at worst.
— Maaza Mengiste (@MaazaMengiste) October 2, 2016
I’ve never wondered about Elena Ferrante’s true identity. Who cares? That info doesn’t change my life. Or make her books better. Ban men.
— roxane gay (@rgay) October 2, 2016
I’m not thrilled about the unmasking of Elena Ferrante but I don’t think it has very much to do with her being a woman.
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) October 2, 2016
The success of Elena’s work is the kind coveted by publishers. Ferrante has become a brand of her own. When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was recently asked what kind of literature she finds time for, she named the Neapolitan quartet that has made her a literary superstar. Some media even sarcastically questioned whether Anita Raja was the ghostwriter of Clinton and vice-presidential pick Tim Kaine campaign book.
Are you satisfied that Elena Ferrante is found or horrified to see her forced into the spotlight?
[Image via lassedesignen/Getty Images]