Headlines broke out across the globe yesterday after some smart arse journalist – Claudio Gatti – published a story in the New York Review of Books where he in no uncertain terms outed the true identity of much-loved author, Elena Ferrante. Gatti has investigated, clawed through the accounts of Europa – the company that handles the Ferrante publications – and drawn his conclusions on who the author is based on payments that have been made to a certain individual – and now he’s sharing that information with the world like a smug child who’s stepped on an ant for the first time.
If you want to know Elena Ferrante’s real name – alleged real name – you can Google it. That’s not what this post is about. What this post is about, however, is the horrendous violation of an author’s privacy who wanted nothing more than to write her novels, while retaining some semblance of a normal life alongside this writing existence. Oh, and how very dare she? Because, as Gatti has explained, ‘...readers have the right to know something about the person who created the work.’
Why? Because it changes the work? Or because it makes for a good headline?
The title of this blog post isn’t an allusion to my disinterest in Elena Ferrante; quite the opposite, in fact, she has recently become one of those authors that I casually drop into conversation simply for the sake of telling people how brilliant she is. What this title is an allusion to, then, is the fact that it has no bearing whatsoever on my enjoyment of the literature to know who wrote it. Ferrante’s literary authenticity and the conviction with which she writes are the beginning and end of what I need to know about her as an author and, unless we’re going to be best friends in the future – which I really would love, although I appreciate it’s unlikely to happen – then no, I don’t have a right to know anything more about her than what I already know from her pseudonym.
A further justification from Gatti, which he spilled during an interview with BBC’s Radio 4, is: ‘I did it because she was a very much public figure.’
So one can only hope that Donald Trump is next on Gatti’s hit list of journalistic investigations because if he’ll go to this trouble for an author, who knows what lengths he would go to for an outwardly corrupt political figure.
Gatti didn’t do this for readers, though, did he? The majority of us have already decided and come to terms with that fact. Gatti did this for his career. Gatti did this because Ferrante’s identity has – particularly since The Story of the Lost Child’s nomination for the Man Booker Prize earlier this year – been a source of intrigue and speculation. She’s a name that readers throw around with wonder in their voices, although our intrigue into her identity has never robbed from our experience of reading her. So really, in the grand scheme of things, who does give a toss who Elena Ferrante is?
Gatti. People like Gatti, mostly. While people unlike Gatti are now empathising with an author who had previously stated that it would be a great sadness to have her privacy taken away. Because the rest of us don’t care who she is, we care when the next book is coming out. We don’t have a right to know anything more than the expected publication date – and even that, we know when Elena Ferrante tells us, and not a second sooner.
To conclude, then, I send my deepest sympathies to Elena Ferrante for being the latest public figure to fall victim to an age that demands we know everything about everyone – politicians aside, somewhat ironically. And to Claudio Gatti I send shallow congratulations for making a name for himself, as that idiot journalist looking for a make-me-famous headline.