Ferrante in Fragments of Her Choosing

At The New Republic, novelist Alexander Chee has an essay/review of Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey, Ferrante’s new book of selected letters and interviews spanning nearly two-and-a-half decades. In the piece, Chee considers the way the press feels compelled to draw parallels between fiction and its authors’ lives; the way it treats women authors in particular; and the importance of anonymity for Ferrante, whose cover was allegedly blown in a recent The New York Review of Books article.

Many of these recent interviews are a pleasure to read—Ferrante’s professorial side is less didactic, more relaxed. But when asked, “Will you tell us who you are?” she answers: “Elena Ferrante. I’ve published six novels in 20 years. Isn’t that sufficient?” At this point, I have to agree. Why aren’t the novels enough?

But for all of her explanations on the topic of her withdrawal, the press appears, in these pages, determined to misunderstand her. If she seems repetitive at times, she is—but only because the questions are. Soon, she begins to sound like someone pleading for her life. At one point, she vows to stop publishing if she is exposed. And when she is asked to consider the legacy of her absence, she points a finger home:

“Those who became aware of the books later . . . as a result of the media attention, at least here in Italy, encounter them with an initial distrust, if not hostility, as if my absence were an offensive or culpable type of behavior. . .. The only thing I can do is continue my small battle to put the work at the center.”

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