Elena Ferrante Speaks: “The Books are Enough”

In News by Dennis Abrams

The Story of the Lost Child

The true identity of Italian bestselling author Elena Ferrante remains unknown, but she offered a Q&A interview to Vanity Fair, reiterating that “the books are enough.”

By Dennis Abrams

At Electric Literature, Emma Adler points out that while the list of great authors who have been willing to play the publicity game for all it’s worth is a long and illustrious one (Hemingway’s beer ads anyone?), Elena Ferrante, “the pseudonymous Italian writer whom the NTRB called ‘one of the greatest novelists of our time,’” has, since the publication of her first book 1992, “clung stalwartly to her anonymity.”

Question surrounding her identity has been swirling for years, with some even claiming she is a man writing as a women (an assertion that has brought charges of sexism with them…)

Now, on the verge of the publication of the fourth and final installment of her Neapolitan Quartet in English, The Story of the Lost Child, Ferrante agreed to be interviewed via email by Vanity Fair’s Elissa Schappell. The two part Q&A is online here and here.

“For those who love literature, the books are enough,” says Ferrante about keeping her identity secret.

But even if Ferrante won’t reveal her identity, her publisher, Europa, in a “brilliant feat of anti-publicity publicity,” has released a letter sent to Europa by Ferrante in 1991 to the London Review Bookshops, in which she explains her decision to remain anonymous.

Her reason for refusing to do publicity is simple, as she wrote to her publisher, Sandra Ozzola. She reiterates: “I’ve already done enough for this long story: I wrote it. If the book is worth anything, that should be sufficient.”

Ferrante went on:

“If the book is worth anything, that should be sufficient. I won’t participate in discussions and conferences, if I’m invited. I won’t go and accept prizes, if any are awarded to me. I will never promote the book, especially on television, not in Italy or, as the case may be, abroad. I will be interviewed only in writing, but I would prefer to limit even that to the indispensable minimum. I am absolutely committed in this sense to myself and my family. I hope not to be forced to change my mind. I understand that this may cause some difficulties at the publishing house. I have great respect for your work, I liked you both immediately, and I don’t want to cause trouble. If you no longer mean to support me, tell me right away, I’ll understand. It’s not at all necessary for me to publish this book. To explain all the reasons for my decision, is, as you know, hard for me. I will only tell you that it’s a small bet with myself, with my convictions. I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t.”

To read her entire letter, click here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.