Fake Ferrante Twitter account sparks fresh confusion over author’s identity

A Twitter account claiming to belong to Anita Raja on Tuesday night "confirmed" media reports that the translator was behind the successful Elena Ferrante novels, sending Italian media into a frenzy. But by Wednesday morning, it seemed that the account was a fake.

Fake Ferrante Twitter account sparks fresh confusion over author's identity
Who is behind the Twitter account? File photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

The account, was created on Tuesday evening, with a tweet saying it would only stay open temporarily to allow for an “explanation”.

It used the handle @AnitaRajaStarn – 'Starn' being an abbreviation for the surname of Raja's husband, writer Domenico Starnone – and followed 48 accounts of journalists and news organizations (including The Local Italy).

“I confirm it. I'm Elena Ferrante. But this doesn't change anything regarding readers' relationships with Ferrante's books,” the account posted, at one minute to midnight on Tuesday evening.

It went on to say that the way Ferrante's identity had been 'revealed' had been “gross and dangerous”, and said that Raja would not give any interviews regarding the novels. “They are and remain Elena's, not mine”.

Italian news agency Ansa reported the tweets as genuine on Wednesday morning, leading the story to be picked up by leading Italian dailies including Rai News, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and Il Mattino.

However, on Wednesday morning both Il Post and La Repubblica cited Ferrante's publishing house, E/O, as saying the profile was a fake.

At 10:30, the profile posted again, saying “I opened this profile of my own accord, without consulting my editor”.

The account was suspended late on Wednesday morning.

Privacy row

Ferrante's best-selling novels, particularly her Naples-based quartet, have been acclaimed for their intricate, compelling storytelling and insights into the nature of female friendship.

Her success has been fuelled by media interest in the mystery over the author's identity with the until-now anonymous Ferrante having granted only a handful of interviews conducted via emails passed on by her publisher.

But earlier this week, Italian investigative journalist Claudio Gatti claimed to have proof that Raja was behind the Neapolitan novels. His research was based on records of payments made by Ferrante's publishers, for whom Raja also worked, which appear to correspond to the royalties the best-selling novelist would have been due.

Gatti's 'scoop' prompted fierce debate in the literary world regarding an author's right to anonymity.

While Ferrante's publishing house defended the author and criticizing “disgusting journalism that breaches privacy”, Gatti said millions of readers had “acquired the right” to know the author's identity.

Academics and authors weighed in, the majority defending Ferrante and her choice not to reveal her name.

Novelist Matt Haig added: “Thhe pursuit to discover the 'real' Elena Ferrante is a disgrace and also pointless,” he tweeted. “A writer's truest self is the books they write.”

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Elena Ferrante: Italian author’s next novel to be published in English next year

Fans of the enigmatic author can get their hands on her latest book in November 2019 - but only in Italian.

Elena Ferrante: Italian author's next novel to be published in English next year
Will Elena Ferrante's new novel match the success of My Brilliant Friend? Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

English-speaking fans of Italian author Elena Ferrante must wait until next June to read her latest novel, to be published in Italian in November.

So far publishers have released only an intriguing title and provocative opening lines to whet their literary appetites.

“La Vita Bugiarda Degli Adulti” hits Italian bookstores on November 7, but its English version, translated as “The Lying Life of Adults” only comes out on June 9, 2020.

Few details about the new novel are known — fitting for the best-selling author writing under a pseudonym whose real identity still remains shrouded in mystery.

Ferrante's four-volume series “Neopolitan Novels,” of which the first, “My Brilliant Friend” appeared in 2012 in English, sold over 10 million copies around the world and was translated into more than 40 languages, thrusting the writer into the spotlight.

On Monday, the new book's Italian publishers Edizioni posted on Twitter the novel's cover photograph in black and white depicting two outstretched hands.

In the new novel, Ferrante returns to Naples, the atmospheric backdrop to her famous series, but the work no longer centres on that saga's two gifted heroines, friends but also rivals in the post-war southern Italian city.

The opening lines of “The Lying Life of Adults” were released a few weeks ago by the publishers: “Two years before leaving home my father said to my mother that I was very ugly.”

In 2016 an Italian journalist claimed, after conducting an investigation into financial records, that the true identity of Ferrante was that of Rome-based translator Anita Raja.

Ferrante's publishers have neither confirmed nor denied that theory.

“My Brilliant Friend” was also adapted for a television series co-produced by Italy's national broadcaster Rai and US cable television network HBO.

READ ALSO: Five must-read novels that will transport you to Italy