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

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

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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