Ever since so-called Ferrante fever struck, there’s been a cottage industry dedicated to unraveling the true identity of the pseudonymous Italian novelist. “Who is Elena Ferrante?” is a question that understandably haunts fans of the novelist and her complex rendering of her female protagonists. And yet, Ferrante herself makes a convincing—and for many of us, final—argument for why the question shouldn’t be answered. She has repeatedly declined to reveal her identity, arguing instead for a kind of radical death of the author, building a rather impenetrable wall between reader and writer and between the writer’s life and her work.
In interview after interview, Ferrante insists on maintaining this barrier, saying that she didn’t choose “anonymity” so much as “absence.” “The structural absence of the author affects the writing in a way that I’d like to continue to explore,” she told the New York Times in a 2014 interview. And despite the fact that it’s a statement of purpose for Ferrante to remain little more than a ghost in her own novels, the guessing continues (a phenomenon that Ferrante herself dismisses as a “banal media game”).