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March 3, 2015 / Southerly

Who is She? And Why Does It Matter?


By Sunil Badami

Echoing my reflections on writing above, Ferrante says she’s ‘a storyteller. I’ve always been more interested in storytelling than in writing. Even today, Italy has a weak narrative tradition. Beautiful, magnificent, very carefully crafted pages abound, but not the flow of storytelling that despite its density manages to sweep you away.’[i]

While some like Rachel Donadio, suggest that it ‘veers into potboiler territory’[ii], or others, like Paolo di Paolo, that it has the soapy air of a melodrama like A Place in the Sun,[iii] I’m with Melinda Harvey, who says that ‘in many ways these are old-fashioned novels’ which don’t even acknowledge the textual or narrative experiments of modernism or postmodernism, breaking rules of writing (such as elegant sentences, concision not repetition) taught in creative writing classes.

Indeed, with all their deus-ex-machinery and incredible coincidences, their often melodramatic denouements and sometimes utilitarian language, couldn’t many great, pre-modernist 19th Century classics be criticised in the same way?

But as Harvey notes, what this does is speed reading back up again after a century of speed limits imposed on it by various technical difficulties, making ‘literary fiction, thanks to Ferrante, [like] other art we like consuming, such as quality cable TV series.’[iv] I read all 1200 pages so far in a frenetic, feverish week.

And Ferrante’s achievement goes beyond readability (accelerated by the short, often two page chapters). You might remember in my first post, I quoted Salman Rushdie talking about how

‘the real risks of any artist are taken in the work, in pushing the work to the limits of what is possible, in the attempt to increase the sum of what it is possible to think. Books become good when they go to this edge and risk falling over it—when they endanger the artist by reason of what he has, or has not, artistically dared.’[v]

For many writers, this means technical risks, structurally or narratively or linguistically. But for Ferrante, they’re emotional risks: writing to the limits of language to describe feelings and thoughts we often cannot, or cannot admit, the experiences, Ferrante says, ‘that are difficult to use, that are elusive, embarrassing, at times unsayable, because they belong to us so intimately. I am in favour of stories that are fed by these kinds of experience.’[vi]

Despite the prose’s relative plainness, directness and relentless energy, often with little extraneous physical description (rooms pronounced dirty or bare, people only described by blonde or red hair), the narrative is saturated in sensual, visceral, tactile richness, experience not only expressed physically, in the constant violence or threat of violence, or in a world, Lénu recalls:

‘in which children and adults were often wounded, blood flowed from the wounds, they festered, and sometimes people died… our world was like that, full of words that killed: croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection. With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life’[vii]

but in the way Ferrante merges the internal with the external. On the threshold of womanhood, Lila has her first episode of ‘dissolving margins’ in which ‘the outlines of people and things suddenly dissolved, disappeared… when she was abruptly struck by that sensation, she was frightened and kept it to herself, still unable to name it.’[viii]

And this is exemplified by her unstinting depictions of sex, in which desire becomes ‘a drop of rain in a spiderweb.’[ix] Whatever the conjecture over her identity, like many readers, particularly women, she writes about sex in a way many men—myself included—cannot: ‘the stuff that men don’t want to hear and women know but are afraid to say.’[x] (have a look at the ratio of men to women in The Literary Review’s Bad Sex Awards, and you’ll see what I mean).

‘I was overwhelmed by a need for pleasure so demanding and so egocentric that it cancelled out not only the entire world of sensation but also his body, in my eyes old, and the labels by which he could be classified—father, railway worker-poet-journalist—he was aware of it and penetrated me. I felt that he did it delicately at first, then with a clear and decisive thrust that caused a rip in my stomach, a stab of pain immediately erased by a rhythmic oscillation, a sliding, a thrusting, an emptying and filling me with jolts of eager desire. Until suddenly he withdrew, turned over on his back on the sand and emitted a sort of strangled roar.’[xi]

More than this, it’s the way Ferrante writes of the love and jealousy, resentment and sacrifice, competition and loyalty of female friendship—something I can only imagine because like many men my age I don’t have a single friend of that intensity, and which my wife, who should know because she does, says is the most convincing depiction of it she’s read—that suggests Ferrante’s gender, as if that really matters.

As Ferrante acknowledged, of all the characters in her books, Lila and Lénu both best capture her: ‘Not in the specific events of their lives, nor in their concreteness as people with a destiny, but in the movement that characterizes their relationship, in the self-discipline of the one that continuously and brusquely shatters when it runs up against the unruly imagination of the other.’[xii]

Their almost claustrophobic relationship is almost a psychic refraction of the id, represented by Lila (impulsive, violent, angry, passionate, destructive, entirely devoted to itself, if not entirely selfish, contradictory, often incomprehensible) and the ego, personified by Lénu (socialised, obedient, diligent, effacing, logical, dependently narcissistic).

Although Lénu feels as if Lila is a ‘shadow that goaded me, depressed me, filled me with pride, deflated me,’[xiii] their relationship is constantly changing as they change: ‘there was no way to feel that things were settled; every fixed point of our relationship sooner or later turned out to be provisional.’[xiv]

Everyone in the book is complicated, contradictory, sometimes incomprehensible, especially Lila, ‘terrible, dazzling, too much for anyone’ is unpredictable, destructive, inscrutable, tender, violent, brave, foolish, proud. All of them face morally ambiguous moral decisions to survive, if not succeed. Society outside the neighbourhood and circumstances beyond their control shape them as much as their desires, their regrets, their follies and delusions. In her acute, fearless observations—refracted through Lénu and Lila’s own thoughts and confessions—about sex, life, love, of fears and frustrations, about parents, family, children, friends, we can sometimes be shocked to see our own secret feelings exposed.

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Just because it is an excellent—and I’d even go so far as to say great—book (and I mean the entire work so far, not just each constituent part), doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws. Some might find the way Ferrante evokes the terrors of childhood and the hysteria of adolescence overwrought; the lack of clear villains and even less apparent heroes frustrating; the characters occasionally flummoxing or perplexing or enraging. Although the story is told by Lénu, her doubts and self-loathing and endless dissection of every moment and unsaid word can be frustrating, even as it perfectly captures her perspective at each age, from the terrors of childhood to the confusion of adolescence to the joys and ennui of parenthood.

But eventually, it’s as if you know these people better than people you actually know, and their lives become a part of yours. After all, as Lila points out, ‘each of us narrates our life as it suits us.’[xv]

I’ve often thought that if you could distil the difference between good art and bad art, it would come down to what each aims to achieve, and the way it’s presented. Not just the craft: after all, who would prefer Celine Dion’s hysterically kitsch melismatics in comparison to Billie Holliday’s tortured wail? Art, of course, transcends craft.

But what a lot of bad art does is pretend to offer profound answers to complicated problems, asserting that it’s addressing the world and everything in it, when on closer scrutiny, it’s usually only about the artist themselves. Tracy Emin’s tent, the plaque explaining will tell you (if it can), is about “alienation” or whatever—but it’s really just about Tracy Emin.

Rather than speaking to us, such bad art talks at us—or worse, over us to the critics it thinks it’s addressing—proclaiming its importance in the catalogue notes, reminding us what it’s about, rather than letting us find out for ourselves.

But great art only offers us simple (albeit troubling) questions about us, our lives, our world, by making someone else, somewhere else, doing something else, often as far away from us and our experience, ask those very same questions, facing those very same heartaches. Yet we don’t need to know a thing about the author to be affected or moved or inspired by it.

Yet as David Donaldson pointed out in his excellent essay on anonymity, ‘ironically, the fascination with uncovering the author often leads to a stronger focus on biography than would have otherwise been the case.’[xvi]

That’s certainly been the case with Ferrante, who, as interest in her work—and in her—has exploded in the last few months since the publication of the third book in the series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay last year, has submitted to email interviews with a number of publications (including The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Entertainment Weekly and Vogue), it’s being trumpeted, her first ever face to face interview for forthcoming Spring issue of The Paris Review (although Slate reports that it’s with her publishers, asking questions provided by The Paris Review).

It’s interesting, too, that the reasons Carmen and Helen D gave for their impostures (that of the identity of the author being more important than the work) are the same that Ferrante does for her absence, that of the author’s personality, or “aura” in which the media’s ‘obsessive demand for self-promotion’ means that it ‘simply can’t discuss an artwork unless it can point to some protagonist behind it,’ which results in the book counting less than ‘the aura of its author’, the media ‘invent[ing] the author the writer ends up selling not only his work but also himself, his image.’[xvii]

It’s led to criticism, especially in Italy, with Paolo di Paolo arguing that ‘more than in her books, Ferrante’s strength [in comparison to the neglect of other Italian writers abroad] lies in her not being here, her huge distance from everything,’ and that ‘you can remain secluded without becoming a ghost [producing] literature that resembles software that produces stories, or the plot of an impeccably produced but soulless TV series.’[xviii]

Or Frederika Randall, who like di Paolo, not only contends that Ferrante’s pseudonymity is ‘an ingenious business proposition’ but panders to stereotypes of Italy and Italians to those outside Italy (especially in America) ‘who know little of Italy but have a certain curiosity about [the] country. [Like] an agreeable Swedish noir… a vivid atmosphere, perfect for a TV series: the Naples of the lower class and criminals, vaguely familiar to those who know the Italian diaspora and love The Sopranos.’[xix]

Funny isn’t it, how their criticisms, which equate Ferrante’s novels to TV, demand to know why other, ‘better’, more intellectual Italian writers don’t receive the same acclaim; how those other, ‘better’ writers would be crucified for Ferrante’s failings, while she’s celebrated for them;[xx] of the implications of ‘what it means for Italy’s intellectual reputation abroad if even more competent critics [like Wood] are taken in by an obviously commercial product’[xxi] echo Franzen and Foster Wallace and Carey’s complaints about ‘cultural junk’[xxii] and how ‘novels by women and cultural minorities may in part represent a movement, in the face of a hyperkinetic televised reality’?[xxiii]

Don’t get me wrong: I feel the same way di Paolo or Randall do about what I call “mango novels”—‘those exotic-looking fruits of the post-colonial, NRI imagination that conjure up colourful mirages of magic-realist wonders or thrilling terrors in exotically faraway places’[xxiv] for mainly Western audiences—or the slightly askew, strangely un-multicultural depictions of Australia presented to the world in the work of expats like Carey, as though they, so far away, can know more about us than we do (even as their work reveals how much they can’t see from way over there).

It is interesting, though, that while di Paolo (somewhat spuriously) suggests that Ferrante is bogus because although some might say that ‘the game of pseudonyms’ are permissible in literature, none have lasted as long as Ferrante’s (although he doesn’t elaborate why this is a problem), neither he nor Randall criticise the male Wu Ming Foundation, who like Ferrante, call themselves ‘storytellers by every means necessary,’[xxv] whose self-reflexive historical novels are written with the pacy, page-turning energy of popular trade or genre fiction and also believe that ‘once the writer becomes a face that’s separate and alienated (in a literal sense), it’s a cannibalistic jumble: that face appears everywhere, almost always out of context. A photo is witness to my absence; it’s a banner of distance and solitude… I become a “character,” a stopgap used to quickly fill a page layout, an instrument that amplifies banality.[xxvi]

Indeed, if anything, it reiterates concerns by the ‘self-referential literary cliques’ Wu Ming abhor about the right of women to produce and be considered part of “high” culture in ways that I discussed in What’s My Name?—which Ferrante, via her fictional namesake, continually doubting herself and her work and her place in a social strata far higher than the one from which she’s come and spent so long trying to erase, speaking Italian rather than cursing in dialect, is more than aware of. At the first event for her book, an older man, well-known to many in the audience but not Lénu,

‘talked for a long time about the decline of publishing, which now looked more for money than for literary quality; then he moved on to the marketing collusion between critics and the cultural pages of the dailies; finally he focused on my book, first ironically, then, when he cited the slightly risqué pages, in an openly hostile tone.’[xxvii]

The Ferrante phenomenon—both literary and epistemological—offers the kind of rich (and often spirited, sometimes vitriolic) debate surrounding art, commerce, publishing, media construction, identity, authorial authority, reader reception and perception, identitarian and textual concerns that we in Australia have already experienced during our ‘greatest cultural identity crisis’[xxviii]. Criticisms of Helen D, for example, were based on identitarian concerns, and defences on textual ones, even as, for many, ‘the uniqueness of Wanda’s perspective… dissolves when [it] is read as the expression of a white man.’[xxix]

As Peter Shillingsburg suggested, ‘the agent of meaning, the reader’s sense of who it was that “did” the text, has a great deal to do with one’s enjoyment of or dismay with the text’[xxx], and reading the Neopolitan novels, the writer that springs to my mind is not whoever the “real” Ferrante might be but Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose autobiographically based six volume Min Kamp (My Struggle) series similarly seems to traduce and transcend the supposed borders between fact and fiction (coincidentally interviewed by Wood in the current issue of the Paris Review; in her recent New York Times interview, Ferrante says ‘writing has always been a great struggle for me’[xxxi]).

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Like Ferrante, Knausgaard writes to the very edge of the sayable, but unlike Ferrante, his work is saturated with seemingly relentless minutiae and long digressions. Even if subplots (such as Lila’s problem of dissolving margins, here wedding or her disappearance–not a spoiler, it opens the first book) stretch over hundreds of pages or two or more books, they eventually resound with a shock, and despite this, Ferrante dispenses with digressions, often focussing on one incident at a time (although returning or referring to it and its consequences later).

But most importantly, Knausgaard has signed his name to his work: part of the shame and regret he now says he feels about his “anti-literary” project. Ferrante, for her part, doesn’t think what she’s writing is anything but ‘literary.’

Is Knausgaard somehow braver for assigning his name to his work? I’m not sure it’s down to that. What’s interesting though, is how intrinsically identified Knausgaard was with his work—as Zeljka Marosevic alleges, his publisher’s marketing campaign was outstanding in its use of the author, plastering his face everywhere, all ‘making a virtue of his Nordic singularity in order to win over an English-speaking audience. They “othered” him, readers, in order to promote him.’[xxxii]

So what IF Ferrante isn’t who she says she is? What if she is, indeed a man? Or her Copperfieldesque fiction isn’t actually autobiographical? What if Lila—whoever she is or was—doesn’t or never really existed? Does it matter? For Lénu, her book, much more than her degree, gives her ‘a new identity,’ even if seeing it ‘in a window, among other novels that had just come out, [she feels] inside a mixture of pride and fear, a dart of pleasure that end[s] in anguish.’[xxxiii]

To be honest, I don’t really care (and I must admit I’m torn between wanting to read what she says in the Paris Review interview and averting my eyes: part of me feels something precious will be lost by seeing her face, the same way it is when the characters you love in a book you cherish appear on a movie screen). Besides, as we discussed earlier, isn’t the idea of a writer—or any idea—a kind of fiction anyway?

As the man often insinuated to be her, Starnone, points out (somewhat understandably snippily) ‘Mrs Ferrante is not the only one to have written about abandoned women, you know. Why are we not talking about the link between Starnone and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina?’[xxxiv]

Ferrante non sono io, indeed!

But as Jia Tolentino points out, what makes Ferrante so powerful is the way she turns “the” female experience (her quotations, as though it is a singular experience) into a human experience, not ‘presenting a way of living separate from identity politics. Rather, [Ferrante] reinvigorates their essence while providing a powerful way through… for what she has to present about human life writ large through the specific, asking uncomfortable questions about how we live, how we love, how we singe an existence in a deeply flawed world.’[xxxv]

As Aminatta Forna pointed out in this excellent piece about identity and authenticity in The Guardian, writers

‘try to reach beyond those things that divide us: culture, class, gender, race. Given the chance, we would resist classification. I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer. We hyphenated writers complain about the privilege accorded to the white male writer, he who dominates the western canon and is the only one called simply “writer.”’[xxxvi]

Perhaps that’s why, like Ferrante, like Wu Ming, like Jhumpa Lahiri—who said in an open letter to Ferrante at the Rome International Literature Festival last June that ‘How wonderful it is that you are a writer able to communicate with the world through your words only, your literature only. If I had had the same courage, I would also have liked to pursue my literary career in the same way’[xxxvii]—I wish I’d had the courage to publish with the same absence, given the hyphen’s yoke. As Lénu reflects:

that book [had become] an object that contained me. Now I was there, exposed, and seeing myself caused a violent pounding in my chest. I felt that not only in my book but in novels in general there was something that truly agitated me, a bare and throbbing heart, the same that had burst out of my chest in that distant moment when Lila had proposed that we write a story together. It had fallen to me to do it seriously. But was that what I wanted? To write, to write with purpose, to write better than I had already? And to study the stories of the past and the present to understand how they worked, and to learn, learn everything about the world with the sole purpose of constructing living hearts, which no one would ever do better than me, not even Lila if she had had the opportunity?’[xxxviii]

My Brilliant Friend opens with a disappearance, but the Neopolitan Novels are defined by an absence that haunts them, both within and without. Despite my relative and still precious obscurity, I cannot choose the escape Ferrante has. Can I? Perhaps. For in the end, perhaps it’s not the name or the identity or even the writing that matters. As she herself says:

‘The most difficult achievement is the capacity to see oneself, to name oneself, to imagine oneself. If in daily life we use ideologies, common sense, religion, even literature itself to disguise our experiences and make them presentable, in fiction it’s possible to sweep away all the veils—in fact, perhaps, it’s a duty.’[xxxix]

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References:

Badami, Sunil, ‘Last Mango in Pondicherry,’ Meanjin Australasian Issue, Vol. 63, No. 2, 2004, 200–207.

Davies, Lizzie, ‘Who is the real Italian novelist writing as Elena Ferrante?’ The Guardian, 16 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/15/who-italian-novelist-elena-ferrante, accessed 18 February 2015.

Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, Penguin Classics, London, 2007.

Di Paolo, Paolo, ‘Il caso Ferrante, il romanzo italiano secondo il New Yorker,’ (The case of Ferrante, the Italian novel according to the New Yorker), La Stampa, 13 October 2014. http://www.lastampa.it/2014/10/13/cultura/il-caso-ferrante-il-romanzo-italiano-secondo-il-new-yorker-k6z6crdyRB5A6Z4ycRUrIO/pagina.html, accessed 17 February 2015.

Donadio, Rachel, ‘Q and A: Elena Ferrante,’ The New York Times, 9 December 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/books/writing-has-always-been-a-great-struggle-for-me.html, accessed 17 February 2015.

Donadio, Rachel, ‘Writing Has Always Been a Great Struggle for Me,’ The New York Times, 9 December 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/books/writing-has-always-been-a-great-struggle-for-me.html, accessed 11 February 2015.

Donaldson, David, ‘The Artist is Not Present: Anonymity in Literature,’ The Wheeler Centre, 28 July 2014. http://www.wheelercentre.com/notes/f98bd93c7e1a, accessed 11 February 2015.

‘See Naples and die,’ The Economist, 5 October 2013. http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21587190-singular-voice-english-last-see-naples-and-die, accessed 11 February 2015.

Ferrante, Elena, My Brilliant Friend, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2012.

Ferrante, Elena, The Story of a New Name, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2013.

Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2014.

Ferrante, Elena, quoted in ‘The Art of Fiction’, The Paris Review (forthcoming). http://www.theparisreview.org/issue-212-preview, accessed 17 February 2015.

Forna, Aminatta, ‘Aminatta Forna: don’t judge a book by its cover,’ The Guardian, 13 February 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/13/aminatta-forna-dont-judge-book-by-cover, accessed 15 February 2015.

Harvey, Melinda, ‘Being female in a man’s world in Naples,’ The Weekend Australian, 31 January 2015. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/being-female-in-the-mans-world-of-naples/story-fn9n8gph-1227202174188, accessed 20 February 2015.

Hughes, Evan, ‘Karl Ove Knausgaard Became a Literary Sensation By Exposing His Every Secret,’ The New Republic, 7 April 2014. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117245/karl-ove-knausgaard-interview-literary-star-struggles-regret, accessed 19 February 2015.

The Internet Archive. https://archive.org/index.php, accessed 21 February 2015.

Lerner, Ben, ‘Each cornflake,’ The London Review of Books, Vol. 36, No. 10, 22 May 2014. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n10/ben-lerner/each-cornflake, accessed 18 February 2015.

Marosevic, Zeljka, ‘Elena Ferrante: should writers reveal their real identities?’ Melville House Publishing Blog, 16 October 2014. http://www.mhpbooks.com/elena-ferrante-should-writers-reveal-their-real-identities/, accessed 19 February 2015.

Maxted, Anna, ‘A Pen Name is a Writer’s Best Friend,’ The Daily Telegraph, 15 July 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10180200/JK-Rowling-is-right-a-pen-name-is-a-writers-best-friend.html, accessed 11 February 2015.

Nolan, Maggie, ‘In His Own Sweet Time: Carmen’s Coming Out,’ in Who’s Who: Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature, Australian Literary Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 2004, 134–149.

O’Grady, Megan, ‘Elena Ferrante on the Origins of her Neopolitan Novels,’ Vogue Magazine, 19 August 2014. http://www.vogue.com/983355/elena-ferrante-neapolitan-novels-origin-those-who-leave-and-those-who-stay/, accessed 15 February 2015.

O’Rourke, Megan, ‘Elena Ferrante: The global literary sensation nobody knows,’ The Guardian, 1 November 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/31/elena-ferrante-literary-sensation-nobody-knows, accessed 11 February 2015.

Randall, Frederika, ‘Elena Ferrante è una genial iniziativa commercial,’ (Elena Ferrante is a brilliant business proposition), L’Internazionale, 2 January 2015. http://www.internazionale.it/opinione/frederika-randall/2015/01/02/un-paese-di-santi-poeti-e-complottisti, accessed 18 February 2015.

Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991, Granta/Picador, London, 1992, 12

Schulman, Martha, ‘My Brilliant Friend: PW Talks with Elena Ferrante,’ 30 November 2012. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/54949-my-brilliant-friend-pw-talks-with-elena-ferrante.html, accessed 20 February 2015.

Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenina, The Political Messenger, Moscow, 1873–1877.

Valby, Karen, ‘Who is Elena Ferrante? An interview with the mysterious Italian author,’ Entertainment Weekly, 5 September 2014. http://www.ew.com/article/2014/09/05/elena-ferrante-italian-author-interview, accessed 15 February 2015.

Waldman, Katy, ‘How The Paris Review Snagged the First-Ever In-Person Interview With Elena Ferrante,’ Slate, 4 February 2015. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/02/04/the_paris_review_interviews_elena_ferrante_how_the_literary_magazine_snagged.html, accessed 20 February 2015.

Wood, James, ‘Women on the Verge: The fiction of Elena Ferrante, The New Yorker, 21 January 2013. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/01/21/women-on-the-verge, accessed

Wu Ming, quoted in Alessandro Bertante et al, ‘The Perfect Storm, or rather: The Monster Interview,’ 2007. http://www.manituana.com/documenti/0/8246/EN, accessed 11 February 2015.

Citations:

[i] Ferrante, Elena, quoted in Rachel Donadio, ‘Writing Has Always Been a Great Struggle for Me,’ The New York Times, 9 December 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/books/writing-has-always-been-a-great-struggle-for-me.html, accessed 11 February 2015.
[ii] Donadio, Rachel, ‘Elena Ferrante, Author of Naples Novels, Stays Mysterious,’ The New York Times Magazine, 9 December 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/books/elena-ferrante-author-of-naples-novels-stays-mysterious.html, accessed 15 February 2015.
[iii] Di Paolo, Paolo, ‘Il caso Ferrante, il romanzo italiano secondo il New Yorker,’ (The case of Ferrante, the Italian novel according to the New Yorker), La Stampa, 13 October 2014. http://www.lastampa.it/2014/10/13/cultura/il-caso-ferrante-il-romanzo-italiano-secondo-il-new-yorker-k6z6crdyRB5A6Z4ycRUrIO/pagina.html, accessed 17 February 2015.
[iv] Harvey, Melinda, ‘Being female in a man’s world in Naples,’ The Weekend Australian, 31 January 2015. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/being-female-in-the-mans-world-of-naples/story-fn9n8gph-1227202174188, accessed 20 February 2015.
[v] Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991, Granta/Picador, London, 1992, 12.
[vi] Ferrante, Elena, quoted in Karen Valby, ‘Who is Elena Ferrante? An interview with the mysterious Italian author,’ Entertainment Weekly, 5 September 2014. http://www.ew.com/article/2014/09/05/elena-ferrante-italian-author-interview, accessed 15 February 2015.
[vii] Ferrante, Elena, My Brilliant Friend, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2012, 31–32.
[viii] Ferrante, Elena, My Brilliant Friend, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2012, 88.
[ix] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2013, 370.
[x] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2013, 124.
[xi] Ferrante, Elena, The Story of a New Name, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2013, 182.
[xii] Ferrante, Elena, quoted in Rachel Donadio, ‘Q and A: Elena Ferrante,’ The New York Times, 9 December 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/books/writing-has-always-been-a-great-struggle-for-me.html, accessed 17 February 2015.
[xiii] Randall, Frederika, ‘Elena Ferrante è una genial iniziativa commercial,’ (Elena Ferrante is a brilliant business proposition), L’Internazionale, 2 January 2015. http://www.internazionale.it/opinione/frederika-randall/2015/01/02/un-paese-di-santi-poeti-e-complottisti, accessed 18 February 2015.
[xiv] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, 221.
[xv] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, 232.
[xvi] Donaldson, David, ‘The Artist is Not Present: Anonymity in Literature,’ The Wheeler Centre, 28 July 2014. http://www.wheelercentre.com/notes/f98bd93c7e1a, accessed 11 February 2015.
[xvii] Ferrante, Elena, quoted in ‘The Art of Fiction’, The Paris Review (forthcoming). http://www.theparisreview.org/issue-212-preview, accessed 17 February 2015.
[xviii] Di Paolo, Paolo, ‘Il caso Ferrante, il romanzo italiano secondo il New Yorker,’ (The case of Ferrante, the Italian novel according to the New Yorker), La Stampa, 13 October 2014. http://www.lastampa.it/2014/10/13/cultura/il-caso-ferrante-il-romanzo-italiano-secondo-il-new-yorker-k6z6crdyRB5A6Z4ycRUrIO/pagina.html, accessed 17 February 2015.
[xix] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, 124.
[xx] Di Paolo, Paolo, ‘Il caso Ferrante, il romanzo italiano secondo il New Yorker,’ (The case of Ferrante, the Italian novel according to the New Yorker), La Stampa, 13 October 2014. http://www.lastampa.it/2014/10/13/cultura/il-caso-ferrante-il-romanzo-italiano-secondo-il-new-yorker-k6z6crdyRB5A6Z4ycRUrIO/pagina.html, accessed 17 February 2015.
[xxi] Randall, Frederika, ‘Elena Ferrante è una genial iniziativa commercial,’ (Elena Ferrante is a brilliant business proposition), L’Internazionale, 2 January 2015. http://www.internazionale.it/opinione/frederika-randall/2015/01/02/un-paese-di-santi-poeti-e-complottisti, accessed 18 February 2015.
[xxii] Carey, Peter, Closing Address, Sydney Writers’ Festival, 1 May 2010, The Monthly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5AupAjNDNY, accessed 18 February 2015.
[xxiii] Franzen, Jonathon, ‘Perchance to Dream: In the Age of Images, A Reason to Write Novels’, Harper’s Magazine, April 1996, 47-48.
[xxiv] Badami, Sunil, ‘Last Mango in Pondicherry,’ Meanjin Australasian Issue, Vol. 63, No. 2, 2004, 200.
[xxv] Wu Ming, quoted in Alessandro Bertante et al, ‘The Perfect Storm, or rather: The Monster Interview,’ 2007. http://www.manituana.com/documenti/0/8246/EN, accessed 11 February 2015.
[xxvi] Wu Ming, quoted in Alessandro Bertante et al, ‘The Perfect Storm, or rather: The Monster Interview,’ 2007. http://www.manituana.com/documenti/0/8246/EN, accessed 11 February 2015.
[xxvii] Ferrante, Elena, The Story of a New Name, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2013, 297–298.
[xxviii] Guilliatt, Richard. ‘Black, white & grey all over’. The Sydney Morning Herald, 10April 1997, p 13.
[xxix] Nolan, Maggie, ‘In His Own Sweet Time: Carmen’s Coming Out,’ in Who’s Who: Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature, Australian Literary Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 2004, 142.
[xxx] Shillingsburg, Peter L., Resisting Texts: Authority and Submission in Constructions of Meaning, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor MI, 1997, 160–162.
[xxxi] Ferrante, Elena, quoted in Rachel Donadio, ‘Writing Has Always Been a Great Struggle for Me,’ The New York Times, 9 December 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/books/writing-has-always-been-a-great-struggle-for-me.html, accessed 11 February 2015.
[xxxii] Marosevic, Zeljka, ‘Elena Ferrante: should writers reveal their real identities?’ Melville House Publishing Blog, 16 October 2014. http://www.mhpbooks.com/elena-ferrante-should-writers-reveal-their-real-identities/, accessed 19 February 2015.
[xxxiii] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, 47.
[xxxiv] Starnone, Dominico, quoted in Lizzie Davies, ‘Who is the real Italian novelist writing as Elena Ferrante?’ The Guardian, 16 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/15/who-italian-novelist-elena-ferrante, accessed 18 February 2015.
[xxxv] Tolentino, Jia, ‘The Promise in Elena Ferrante,’ Jezebel, 29 December 2014. http://jezebel.com/the-promise-in-elena-ferrante-1675334850, accessed 18 February 2015.
[xxxvi] Forna, Aminatta, ‘Aminatta Forna: don’t judge a book by its cover,’ The Guardian, 13 February 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/13/aminatta-forna-dont-judge-book-by-cover, accessed 15 February 2015.
[xxxvii] Lahiri, Jumpa, quoted in Lizzie Davies, ‘Who is the real Italian novelist writing as Elena Ferrante?’ The Guardian, 16 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/15/who-italian-novelist-elena-ferrante, accessed 18 February 2015.
[xxxviii] Ferrante, Elena, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, 47–48.
[xxxix] Ferrante, Elena, quoted in Megan O’Grady, ‘Elena Ferrante on the Origins of her Neopolitan Novels,’ Vogue Magazine, 19 August 2014. http://www.vogue.com/983355/elena-ferrante-neapolitan-novels-origin-those-who-leave-and-those-who-stay/, accessed 15 February 2015.

Poto credits:

Image 501: Wikipedia, Young women of Naples in swimsuit, Italy 1948 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midriff#mediaviewer/File:Young_women_of_Naples_in_swimsuit,_Italy_1948.jpg
Image 502: © Selenia Morgillo, 2013 (Creative Commons) http://www.flickr.com/photos/seleniamorgillo/2197261699/in/set-72157603563461426/
Image 503: Photo taken by Sunil Badami in Italy, 2005

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