Elena Ferrante is an Italian novelist who was born in or near Naples. She seems once to have been married; she may have lived in Greece; she appears to be a mother. Or so we think. In our self-promoting, Twitter-saturated age, Ferrante is an outlier, an author who wishes to remain totally private. She refuses face-to-face interviews, has only given a handful of written ones (a few of her letters have been published), and makes no personal appearances; no photographs of her have been published. In 1991, shortly before the publication of her style-defining first book, Troubling Love, Ferrante sent a letter to her editor, explaining that she would not be promoting it: “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.” Anonymity, she thought, would preserve “a space of absolute creative freedom”, a freedom all the more necessary because her books stick “a finger in certain wounds I have that are still infected”.
That absolute creative freedom has resulted in a series of brilliant novels. (Six are now available in English, all exquisitely translated by Ann Goldstein, an editor at the New Yorker.) Ferrante’s project is bold: her books chronicle the inner conflicts of intelligent women (professors, novelists) who, having made their way to Florence or Rome and to good jobs, find themselves confronting memories of the crude violence and misogyny of their youth.
My Brilliant Friend is the first of those books. We hope you enjoy!