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The Elena Ferrante-Anita Raja Affair, a Saga Full of Irony and Hypocrisy

By revealing the identity of Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous author of the Neapolitan quartet of novels, I unleashed an ethical, journalistic and literary uproar.

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My investigations

The people who criticized me for wasting my time on such an “inconsequential” subject – the real identity of Elena Ferrante – did so with such extreme passion.

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Elena, Anita & Christa

Ever since the first novel by Elena Ferrante was published in Italy in 1992, and especially since the sensational success of the four novels that make up the Neapolitan quartet (2011-2014), there has been much speculation about the writer’s identity. Until now, there were never any photos and almost nothing has been known about her. Yet she has been an oddly public figure in recent years, granting numerous interviews through her small Rome-based publisher, Edizione e/o, and gathering together a volume purporting in part to outline her family background, Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey, which will be published in the United States on November 1.

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The Story Behind a Name

There are no traces of Anita Raja’s personal history in Elena Ferrante’s fiction. The stories Ferrante tells are those of the Neapolitan poor, of post-war Italy, of social and female oppression. None of Ferrante’s books gives any indication of the tragedies experienced by Raja’s mother and grandparents and their extended family—pogroms in Poland, Nazi persecution in Germany, anti-Semitic laws in fascist Italy and the Holocaust, which took the lives of her great-grandparents and a dozen other members of her family.

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