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Elena Ferrante’s privacy breach

Published : Oct 15, 2016, 10:06 pm IST
Updated : Oct 15, 2016, 10:06 pm IST

We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic. This week we talk about:


We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic. This week we talk about:

Last week, the literary world was taken by storm when investigative journalist Claudio Gatti revealed the author, Italian bestseller Elena Ferrante’s identity suggesting that she might be Anita Raja, a translator of German Jewish origin. We speak to authors, literary agents and literature teachers and seek their views on this being a violation, if at all, in this era of lesser privacy. Do the readers have a right to know their author Whose call is it anyway

‘It’s not that she was a criminal’ It’s a complete violation of privacy. Especially, when someone who guarded her identity for this long, it was extremely disrespectful. If the journalist calls it investigation, it’s not that she was a criminal. Ideally authors should be judged by their work, but unfortunately often the personality of the author becomes inseparable from the book. In some way, the authors and the publishers are also responsible for it, but if someone has written under a pseudonym for so long, it’s clear that she didn’t want the public glare. It feels terrible that she was pulled out from the shadows. Ravi Subramanian, author

‘Both are right in their own way’ Frankly, the answer is that both Elena Ferrante and Claudio Gatti are right in their own way. Elena Ferrante (or Anita Raja) possibly believes that anonymity gives her the required space to write more freely. Possibly it allows her to separate her literary life from her ordinary existence. She has every right to write under a pseudonym and preserve her artistic freedom of expression and privacy. I understand that many readers of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels must be angry because, frankly, Elena Ferrante was as much of a character as the other characters in her books. Her anonymity allowed her readers to imagine who or what she was like. In fact, this issue strikes a chord with me because I wrote my first novel, The Rozabal Line under a pseudonym, Shawn Haigins. But the responsibility for protecting Elena Ferrante’s privacy is not that of Claudio Gatti. A writer’s job is to write, and an investigative reporter’s job is to investigate. Both are doing what they are supposed to do. Ashwin Sanghi, author

‘Her choice should have been respected’ I think ripping off of Elena Ferrante’s identity is an act of vandalism. The author’s identity adds little to the written text. On the other hand, in many ways an author’s biography leads to misreading. We tend to look for clues from his or her real life in the text. This happened in the case of Basheer in Malyalam, who was misread many times over. Her choice should have been respected and intrusion into her privacy was a violent act that brought very little to the readers. N. S. Madhavan, Malayalam author

‘Her reason for choosing a pseudonym is vague’ Many authors, in India or overseas, choose to adopt a pseudonym for fear of censure or rebuke. In Hindutva, Sex, and Adventure, John Maclithon writes a fictionalised and severely damning account of one of India’s most famous foreign correspondents. The author of A Pleasant Kind Of Heavy And Other Erotic Stories, Aranyani, chose to adopt a pseudonym because of the sexually explicit nature of her stories. It’s another matter that she decided to disclose her identity later on. On the other hand, Ferrante’s reason for choosing a pseudonym is quite vague and intellectualised. I think it was because of this and also the global success of her books that there has been great interest in unmasking her true identity. However, I would agree that anything done against a writer’s written wishes amounts to a violation of his or her privacy. I think most engaged, intelligent readers think about the writer of a book and the various thought processes involved while reading a book. This is even more so in case of books with unusual and provocative themes. I remember reading up on Elfriede Jelinek and Arundhati Roy after reading their novels. There are some writers who are charming, flamboyant, larger than life, capable of holding forth at any gathering or literary festival. Most of the time, it’s the opposite, and I have heard and read about so many literary enthusiasts who were completely let down after meeting their favourite author. Kanishka Gupta, literary agent

‘Revealing his or her identity might be a betrayal’ It’s the author’s choice, not the readers’, and we simply have to respect that. And why not You never know what compulsions or needs made the author choose a pseudonym and revealing his or her identity might be a betrayal. We have three anonymous co-authors in Eighteen Plus Duets, and for various reasons (family, job, etc) their true identities have to be protected. In some cases, it also allows an author the freedom to express himself or herself more freely. Apurv Nagpal, author