It seems ironic that an author who is intent on remaining, not anonymous, but ‘absent‘ from her work has fuelled an intense wave of publicity on her very absence. But we live in a world where people thrive on the opportunity to reveal identities. We love it. We want to unite against bullying, raising money for a dancing man, generating a self-perpetuating hype that extends far beyond the original act. We crave the moment where a face is put to a name with the intensity of a criminal pursuit. As a book publicist, there’s always been something unsettling about my purpose. No journalist intends to write a piece on the content of a book alone, they reach out for interesting back stories: ‘has your author suffered an unusual trauma and been inspired to write as a result?’ ‘Does your author have a nice house we can photograph for our interiors page?’ It is unimaginably difficult for a book to be read on merit alone, so I find it admirable when an individual separates herself from her work, taking control over the desperate clawing for personal information and revealing only what is necessary. This person is Elena Ferrante.
The point is, you do not need to know Ferrante’s entire history to appreciate that she is one of the finest novelists you will ever read. This woman (though some say man), has crafted the most intensely beautiful bildungsroman which has been split into four to form the Neapolitan Novels. I am drawing to the close of the third, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay having been unable to truly commit to another book since beginning the tale of two young girls in 1950s Naples, and the fourth will be published in English this September. The story starts in My Brilliant Friend and if you’re looking for something to read – make it this.