". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Interviewed: Elena Ferrante, the Author Who Does Not Exist

Th Italian author published her first novel, Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell'abbandono) in 1992.  What has brought her fame is the serial novel published in four parts that have come to be known as her The Neapolitan Novels.

Translated into English for Europa Books by Ann Goldstein the four books are:

My Brilliant Friend (2012); The Story of a New Name (2013); Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014) and The Story of the Lost Child (2015).

There are no photos of the author, and supposedly only two or three people know the true identity of this internationally successful Italian novelist. However, in the Italian press and literary circles articles have been published in the decided voices of masculine authority that declare the woman behind Elena Ferrante is the wife of a well-known Italian novelist. These speculations have gone on further, to cry, "No fair! This is a woman with an inside track and then she pretends she's nobody!"

Even worse than her insider track to publication, she has become very successful, within and without Italy. In other words, the author is A Very Bad WOMAN!

There have been U.S. writer-haters who have sneered the Ferrante novels are same same "women's fiction" of two women fighting over the same man (though so of these writers are members of the class who feel Romance Fiction, for instance, is unfairly dismissed as merely a woman's genre -- go figger).

However, this series of four novel series explores the significance of class, crime, sociocultural history, the international feminist outlook on the lives of poor girls who have it all stacked against them at birth. After the end of World War II, two girl children are born into a poverty-ridden, criminal community of Naples in the second half of the 20th century. Both of them are brilliant. In the course of the four novels, their diverging and re-merging lives are presented by the one of them who has become a writer -- which suggests too, that the entire narrative might be suspect, since the reader receives all of this through the character who is a novelist.

"Climbing the economic ladder has been very hard for me, and I still feel a great deal of guilt towards those I left behind. I also had to discover very quickly that class origins cannot be erased, regardless of whether we climb up or down the sociocultural ladder. Even when our circumstances improve, it’s like the colour that inevitably rises to one’s cheeks after a strong emotion... I believe there is no story, however small, that can ignore that colouring".

These novels have resonated with women readers, as well as critics and reviewers, all over the world outside of Italy. Many readers and critics are particularly delighted that in this age of relentless pressure for authors to exist in social media and everywhere else here is an author whose identity no one knows.
D: Has that changed since the 1950s, when the Neapolitan story cycle starts, or do you think it’s become more entrenched – the idea that only obvious exceptionality among the “lower classes” should be rewarded?
E: This is how it’s going to be as long as class disadvantage and privilege exist. I have met truly exceptional people in whom the stubborn urge to climb the social ladder is absent. And so the most serious problem is that in deceptively egalitarian societies such as ours, much intelligence – women’s especially – is squandered.
Like everyone else is the author's successful anonymity in this world where everyone -- especially the digital data mining megafauna  -- knows everything about everyone. Part of me enjoys specifically all the speculation as to the gender of the writer. It's assumed the gender is female, but quite a few others have insisted that anything this good, this successful could only have been written by man.

That latter speculation has been scorned by the author:
The elusive Italian author Elena Ferrante has said that women writers tend to be shut “in a literary gynaeceum” by the books industry, even though “we know how to think, we know how to tell stories, we know how to write them as well as, if not better, than men”.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted by email with Vanity Fair as she publishes the fourth and final novel in her acclaimed Neapolitan series in English, Ferrante, whose true identity is known to only a handful of people, addressed speculation that she could be a man, or even a group of men.
“Have you heard anyone say recently about any book written by a man, ‘It’s really a woman who wrote it, or maybe a group of women?’ Due to its exorbitant might, the male gender can mimic the female gender, incorporating it in the process. The female gender, on the other hand, cannot mimic anything, for it is betrayed immediately by its ‘weakness’; what it produces could not possibly fake male potency,” she wrote to Vanity Fair.
“The truth is that even the publishing industry and the media are convinced of this commonplace; both tend to shut women who write away in a literary gynaeceum. There are good women writers, not-so-good ones, and some great ones, but they all exist within the area reserved for the female sex, they must only address certain themes and in certain tones that the male tradition considers suitable for the female gender.” 
The books by Elena Ferrante, whomever she may be, get the last word(s).

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