Decoding the Mystique of Elena Ferrante: The Rebellious Writer who Erases Her Own Identity

  Everything about Elena Ferrante is “self-proclaimed”.
  She claims to be a woman, born in Naples, Italy in 1943. She claims to be more interested in “storytelling” than “writing”. She also claimed: I am not anonymous, isn’t my name printed on the book (referring to “Ferrante”).
  How cunning, how mysterious, how cute.
  Since publishing his works in 1992, the Italian writer Ferrante has never revealed his true identity, nor has he appeared in public or exposed his voice. He only accepts media interviews in written form, and has never left any information about himself on the Internet. Photo. Rigorous enough to be like a spy in the literary world, and also like a perfect killer in the legends of the rivers and lakes, he has no interest in the honor and spotlight of his real name.
  Mr. Qian Zhongshu, a Chinese writer, once expressed the famous “egg theory”, and Ferrante has the same expression: “Once the work is completed, the author is no longer needed.” Therefore, we can only look at Ferrante’s traces. To pursue in the works, and it is hard to distinguish the truth from the false, those sharp and precise stories that explore female friendship or mother-daughter relationship, but never fall on her.
  Fiction makes a writer mysterious and makes his readers feel like a fog.
  For readers, on the contrary, the author has a sense of existence only after knowing the work. Therefore, speculation, curiosity and all kinds of reasoning about Ferrante’s identity have never stopped in the past twenty years.
  Especially in recent years, with the tsunami caused by Ferrante’s masterpiece “Naples Tetralogy” in the literary world, a wave of “Ferrante craze” has been set off almost all over the world. The protagonist “Lenon” in the book, also named “Hélène”, has the same name as Ferrante, and lived in the same period as Ferrante claimed, which made it more challenging for the outside world to spy on her.
  People doubt everything about TA. Including place of origin, age, identity occupation, and even gender. The Neapolitan novelist Domenico Starnone, who is often compared to Ferrante, said he was tired of “everyone asking me if I was Ferrante”.
  As a reader, it is unrealistic to conceive of the author apart from the text of the work. How could such a frightening female friendship that hits the soul directly, and such a hair-like female psychology and emotion not come from a female writer? Therefore, regarding Lenon Ferrante, most people have reasonable reasons to believe that she is “she”, a woman of a certain age who has a penetrating view of life and times.

  In the history of literature, there are writers who have been anonymous from the beginning to the end. For example, the three Bronte sisters who have published their works anonymously for a long time, such as the author of “Gulliver’s Travels”-on the surface, it is Jonathan. In fact, when the publishing house received the manuscript, the letter stated The sender of the letter is “Gulliver’s cousin”. For one reason or another, they decided to hide the author.
  What makes Ferrante special is not only that she lives in a modern age where the Internet and information technology are highly developed, but also that the feminist trend of thought that has been raised in recent years has pushed Ferrante, who mainly writes women’s stories, to youth culture. lively living room.
  However, using “feminism” to interpret Ferrante is actually quite limited.
  Countless female writers describe the suffering and tenacity of female individuals, or devote a lot of space to their “deviant” words and choices. But Ferrante is staring at a tricky and secret gap: the violence and fear, love and loss, self-loathing and depravity that women have experienced and accumulated throughout their long lives. Ferrante tells you: collapse is an instinct unique to women, but self-healing is not their obligation.

  What she cares about is always the direction of the heart and the aspect of the soul. The precise control of women’s inner world and the delicate wrapping of emotional ends create an emotional resonance that spans time, space and nations. Her accuracy, beyond the accuracy of “words” as the basic requirement of literary creation, has reached an accuracy of emotional picketing and diagnosis. Some unspeakable but real lesions.
  For a reader, Ferrante’s charm makes people fantasize about her immortality or eternal existence, but for a writer, Ferrante’s deconstruction and examination of writing cannot but make people shudder.
  But there is no doubt that Ferrante is infinitely broad because of his anonymity. Concealment makes her unreserved, and her words are accurate. It is precisely the disappearance of the author, which leaves more space and freedom for the creation itself.
  People are in the dark, but her words illuminate a community of life that transcends countries, languages ​​and cultures.
“ghost” writer

  Words are the only fulcrum for Ferrante himself to connect with the world.
  In her letter to the publisher in 1991, she wrote: “I believe that once the book is written, there is no need for an author.” The structural absence of the author helped her retain and explore a wider writing space. At the same time, the largest The degree maintains the independence of the story itself.
  ”For me, the most important thing is to preserve a creative space full of possibilities, including technical possibilities.”
  In Ferrante’s view, writing is a very vain act. The author uses his own experience, the experience of others, and the experience of society, country, history, etc. to write. This process will make the writer himself have a strong sense of shame, so he wants to hide himself, just like writing in a corner Jane Austen.
  Somalia, Ferrante’s Chinese publisher, believes that for Ferrante, writing may be a painful experience, “Because the more you reach the truth, the more the truth tries to push you away, and the easier it is for you to fall into some Hypocrisy, or areas that cannot be reached because of fear, because of shame, etc.”

  In 1992, when Ferrante sent her first novel, Troubling Love, to publisher Sandro Ferri, she made it clear that she would write completely anonymously: no readers would meet. Yes, no signings, salons, or face-to-face interviews.
  But as the book was adapted into a movie by director Mario Martone, readers’ attention was still frantically shifted to Ferrante himself. This brought her great anxiety and pressure, and Ferrante did not publish anything for the next ten years.
  Later, in a written interview with the media, she recalled that in those years, she “endured severe anxiety”, but she also became more and more clear about “separating private life from the public sphere”.
  In 2006, physicists Vittorio Loreto, Andrea Baroncelli, and journalist Luigi Galera used stylistic analysis to compare Ferrante’s novel with a large body of Italian literature, and concluded that Conclusion: Ferrante is most likely Italian novelist Domenico Starnone (Domenico Starnone).
  This rumor caused some annoyance to Menico, but it did not affect Ferrante himself.
  A decade later, Italian journalist Claudio Gatti, writing in the New York Review of Books, claimed to have discovered Ferrante’s true identity. The evidence is a remittance record from the publisher of the “Naples Series” book that he obtained from an informant. A female author’s income has dramatically increased, and the time is synchronized with the novel’s popularity.
  However, this behavior was met with strong public protest and condemnation. Even though they were curious about Ferrante’s identity, readers still believed that the reporter “ruined the fun.” Ferrante’s publisher, Ferry, also publicly expressed his shock at Claudio’s behavior: “To rummage in the wallet of a writer who is determined to avoid the public, I think this method of doing journalism is shameful.” The
  mysterious Ferrante himself has become a mysterious novel. Over the years, the few people who know Ferrante’s identity have helped her maintain this imaginative space meticulously, and every reader is a co-creator of this novel, and everyone who respects art and Literary people will respect the mystery of the writer itself.
  At the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2017, Ferrante had a gathering of dozens of publishers from different countries around the world. Among them, Somalia, the Chinese editor in charge, later recalled to the media that “everyone was very understanding, and no one asked or mentioned these things. Gossip”.
  In order to film the web series “My Brilliant Girlfriend” adapted from the “Naples Quartet”, HBO director Saverio Costanzo (Saverio Costanzo) has been in a long-term written relationship with Ferrante, who has never met before. Communication and Liaison.

Naples, the largest city in southern Italy

  Even though he couldn’t see the writer and couldn’t hear her voice, Costanzo still felt Ferrante’s “strong sense of presence”. She gave detailed opinions on the director’s script through a lot of words, for example, “She doesn’t like too dramatic treatment, she hopes to put the rude banquet in Naples into the plot”.
  Costanzo described Ferrante with frustration and inspiration: “It was like I was working with a ghost.”
  Ferrante exists in places that no one can see. In many interviews, she criticized the publishing industry of this era for considering the author’s personal reputation more than the work’s ethos, that is, the first consideration is not the quality of the work, but whether the author is an attractive person. “flow”.
  Ferrante believes that there is a tendency implicit in this: an author and all his/her experiences, appearance, emotions, and personality will become commodities packaged and sold together with the work.
  ”Can an author choose that only what he writes is ‘public’?”
  The result that made her truly gratified and proud was, “My novels are more famous than my own name.” A mysterious writer has a stronger sense of existence precisely because of his anonymity, and the detachment and “disappearance” of the subject allow the true core and expression of the story to be highlighted.
  Combined with an image repeatedly used in Ferrante’s works, readers can more accurately understand this operation method of abstracting the subject and making room for it. erase all traces”, “delete self”.

Orphans of Naples, and madmen

  Naples, a seaside city in southern Italy, has undulating terrain, and Mount Vesuvius can be seen in the distance from the city. Most of the stories written by Ferrante are about or happen here.
  She described Naples in “Adult Lies”: “In this city, many big families connect many people together. Even sharp conflicts and quarrels can hardly completely sever the connection with each other.” This is quite like us
  . Familiar small towns in China are some kind of community linked by family and blood, but due to economic, cultural and other reasons, there is often a strong and fragile stickiness between such communities, which can hurt each other , tearing, and always being glued together by the whole human relationship.
  The two heroines of the “Naples Quartet”, Lenon and Lila, have suffered from the curse and oppression of Naples since birth – violence, poverty and chaos.
  As the narrator, Lennon subjectively wants to break through this world the most. She is not as smart as her friend Lila, but she is more eager than Lila to escape from the town, away from her mother’s vicious eyes, the hysterical widow in the neighborhood, and the brutal men who are fond of violence and sex.

  The “mad woman” Lila contains infinite power that makes all decent people terrified.

  The friendship between Lennon and Lila actually seems a bit awkward. Other than their native setting, the two have very little in common. They are not at all like “Sunshine Sisters” and today’s symbolized “girls help girls”, but are full of possessiveness, jealousy and hidden destruction.
  At first, there was indeed a relatively distinct so-called “community of destiny” between them. For example, they both hoped to change their fate through reading and writing, and they both kept secrets through words and fantasized about escaping. After finding each other in a childhood full of collapse and chaos, the two are mirror images of each other, but they have completely different destinies.

  Through relentless, sensitive and tense efforts, Lennon worked his way into the world he aspired to, eventually becoming one of those gentle-speaking, revered members. If placed in today’s flooding feminist narratives, up to here, she has been deconstructed as a paradigm of self-improvement and independence, in line with women’s awakening and rebellion against fate.
  But Ferrante never intended to use the dramatic tension of “women’s encounters and counterattacks” as the theme. What she really focused on was always the internal and spiritual violence.
  Lennon has always been aware of his inner hypocrisy and struggle: he joined the upper class, suffered betrayal and humiliation in marriage and love, but became increasingly aware of his long-term loss. “My whole life has been a vulgar struggle for social advancement.”

Stills from “My Brilliant Girlfriend”, Lila (left) and Lenon

“My Brilliant Girlfriend” stills, Lennon and Lila were close playmates in childhood

  In an interview with The Paris Review, Ferrante said of the relationship between Lila and Lenón: “Both of them have lived through a changing era, and the situation of women has changed, which is the core of the story.”
  Throughout, Lennon recounts his journey as an intellectual with a kind of “restrained pride.” But deep down, she knows that she is always the one who “does not accept risks and does not understand destiny” and “fades in the corner”. In front of Lila who tore everything up, Lennon felt that his cowardly self was “like a quagmire, like mud that has absorbed too much water.”
  Lila is completely different. She has no desire to elevate her class, and she rejects self-salvation in the secular sense. “While this earth is breaking all geographical boundaries, she is becoming more and more closed. She has never taken a train, never been to Rome. She has never taken a plane, and she has been to very few places.”
  The configuration of “the smartest and most beautiful girl in a poor town” almost dooms Lila’s tragic fate, but this tragedy is a tragedy of resistance. The way she expresses her resistance is not to make progress, save herself, break through class and quagmire like Lennon, but a kind of high-intensity loneliness and despair.
  As Ferrante’s distinctive rebel representative, Lila is the concentrated embodiment of a certain energy: complex emotions, deep thoughts, wandering on the edge of morality, occasionally chaotic, falling into disorder and collapse.
  Because of the stubbornness in her nature, Lila refused to bow to fate and refused to calm down. When she grew up, Lila almost “abandoned herself” and smashed her life on the ground. Especially after marriage, she began to constantly vent provocation and revenge on the people in her life. The existence of this character is a bit like the “crazy woman” that modern Chinese literature is keen to portray.
  Writers create crazy women to ridicule, avoid and suppress them, but in Ferrante’s works, Lila, the “mad woman”, contains infinite power that makes all decent people terrified.
disappeared, and the missing mother

  Lila ran away from home when she was 66 years old. No letters, photos or daily necessities were left behind, as if they had never existed in this world.
  This is the opening sentence of the whole story of the “Naples Quartet”. It seems that Lila disappeared overnight, but for this long disappearance, Ferrante actually conspired for a long time.
  She made Lila suffer from uterine fibroids in advance and cut off the uterus, removing an important physiological symbol of female identity. This is in line with Lila’s concept of wanting to “delete” herself from the world, which she has been talking about since her youth.
  The desire to accelerate depravity makes Lila have a disordered and distorted illusion of the world around her, just like the violence that constantly intervenes in life. “Violence has its own language, which means a lot, especially in Italian: I will break your face, so that you will not be recognized!” In Ferrante’s view, these
  expressions are all directed at a person Face and identity intervened, erasing her individuality.
  It was not until the fourth book that Lennon finally realized the source of Lila’s fear. “She (Lila) is afraid of things shaking and bending, she hates any kind of illness, she hates words that lose their meaning.”

Stills from My Brilliant Girlfriend, Lennon and her crippled mother

  At the risk of being eaten, Ferrante hoped that his mother would sense his despair.

  This is not a suicidal idea, but spiritual suicide. Lila, who is clever, realized early on that she could not get rid of the violence and nightmares, noise and chaos in her destiny. She wanted to participate in the world in vain, but was suppressed by all the forces around her. She always felt that she was helpless and rootless. The essence, like duckweed, also exists like a bomb in Naples.
  In order to remain faithful to herself, Lila has only one choice—”disappear”.
  ”Disappearance” is an important image that Ferrante tirelessly wrote. Many of her female characters choose to exist or end in the way of “disappearance”, and there are also book titles that are directly or indirectly related to “disappearance”, such as the last two of the Naples series “Leaving, Remaining” and ” The Missing Child, and The Daughter of the Darkness published in 2006.
  In her writing, “disappearance” expresses a grayscale state in essence, it does not represent the end of death, nor does it symbolize the release of hope, but like an unfinished comma, erasing all traces from the world.
  Ferrante not only makes Lila disappear, but also makes her daughter disappear in the fourth part, like a reincarnation.
  Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, “mother-daughter relationship” is the core theme of almost all of Ferrante’s works, not female friendship, nor women’s self-awareness and independence. “I haven’t written about topics other than mother-daughter relationship. “.
  She sets up Lennon, the hero of the Naples Quartet, with a tiresome crippled mother. She prevented her daughter from studying and going to school, and was impatient with everything. Later, Lennon got married and had children, and her mother always stood on the opposite side of Lennon, making the latter hysterical, making her desperate and broken.
  The “disappearing mother” itself is also an important setting about “disappearing” that appears repeatedly in Ferrante’s works.

  Leda in “The Missing Child” was often threatened by her mother to abandon her and run away from home when she was a child. And when Leda grew up and became a mother herself, she fulfilled her mother’s threat and abandoned her two daughters when they were six and four years old respectively.

  Later, Leda met Nina, a suffocating young mother: wherever she went, Nina took her daughter under three and a doll with her. Nina always smiled, was full of patience, and was content All the childish, repeated demands of the daughter. The daughter will pretend that the doll is pregnant and plan to give it medicine.
  In Leda’s eyes, Nina, Lenon, and rag dolls constitute a deformed but “perfect” mother-daughter relationship: they dedicate themselves to their children completely and without complaint, and immerse themselves in the beauty of maternal love. In fantasy and praise.
  In the earlier “Annoying Love”, “I”‘s mother died mysteriously after running away from home, but “I” secretly shed menstrual blood at the mother’s funeral. Uncontrollable embarrassment and discomfort, accompanied by “nausea and dizziness”, this is a unique experience for women. It forces people to remember the reality and metaphor of the scene with an unavoidable sense of suddenness.
  In June 2003, Ferrante revealed part of his story for the first time in a letter in response to a question from “Category” magazine.
  Her mother was so beautiful that it aroused her father’s deformed possessiveness. Fierce quarrels often broke out at home because of her mother’s going out. Living in panic and anxiety, Ferrante could neither protect herself nor fear family wars. She was even more afraid that her mother would really be as brightly dressed as her father imagined. Just to get away from them.
  However, the mother eventually ran away. Ferrante, who was about nine years old, locked himself in a narrow storage room, sniffing the smell of pesticides, imagining that there lived a man-eating fly monster. At the risk of being eaten, Ferrante hoped that his mother would sense his despair and come back to her driven by maternal love.
  Different from Lu Xun’s social torture of “what happened after Nora ran away”, the repeated “mother ran away” in Ferrante’s works focuses on the sudden collapse and collapse of life, and has nothing to do with family structure or the love of children , but the external realization of a painful psychological motivation.

  There is a more mainstream statement about feminism: women are a situation.

“Grown Lies” Adaptation Series “Grown Lies Live”

  Ferrante’s Chinese publisher Somalia’s understanding of the image of “disappearing boundaries” can help readers analyze the relationship between the abstract mother and concrete women in Ferrante’s works at a deeper level: “The blood and semen related to the female body The existence of amniotic fluid and the amniotic fluid we are wrapped in at birth means the disappearance of boundaries.”
  Deletion of self, erasure of traces, a confrontation between “presence” and “exit”. In essence, it is women’s basic cognition and judgment of themselves.

  At present, there is a more mainstream statement about feminism: women are a situation.
  In recent years, it has been proposed by Japanese women studies scholar Ueno Chizuru through books, but long before that, countless literary and artistic circles have recognized this point in various ways: women symbolize a form of existence, as gender Both the concept and the group of them are inseparable from the wrapping and hostage of the whole era and society.
  The women written by Ferrante are not directly and fixedly in a single or collective situation, but in a fluid situation, with insight into countless subtle changes inside and outside the subject.
  “The women in my stories are the echoes of real women. The pain they went through, their resistance, greatly affected my imagination. However, in the nineties when Ferrante first began to publish work,
  “ The concept of “feminism” is actually immature. She just honestly and heartily exposed her female perspective and voice.
  The prototype of the story of Lennon and Lila is related to a female friend of hers who passed away a few years ago, but then Ferrante gradually had a private “storehouse”: “Many uncontrollable girls and women, their men, environment Trying to overwhelm them, they are exhausted but still bold, they are always easy to get lost in the ‘fragments’ of their own minds.”
  Fragments (frantumaglia), this word was also taught to her by Ferrante’s mother. “When a person is tormented by various conflicting emotions, there is a group of ‘fragments’ in her heart.” The mysterious “fragments” make people do some inexplicable things, and at the same time, they also cause those indescribable pains.
  ”We women are strong, intelligent and self-respecting. They clearly know their rights, but many times they will be knocked down by some unexpected difficulties and will give in to some small and narrow feelings.” “Annoying Love
  ” “The protagonist in “Describes himself, “One part of my body is always on guard to prevent the other part from collapsing.” “I was terrified that my body would betray me, and I threw up with a self-destructive urge. This urge was something I’d always been afraid of as a kid, and I’d been trying to control myself as an adult.”

  This one-hit description is not directly about women’s independent consciousness, nor about upward and idealized class promotion, but a linear, constantly fluctuating consciousness return and self-denial.
  It’s more honest and more precise.
  Many female readers have the strongest sympathy for Ferrante from this, even surpassing the lifelong female friendship: we constantly examine our inner self, and constantly fall into the black hole of self-defeating desire in the vulgarity of the outside world. During the stage, there are always all kinds of chaos and confusion pulling us.
  If you make a vow of self-improvement, it seems that you can no longer desire love. If you make up your mind to break free from your fate and break out of the prison, it seems that you can’t get rid of the traces left in your body by childhood and hometown. For some reason, we can never be honest, we can’t stop worrying about the future, we can’t stop being ashamed of the past, and we always endure tearing and conflicts all the time. There are always all kinds of heartbreaks, embedded in our destiny like gravel and sand.
  As Ferrante explained in the interview collection “Fragments”: “Their (women’s) pain stems from the surrounding environment. The experiences of those women in the past and the future they expect appear at the same time, like shadows and ghosts.” Falling
  Desire , Erase all desires, this is a violent female expression, a kind of emotional toughness unique to women that cannot be shared and communicated.
  Ferrante captures and magnifies this point, and it essentially uncovers all feminist blindfolds: those problems that lie in front of the eyes and seem to be solved through culture and law cannot touch the inner problems that are based on intergenerational, The scars of contradictions in history.
  In Ferrante’s view, writing the same theme repeatedly is a kind of “clearing of pain”. “There are always some similarities in the pain of life, the pain of existence cannot be healed, you keep writing, just hope that sooner or later you can write a story to liquidate everything.” “Liquidation”, I don’t know the culture of this word in the original
  Italian Expression and concept, but at least it surprised me as a Chinese writer like a pot of empowerment.
  There are always some themes that are written repeatedly, which seem to be the same, but not every writer can be absolutely honest and thorough.
  The disappearance of the author left a wide space for this honesty. The poet Keats once said: “Poetry does not lie in the poet, but in the transformation of language and specific writing in the process of writing poetry.” This sentence touched Ferrante a lot. She believes that a writer has no identity, “the only important identity is the breath that the reader exudes from the work and breathes when he is reading.”

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