Recently a journalist has outed the legal identity of Italian author Elena Ferrante. There have been many critical responses to this piece of detective work. People are not happy. This is what Ferrante has to say about why she doesn’t want to be a public figure:
“Once I knew that the completed book would make its way in the world without me, once I knew that nothing of the concrete, physical me would ever appear beside the volume—as if the book were a little dog and I were its master—it made me see something new about writing. I felt as though I had released the words from myself.”
I respond very strongly to this, especially the last sentence. Ferrante has the most sophisticated and productive understanding of anonymity. It makes art possible. Art liberated from the subjectivity of the artist gives the artist access to the infinity of creation. It’s a mutual liberation, though freedom is irrelevant to the artist really—what they need, what they want, and what they get, are capacities. But it isn’t necessary to make a fuss about names. After all, “Marcel” is as fictional a character as “Elena,” and Proust voided his own subjectivity the more effectively as he allowed some confusion between himself and the character.