It’s Elena Ferrante speculation season.
Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and Italian writers, academics, and publishing professionals are being asked one, simple question: “Are you the real Elena Ferrante?”
The New York Times’s Rachel Donadio—who herself wrote what is perhaps the definitive “Who is Ferrante?” piece—reports thatrumors are swirling in Italy that Ferrante is really Marcella Marmo, a professor living in Naples. The speculation began after another novelist, Marco Santagata, published an article claiming that the arc of Marmo’s life closely matched that of the protagonist of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Elena Greco.
Of course, both Marmo and E/O, Ferrante’s publisher, denied the rumors. Marmo told the Times that she had only read one of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels (she liked it), while Sandra Ozzola Ferri, who runs E/O with her husband, called the piece “nonsense.” (Anita Raja, a translator and consultant for E/O, is a favorite candidate of many Ferrante speculators.)
But, as Donadio notes, the profile really does fit Marmo: “Ms. Marmo’s life and political and intellectual interests—Neapolitan organized crime, the history of capitalism, Italian social classes and industrialization in the Italian south—are also themes at the heart of the Naples novels.” But, alas, Marmo denies it, which means that it’s still Ferrante speculation season, which is all fun and games until you suggest that Ferrante is a man. (She isn’t.)