Double J

Elena Ferrante’s translator Ann Goldstein


Italian translator Ann Goldstein is the public face of Elena Ferrante, the reclusive author of the wildly popular Neapolitan novels. Ann will share what it’s like to be caught in the middle of Ferrante fever. We all want to know – is Ann really Elena?

Plus Barry Burns from Scottish post rock legends Mogwai have recently released the band’s 9th album Atomic that began as the soundtrack to a BBC 4 documentary about the atomic age. Find out how a visit to Hiroshima over a decade ago made the band want to get involved.

New Zealand Listener

New Yorker editor and translator Ann Goldstein – interview

By Michelle Langstone

Illustration/Daron Parton

Behind every great anonymous Italian writing sensation stands a brilliant translator – though Ann Goldstein, who has transformed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet into vivid, muscular English prose that has both charmed the critics and scaled bestseller lists, might shy away from being described in such a way. In person, Goldstein, a long-time editor at the New Yorker, is quiet and precise, her voice exuding a gentle curiosity and wry humour.

The Neapolitan books, which centre on the ruthlessly honest friendship between two women, have also been hailed as bringing to light a bold, new modern voice. Is there something about Ferrante’s use of Italian that is unique? “Italian is a naturally beautiful language. It’s very mellifluous. In terms of the sound, it’s very expressive. English can be very beautiful, but not in the same way – it’s not this kind of flowing, fluid thing.”

Goldstein says Ferrante talks about how she doesn’t want to be a “beautiful writer”. “Italians are very into these sorts of elaborate, beautiful, flowery kinds of sentences, and that’s the sort of classical Italian, and she doesn’t really fit into that. She’s so direct about what she’s describing, about emotions, about feelings, about the things that happen between people. The fact that she’s describing things that are not usually described in those terms in Italian literature means that the language she uses is often a little cruder, more raw. I don’t mean vulgar. I just mean it’s more direct, really. And kind of brutal.”

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Literary Hub



May 10, 2016  By Francesca Pellas

This interview first appeared in Italian in America 24.

What is “the groundskeeper of the biggest maze in the southern hemisphere” doing in New York working at an Italian-owned publishing house? Very simply, as he has done in the past, he guards secrets.

Michael Reynolds is the editor in chief of Europa Editions, the American younger sister of the Italian press Edizioni E/O. Here, in brief, is the story: in 2005 the husband and wife and the founders of E/O, Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, decided to invest in an American publishing house specializing in European literature.

After years spent doing the most fascinating and diverse jobs on three continents (and becoming in the process a human box of stories) Reynolds was an Australian in love, living in Rome. There was an immediate affinity between the Ferris and Reynolds, and he started working for the fledgling Europa Editions, whose main offices at the time were still in the Roman headquarters of E/O. The idea of publishing European authors in a country like the United States, where readers read only (or mostly) books originally written in English, was an ambitious one. “You’re crazy; it’s not going to work,” they were told by many.

Eleven years, two children, several books, and a literary phenomenon later, I pay a visit to Reynolds in Europa Editions’ headquarters in New York. He welcomes me in his office: a room full of light and books, nothing like a maze. He prepares tea while I prepare to collect his stories, stories that run the gamut from his relationship with Italy to the number of copies sold by Elena Ferrante in the United States so far (one million!), from the challenges posed by the profession, to finding and selecting books from abroad that can fare well on this side of the pond.

Francesca Pellas: You’ve had many different jobs in your life: you were a gold miner, a maze groundskeeper, a barman, a windsurfing instructor, a “guinea pig” for sleep deprivation experiments, a poetry teacher, an English teacher, a gardener, a builder, and a translator. You have directed a writer’s festival, a literary magazine, and written three books. Where did you have the most fun?

Michael Reynolds: This is the greatest job that I’ve ever had!

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Finding Your Calling with StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay, Translating the Elusive Elena Ferrante

StoryCorps founder Dave Isay shares stories from people who do what they love in "Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work."


StoryCorps founder Dave Isay shares stories from people who do what they love in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, and we’ll hear from you! A new film looks at how the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the largest oil spill in U.S. history, has damaged the environment six years later. Ann Goldstein, the translator who brought Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels to English readers, stops by the Leonard Lopate Show Book Club to answer your questions.


The Man Booker Prize

The Story of the Lost Child Interview

Elena Ferrante tells us about her belief that ‘books, once they are written, have no need of their authors’, and translator Ann Goldstein reveals what she would say to someone pursuing the identity of Elena Ferrante.

This is the sixth in our series of Man Booker International Prize 2016 longlisted author and translator interviews.


Elena Ferrante, author of The Story of the Lost Child

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Very pleasing. I feel a great relief every time my books are warmly welcomed into another language. I am grateful to Ann Goldstein for the care she takes with them.


Can you give us a taste of your longlisted novel The Story of the Lost Child?

It’s the final chapter of a story that accompanies its characters from childhood to old age. While Lena, despite a thousand disappointments and compromises, continues to the end to view her own life as blessed with luck, Lila experiences an absolute pain that removes meaning from her life.


Is there an author from Italy who you think should be translated into English?

I can think of a long list of talented authors – contemporary Italian literature is very interesting – and I can’t decide, also because I don’t know if the texts I have found most interesting have already been translated or not. So I will limit myself to mentioning the last two books I have read: Valeria Parrella’sTroppa importanza all’amore, and Marina Bellezza by Silvia Avallone.


Tell us more about your belief that ‘books, once they are written, have no need of their authors’…

A book always contains and safeguards its author.  When it’s finished, it’s as if the very ability to write is engulfed.  It’s not easy to bring it back to the light, it’s always a gamble. Those who write then, once they have stopped writing, become, like Proust’s Bergotte, unimportant, disappointing even.  For me publishing means deciding to send books into the public arena and counting on the self-sufficiency of the writing.  It’s useless, perhaps out of place, to look for readers: if the books deserve them, they will surely find them.

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The Guardian

Elena Ferrante takes on a new identity – as a children’s author

Elena Ferrante, the elusive Italian author who has become a literary sensation, is moving into the children’s market, publishing a scary new story narrated by a doll.

According to Ferrante’s UK and US publisher, an English translation of La spiaggia di notte (The Beach at Night) will be published this autumn. First published in Italian in 2007, the story is told in the voice of Celina – a doll who first appeared in Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter, in which she is stolen by Ferrante’s protagonist Leda.

Elena Ferrante’s children’s book La Spiaggia di notte, which will be translated into English.
Elena Ferrante’s children’s book La Spiaggia di notte, which will be translated into English. Photograph: Edizioni E/O

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Mystery Solved? Italian Author Elena Ferrante Could Be Widow of Jewish Artist and Doctor

Immensely popular writer could be Marcella Marmo, 69-year-old university professor in Naples, fellow Italian novelists theorizes in Corriere della Sera.

A mysterious Italian author who writes under the pen name Elena Ferrante could be the widow of a Jewish artist and doctor.
The Italian novelist Marco Santagata made the suggestion in a lengthy article published over the weekend in the literary supplement of the daily Corriere della Sera.
Santagata wrote that Ferrante – the author of the wildly popular Neapolitan novels that trace the friendship of two women – could be Marcella Marmo, a 69-year-old university professor in Naples. He based his guess on a close analysis of Ferrante’s books, as well as on Marmo’s biography, which bears some similarities to that of one of Ferrante’s protagonists.
Ferrante has kept her identity secret since she began publishing more than two decades ago.  Marmo – who along with her publisher denied that she is Ferrante – was married for decades to Guido Sacerdoti, a physician, artist and political activist who also was a well-known figure in the tiny Naples Jewish community and worked to promote Holocaust education.
Sacerdoti, who died in 2013, was the first Jewish child born in Naples after World War II. In a biographical note, Marmo wrote that Sacerdoti’s bris was performed by a rabbi based on a ship in the Allied fleet anchored in the Gulf of Naples.

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What’s Really Behind Our Obsession Over Unmasking Elena Ferrante? 

by Stassa Edwards

What's Really Behind Our Obsession Over Unmasking Elena Ferrante? 

Ever since so-called Ferrante fever struck, there’s been a cottage industry dedicated to unraveling the true identity of the pseudonymous Italian novelist. “Who is Elena Ferrante?” is a question that understandably haunts fans of the novelist and her complex rendering of her female protagonists. And yet, Ferrante herself makes a convincing—and for many of us, final—argument for why the question shouldn’t be answered. She has repeatedly declined to reveal her identity, arguing instead for a kind of radical death of the author, building a rather impenetrable wall between reader and writer and between the writer’s life and her work.

In interview after interview, Ferrante insists on maintaining this barrier, saying that she didn’t choose “anonymity” so much as “absence.” “The structural absence of the author affects the writing in a way that I’d like to continue to explore,” she told the New York Times in a 2014 interview. And despite the fact that it’s a statement of purpose for Ferrante to remain little more than a ghost in her own novels, the guessing continues (a phenomenon that Ferrante herselfdismisses as a “banal media game”).

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Jewish Telegraphic Agency

The Jewish translator behind Elena Ferrante — and Primo Levi

Editor and translator Ann Goldstein, seated at the Conde Nast cafeteria at One World Trade Center. (Erica Brody)

NEW YORK (JTA) — It was back in the fall, at an event at BookCourt in Brooklynwhen translator Ann Goldstein was first asked for her autograph by an eager reader.

Goldstein was caught by surprise. After all, this was before her work appeared on The New York Times list of “100 Notable Books of 2015” — not once, but twice.

In nonfiction, it was for “The Complete Works of Primo Levi,” a three-volume compendium of new translations of the late Italian Holocaust survivor’s 14 books — including “The Periodic Table” and “If This Is a Man.” She had shepherded the behemoth project into being over several years, serving as editor as well as translator of several included works.

In the fiction category, Goldstein grabbed a spot for her translation of “The Story of the Lost Child,” the fourth and final novel in Elena Ferrante’s literary blockbuster Neapolitan series.

Receiving rarely more than a passing line of praise in a book review, translators tend to toil behind the scenes, as authors enjoy the available literary limelight. So for Goldstein — who was profiled recently in The Wall Street Journal  and the Atlantic  — the attention feels “strange,” she tells JTA, sitting in an out-of-the-way spot in the Conde Nast cafeteria on the 35th floor of One World Trade Center.

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Elena Ferrante in Slovak(ia): In Conversation with Ivana Dobrakovová and Aňa Ostrihoňová

by Julia Sherwood

“Although Slovak authors do give interviews and appear in public, events where the author is represented by their translator are very rare.”

My Brilliant Friend is the 30th book to be published by INAQUE, a small independent publisher in Bratislava, and one of very few in Slovakia to specialise in translated literature. Elena Ferrante’s books appear in INAQUE’s Women’s Fiction series, which features stories by Jamie Quatro and Tessa Hadley, among others.  Titles planned for 2016 include TheStory of a New Name, part two of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan saga,Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days and Kate Bolick’s Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, life stories of distinguished and unjustly forgotten women who lead a full and fascinating life without the need for fathers, brothers or husbands.


Julia Sherwood: Sometimes an encounter with a book or an author is almost a story in its own right. Where did your own stories intersect with those of Elena Ferrante’s novels?

Aňa Ostrihoňová: Sometime in 2006 in Villerupt in France, I went to see Days of Abandonment during a festival of Italian cinema. A friend was keen to see the movie because, like three other movies shown that day, it starred her favourite actor Luca Zingaretti. I was struck by one scene in particular, in which Olga, the protagonist, is talking to the editor of a publishing house who has asked her to translate a novel. The editor tells her that the manuscript she delivered is a great story but it’s not the book she was supposed to translate. Later I realized this was a ploy the scriptwriter used in order to include in the movie the story of La Poverella, which comes back to haunt Olga in hallucinations from her Naples childhood. The scene doesn’t occur in the book.

Gradually I worked my way through everything written by the enigmatic author hiding behind the wonderful pseudonym Elena Ferrante. I was captivated by the honesty of her storytelling, the sharp language and style, and naturally and quite predictably, what got me hooked was the fact that Olga, her protagonist, was a translator. By the time the English translation of My Brilliant Friend, the first part of the Neapolitan saga, appeared and was first noted by James Wood in the New Yorker a few months later, I’d been a publisher for two years.

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Translator Behind Elena Ferrante Novels Says Her Job Is To Be An ‘Enabler’

Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker. She says she tries to stick to the text when she translates. "You're not trying to write your own version of it," she says.Ferrante Fever goes something like this: You pick up one of Elena Ferrante’s books because a friend told you that you had to read it. You read a few pages, and then before you know it, it’s 3:00 o’clock in the morning, you’ve finished the book, and you’re on the hunt for the other three titles in the Neapolitan series.

This cultural phenomenon comes our way via translation — the novels were translated from the Italian by New Yorker editor Ann Goldstein. Ferrante is famously private — she gives no interviews, no one knows who she is — so Goldstein has become an unintentional face of the series.

But just in case anyone was wondering if Goldstein isFerrante, she’d like to clear that up right away: “No, I am not. I can say that without equivocation,” she tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer. “And I can also say I don’t know who she is.”

Goldstein learned Italian late in life. “I had this sense that I wanted to read Dante in Italian,” she says. So she signed up for an Italian class at The New Yorker.

Goldstein talks with Wertheimer about her recent projects; in addition to translating Ferrante’s latest, The Story of the Lost Child, she’s also translated Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words, and edited Primo Levi’s complete works.

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Schermata 2016-02-18 alle 10.43.33

Geeking Out on Primo Levi — and Elena Ferrante — With a Master Translator

The great Italian writer Primo Levi is primarily known in this country for memoirs detailing his experiences in Auschwitz, his long journey home after the end of the war and his life as a chemist of Jewish descent in the quiet precincts of Piedmont. These books, published in America as “Survival in Auschwitz,” “The Reawakening” and “The Periodic Table,” give the impression that Levi was primarily a writer of Jewish trauma.

He wasn’t.

Or maybe it would be fair to say that he both was and wasn’t, but to limit him to this role in our literary culture is to belittle and distort the accomplishment of one of the great writers of the postwar years.

In books like “The Wrench,” “Other People’s Trades” and “If Not Now, When?” his intellectual curiosity led him toward a wide range of subjects, some Jewish, some not. He looked at the nature of work and how it engages the mind, the strangeness of our mundane daily lives, the way we construct patterns by which to give ourselves the illusion of safety and comfort. He even dabbled in science fiction. The one constant in his work is a precise, considered reasoning, a kind of scientific method, through which even his most fantastical imaginings are grounded in a clear and logical vision of reality.

Luckily, Liveright Publishing has recently brought out an omnibus, three-volume edition of Levi’s complete works that should serve as a corrective to our misconceptions. It contains the full text of all of his published books, newly translated and restored to the form he intended for them to take, as well as the entirety of his uncollected writings.

The task of commissioning the new translations and editing and molding the final books fell to Ann Goldstein, the renowned translator of Elena Ferrante, among many other writers. I was interested in what insights she’d gained about Levi over the course of the ten years the project took to complete. She graciously accepted my invitation to meet, and we grabbed a coffee and geeked out about translation at a Le Pain Quotidien near the downtown Manhattan offices of The New Yorker, where she has worked for many years.

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The Wall Street Journal

Ann Goldstein: A Star Italian Translator

A New Yorker editor, who translated works by Elena Ferrante, Jhumpa Lahiri and Primo Levi, has become a rare celebrity among translators

Ann Goldstein, translator and editor

One evening this past September, more than 300 people squeezed into a narrow room at BookCourt bookstore in Brooklyn for the launch of “The Story of the Lost Child,” by Italian author Elena Ferrante. The author, whose true identity is a closely held secret, was absent. Instead, the crowd whooped and cheered for the headliner of the evening: the book’s translator, Ann Goldstein.

Translators rarely achieve celebrity status. But as Ms. Ferrante’s star has risen, so too has Ms. Goldstein’s. Her English translations of the four books in Ms. Ferrante’s Neapolitan series have sold more than a million copies in North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Ms. Goldstein, 66 years old, is now one of the most sought-after translators of Italian literature. Last fall, she celebrated the completion of a gargantuan project: “The Complete Works of Primo Levi,” a 3,000-page collection for which she oversaw nine translators and translated three out of 14 books herself. This year, she expects to see the release of five of her translations, including “In Other Words,” a memoir by the American Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri, which Ms. Lahiri wrote in Italian. “Frantumaglia,” a collection of interviews and writings by Ms. Ferrante, will also be released this year.

Read an excerpt from “Frantumaglia.”

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Guernica Magazine

The Face of Ferrante

Katrina Dodson interviews Ann Goldstein

Last March, I began thinking constantly about a stranger named Ann Goldstein. Things like: What would Ann Goldstein do? I bet Ann Goldstein never has to look things up on grammar blogs. I wonder how Ann Goldstein felt about doing that sex scene.

Most readers who succumb to the phenomenon known as Ferrante Fever become obsessed with the Italian writer whose pen name is Elena Ferrante, and with the friends Elena and Lila, who form the center of Ferrante’s tetralogy known as the Neapolitan novels. I was no different, only my obsession also extended to Ferrante’s translator into English, Ann Goldstein. I fell under the spell of Ferrante-Goldstein just as I was working on line edits for my translation of The Complete Stories, by Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. Lispector, or Clarice, as she is known in Brazil, inspires a similarly passionate devotion and is now having her own moment of Lispectormania in English.

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