The woman behind some of today’s best-loved literary fiction is determined to remain an enigma. The FT is granted a rare interview
In 1991, when her first novel, L’amore molesto (Troubling Love), was about to be published, its author wrote a letter to her Italian publishers. “I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t . . . Besides, isn’t it true that promotion is expensive? I will be the least expensive author of the publishing house. I’ll spare you even my presence.”
The least expensive, possibly, but certainly the most enigmatic, and by now the most successful. Since then, seven of her novels, published under the pen name Elena Ferrante, have been translated into English, and she has become the best-known Italian writer of literary fiction alive today. In September, the fourth and concluding book of her Neapolitan novels, The Story of the Lost Child, was published. Sales of the Neapolitan quartet have now reached 750,000 in the US and are approaching 250,000 in the UK. Foreign editions stand at 39.