Esquire: The Mysterious History of My Brilliant Friend, the Literary Phenomenon Headed to HBO

The TV adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s beloved novel debuts this weekend.

On Esquire

Madison Vain – Nov 17, 2018

HBO launches its newest books-to-TV-adaptation this Sunday night with the debut of My Brilliant Friend. Based on the ridiculously popular—both critically and commercially—Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante, the series transports viewers to a violent, underprivileged, low rise neighborhood in postwar Naples. The world, the way it beats them and the way they’ll need to beat back for the rest of their lives, is seen through the lenses of Elena Greco, who goes by Lenù, and Rafaella Cerullo, or Lila, two precocious girls who launch a life-long friendship in their first year of school.

Before the series kicks off this weekend, here are a few things to know for those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, from the mysterious author to the background of the sweeping plot to HBO’s plans for the future of the story.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym.

Nearly 30 years after her debut, the author’s true identity still remains shrouded in mystery. This is despite the hunt for the real Elena Ferrante that has stretched across many years, with varying degrees of fury. Literary scholars, journalists, and obsessive fans have tried to track down her details using methods as innocent as culling details from her texts to pouring over payments from Ferrante’s publisher.In 2016, Italian investigative reporter Claudio Gatti published a report on the New York Review of Books’ website claiming Ferrante’s identity to be Anita Raja, a German-born translator living in Rome and the wife of Domenico Starnone, a Neapolitan writer. Raja has worked for Edizone E/O, Ferrante’s publishing house, for many years and Gatti built his argument on anonymously-sourced revenue documents of the book house as well as a series of mouthwatering real estate dealings of Raja and her husband that he argued were well outside the realm of possibility for either of their careers. (Starnone has also, at one time or another, been the suspected scribe behind the tales.)

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