‘Ferrante’s books are, it’s worth remembering, significantly about women’s negotiation of the public and private realm, and about the violence and surveillance women routinely experience.
This investigation, of a kind that might ordinarily be reserved for corrupt politicians, relies on a conviction that Ferrante has committed a clear wrong by requesting her privacy. She owes us her real identity, Gatti thinks. Moreover, the phenomenal success of her books, according to Gatti’s dubious logic, legitimizes his pursuit into that identity. There are, of course, no grounds for the violent exposure of who she might be. An author owes her readers nothing beyond the work itself. Artists create artwork, which we consume; this does not entitle us to consume their person.
The punitive edge to Gatti’s intrusion speaks of a desire to make some writers offer up a pound of flesh for their success – to make them pay some penance for it. Why should we feel we can extract this price? It is significant that Ferrante’s ‘unmasking’ has occurred in the context of tiresome debates about whether she is really a woman or, in fact, a man. This persistent preoccupation is suggestive of the tendency to measure a writer’s literary worth in relation not just to the work, but also to other markers: of gender, race, class. The urge to uncover the ‘real’ Ferrante enacts an imperative to locate her in these systems – and finally, perhaps, to decide on her literary significance. The crime that Ferrante has committed, in Gatti’s eyes, is that of witholding the signs by which he might read her as a “woman writer”.’