GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Why the TLS would not have named Elena Ferrante by STIG ABELL

‘Ferrante didn’t “apparently” wish for her identity not to be known, as Gatti guiltily avers.  She was explicit about it; and repeatedly so.  She said this to the Guardian, for example:

The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become one’s public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies.

So there are artistic reasons for her anonymity. As a paper whose chief purpose is to defend the importance of the humanities, it would be abhorrent as well as self-defeating to ignore this writer’s clearly delineated withdrawal of consent.

I, too, would have been uneasy about the gender politics of all this.  Ferrante has talked about “male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, still bent on subordinating us”, and – while I am sure this was neither the motivation of Gatti or the NYRB – there is the regrettable, sulphurous whiff of a female artist being “mansplained” here.  We may never know all of the reasons for Ferrante’s desired anonymity, but it is dangerous to assume they are simple and straightforward.

All this is easy for me to say now, of course, with hindsight and not having been offered the piece.  But, ultimately, Gatti’s is not an important work of journalism: intellectually, ethically or artistically.  He didn’t need to investigate this; and the NYRB – and others – shouldn’t have published it.’


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