GABBLER RECOMMENDS: THE “UNMASKING” OF ELENA FERRANTE by Alexandra Schwartz

 

‘Ferrante’s steadfast artistic choice to be anonymous can only be that: an artistic choice, made at the beginning of her writing career for private reasons that she deemed essential. The cost of anonymity is high; she told her publisher that she would do nothing to promote her books, and, indeed, they could well have sunk to the bottom of the literary river without a trace. That they succeeded, and reached the kind of audience they have, has happened, if anything, in spite of Ferrante’s anonymity, not because of it. Its costs continue. One particularly bizarre and offensive claim of Gatti’s is that his “exposure” of Anita Raja as Ferrante leaves “open the possibility of some kind of unofficial collaboration with her husband, the writer Starnone.” Ferrante’s anonymity has apparently now made her vulnerable to the accusation that she has not been able to write her books without leaning creatively on a man.

The only solace in this whole mess may be the character of Gatti. He, not Ferrante, seems to be the fictional persona, a puffed-up pedant straight out of Nabokov, right down to his Nabokovian name: Claudio the Cat, prowling around in search of secrets. Gatti is the kind of reader who sees “clues” in a writer’s work, as if she has constructed a puzzle to be solved rather than written a novel to be read. Even as he crows that Raja’s life shares almost nothing in its particulars with the world of Ferrante’s novels, he holds up as definitive a few corroborating crumbs: the fact that Raja’s aunt was named Elena, for example, or that Nino, the name of the man the character Elena loves, is the family nickname of Domenico Starnone. Like Charles Kinbote, the unstable narrator of “Pale Fire,” who takes it upon himself to “annotate” the final poem of his famous neighbor, John Shade, Gatti seems to believe that he can obtain power over a great writer by exposing her, not for the purpose of interpretation or greater understanding but simply for the sake of being the first to do it.’

[Via]

Sam Sacks on “The Rise of the Nameless Narrator”:

“When modern writers wish to set their tales outside of time, they often employ this technique. The characters in Franz Kafka’s subversive fables “In the Penal Colony” and “A Hunger Artist” are named for their roles or vocations; Philippe Claudel’s more recent “The Investigation” (2012) centers, naturally, on the Investigator. Realist novels occasionally do this to evoke a sense of folklore, giving us the Whiskey Priest of Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory” and the Consul of Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano.” Sometimes, the unnamed figure is a pure narrator, so to speak: a character with no part in the book except as an intermediary between tale and reader. We don’t have anything to call the person who tells us Marlow’s story in “Heart of Darkness,” because we have no reason to refer to him. He is simply the Storyteller.

…Behind this effacement, there seems to lurk a deepening distrust in writing itself, a crisis of faith in the ability of words to either capture the essence of a life or else speak truthfully to its essenceless condition. Consider the Bible, one of the earliest textual cases to deal with the conundrum of naming. In much of it, God is identified by what theologians call the tetragrammaton, four letters that cannot be spoken—because the word lacks vowels, no one really knows how it should be pronounced—and must be substituted with generic placeholders. If God had a commonplace proper name, He would merely be distinguished from other deities. Being the one true God, His name is sacred and unutterable.”

Read the rest at The New Yorker. 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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