Over the last few weeks, social media (my social media at least) has been abuzz with the news that Elena Ferrante has been “unmasked”. Some of the reaction has been outrage, some eye rolling and accusations of ‘prissiness’ and ‘whining’.
I guess it’s a truth of this modern, well-connected world, that it’s hard to keep anything a secret. Unless you really know what you’re doing, there’s always a trail. If you tell one person, a secret’s no longer a secret. As they say, the truth will out.
But for me, the burning question is why does it matter? It reminds me of those passionate but (in my opinion) misguided scholars who have spent their lives trying to “prove” that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare, but was in fact the Earl of Oxford, or someone else or someone else. Curiosity is one thing, but surely what is more important is the way the author has presented themself to us?
To me, the “unmasking” of Elena Ferrante is petty and pointless. Knowing the author’s “real” name makes no difference to us as readers, and will have a pretty big and perhaps upsetting impact on the author and their day-to-day life.
There are lots of reasons authors want to use pseudonyms. But I’ve never enjoyed a book less knowing the author wasn’t using their “real” name. I don’t know that we do “deserve” to know about the personal lives of those whose works we read. Celebrities like Taylor Swift are constantly coming under fire for micro-managing their online “persona”, but we don’t deserve other peoples’ secrets.
So from my perspective, this is sad. It feels like cheap journalism, of little benefit to the readers. But I’d love to hear from you – do you think we deserve to know the “true” identity of those whose books we read? Do you think authors can have a reasonable expectation of privacy?