**Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about the plot of one of Elena Ferrante’s novels. Disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend I’ve read them all.**
The best moment in My Brilliant Friend, the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novel quartet, comes in the closing paragraphs. Lila—highly intelligent, fierce, rebellious—has just got married. She thinks it’s given her the power to escape the trap of poverty and patriarchy in which she’s fought her way to adulthood. And then: a twist, a lurching moment when she—and we—realize that she has not escaped at all. If anything, she’s trapped far more firmly than before.
She’s just said “I do,” but finds herself in a situation that she didn’t consent to.
Until this week, the true identity of the author of the Neapolitan novels (Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym) was a secret. It’s almost definitely been revealed—without confirmation from the author herself, or her publisher—via the investigation of Italian journalist Claudio Gatti.
The backlash has been angry. Gatti has defended his unmasking of Ferrante as the ordinary work of a journalist, and an inevitable consequence of Ferrante’s success and fame, but his critics have questioned why a writer of fiction should not be allowed to continue her work unbothered by the scrutiny that becoming a public figure entails.