Jhumpa Lahiri on Elena Ferrante’s Anonymity | Conversations with Tyler


AUDIENCE MEMBER: You mentioned
that you really like Elena Ferrante and we all do too, at least most of us. I wanted to hear your take on this anonymity
situation, whether you think right now is it considered, in Italy, that everybody really
knows who she is after all these articles which came out? Or is it still a mystery? What’s your take on the whole situation? LAHIRI: I think the whole situation is completely
blown out of proportion and ridiculous. I know personally the person who has been
accused of being Elena Ferrante. She’s actually the wife of Domenico Starnone,
who has also been “accused,” whatever the word is. It is like a trial, and this is the absurd
thing because whoever wrote those books did nothing wrong. It’s been treated almost as if it were a
crime, and the nature of the article, the very violent article, inappropriate article,
that was published a couple of months ago, the language of that was very disturbing and
offensive to me. Whoever wrote those books, the world is no
better off knowing who the actual person is. I think we’ve all completely lost perspective. So many beautiful things have been created
by mankind that we still go to look at and marvel at or read or whatever the case may
be, and nobody’s hung up on who exactly the person was and what their name was and
what their birthday is. This whole cult of the individual and the
individual’s hand and signature behind what’s being done. These are recent concepts if you think about
them. People in Italy just don’t care about this. They have other things to think about and
worry about at this point. So this whole Ferrante thing, the article
came out, I exchanged some messages with my friends, saying, “This is just disgusting. And why? And so unnecessary.” And then everybody moved on. Whereas here, in America, it’s just ongoing
and it’s just not dying. People aren’t saying, “Let’s either
read the books or not read the books.” If someone goes out of their way to say “I
would like to write in anonymity,” why that can’t be respected in our culture is really
kind of mystifying to me, and also distressing. And the projection people have onto the idea
of who the writer might be, and the reasons, and all of this speculation, it could be a
very simple thing. But it’s become contorted, I feel, at least
in the United States, maybe in England. I don’t know. But it’s not the same in Italy. People aren’t really talking about it in
the same way.

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