Financially doxxing Elena Ferrante proves exactly why she wanted to remain anonymous

After a months-long investigation into her financial records The New York Review of Books may have successfully doxxed the previously anonymous author Elena Ferrante, but the looming question at hand is: why? For those uninitiated with her sharp body of work, Ferrante is the author best known for her series The Neapolitan Novels, which brilliantly details the life of two best friends navigating issues of class, gender, and individual relationships in a small town in Italy, and part of her creative process has been predicated on anonymity. Now, that might be gone.

In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, Ferrante very thoroughly answered the question of why she prefers anonymity, and yet, many fans and speculators seem hell-bent on violating that. She said, “If I may, I didn’t choose anonymity; the books are signed. Instead, I chose absence.”

She went on, “More than 20 years ago I felt the burden of exposing myself in public. I wanted to detach myself from the finished story. I wanted the books to assert themselves without my patronage. This choice created a small polemic in the media, whose logic is aimed at inventing protagonists while ignoring the quality of the work, so that it seems natural that bad or mediocre books by someone who has a reputation in the media deserve more attention than books that might be of higher quality but were written by someone who is no one.”

Her expressed choice to detach herself from the media’s spotlight was not only violated by the “months long investigation” carried out by The New York Review of Books, but the investigation itself demonstrates the media obsession that kept her private in the first place.

The doxxing itself involved investigating years worth of real estate documents, which led the NYRB to the conclusion that Ferrante’s true identity is Anita Raja, an Italian translator, who according to their investigation, received a sharp increase in income in 2014, following the release of the final book in The Neapolitan Novel series. A report from The New York Times confirms that Raja has not been reached for comment, so her identity is neither confirmed or denied, but that is beside the point of the investigation, which seems to be explicitly seeking to violate Ferrante’s wishes for privacy.

In an email interview with The Guardian earlier this year, Ferrante further expressed her reasons behind her anonymity when she said:

“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.”

Whether or not Ferrante’s true identity is Raja, there’s little doubt that the knowledge her identity is being so heavily sought after only serves as a distraction from her writing.