It's what the New York Times calls "one of the most intriguing literary mysteries in recent history." But now Elena Ferrante, author of several best-selling novels who has lived under that pseudonym since the early 1990s, appears to have been unmasked by Italian journalist Claudio Gatti. In a lengthy piece for the New York Review of Books, he names Italian translator Anita Raja as the true author behind books including My Brilliant Friend, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and the Story of the Lost Child. Citing mostly financial documents that point to Raja, including payments from Ferrante's publishing house and real estate purchases as the books became increasingly successful, Gatti says Raja, the daughter of a German-born mother who fled the Holocaust, has left a trail of "financial clues" that "leads directly" to her, though the identification is not (and may never be) officially confirmed.
Ferrante's name became a household one around the world in recent years with her novels selling in more than 40 countries, and others have previously speculated that Raja, along with novelist husband Domenico Starnone, could be behind Ferrante. This is by far the most thorough investigation, however. With the apparent outing of Raja, Ferrante publisher Sandro Ferri, who is one of the few said to know the author's true identity, tells the Guardian that "this kind of journalism is disgusting," and many seem to agree. Jezebel calls Gatti's piece "both grandiose and cruel," while Ferrante herself said in the Paris Review last year that, "What has never lost importance for me ... is the creative space that absence opened up." Literature, she added, should not "require 'external' credentials." (JK Rowling also chose to write under a pseudonym.)