Is Elena Ferrante the Daughter of a Holocaust Survivor?

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An image from the film 'L'Amore Molesto' ('Troubling Love'), which is based on a novel by Elena Ferrante.
An image from the film 'L'Amore Molesto' ('Troubling Love'), which is based on a novel by Elena Ferrante.Credit: Courtesy

The renowned Italian author, known by her pen name Elena Ferrante, is Anita Raja, an editor and translator at the Italian publishing house Edizione E/O, French online investigative and opinion journal Mediapart reported. Claudio Gatti, a journalist for the website, published an expose, which according to him took several months, and is mostly based on tax and real estate records. According to the report, Raja, who is married to Italian author Domenico Starnone, is Ferrante.

If this is in fact the case, it is interesting to note how different the author's life is from that which people assumed, expecting her work drew on her life experiences. She is most well-known for her Neapolitan trilogy, which recount life in Naples, in a society in which women almost never gained an education and were accustomed to violence.

Her earlier books too dealt with Naples and women mothers and friendship among women with the same intimate and piercing detail, which seemed as if it is taken from life.  Ferrante's autobiography further strengthened the notion that she was writing about life as she knew it. In it she recounted growing up poor with a seamstress mother.

But according to the expose, Raja's actual life is completely different. She is the daughter of a Jewish woman, who fled Germany during the Holocaust and married a Neapolitan man. She herself was born in Naples but left when she was three, when her family moved to Rome. She still lives in Rome with her husband, who himself was subject of speculation that he was Ferrante.

A spokesperson for the publishing house, which is quoted in the expose, said that Raja isn't a regular worker at the publishing house, but the payments she received over recent years grow substantially as Ferrante’s extraordinary international success grew.  In fact, says Gatti, she is the most highly compensated person in the publishing house. And the payments made to her accord with the dates her books were published in Europe and the U.S.

These payments were crossed referenced with the Italian real estate records, which revealed that close to the dates when her book appeared in foreign languages, Raja and her husband purchased homes and apartments around Rome and Tuscany. Raja and Starnone declined to respond.

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