The third of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, was published in September, feeding a growing enthusiasm for her work and, in particular, this quartet. Interest has been created far more by word of mouth than by any promotional activity, which is, apparently, just how the author would like it: ‘I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.’ These words were sent to her Italian publisher over twenty years ago, just before publication of her first novel, Troubling Love, and she has held to them with resolute determination. Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym; the identity of the author remains unknown, though a few details of her life have emerged in a handful of letters released by her Italian publisher – she is female, was once Neapolitan and is a teacher, translator and mother. Her privacy ‘produces a space of absolute creative freedom’.
It would be easy but, according to Ferrante, mistaken to identify her with Elena Greco, the narrator of the series. Greco is a woman who, through intelligence and great personal effort, makes a successful literary career that allows her to escape her working-class Neapolitan milieu, with its many forms of