After so many years, are you still sure about your decision to remain in the shadows?

“Remain in the shadows” is not an expression I like. It savors of plots, assassins. Let’s say that, fifteen years ago, I chose to publish books without having to feel obliged to make a career of being a writer. So far, I haven’t been sorry about it. I write and I publish only when the text seems of some value to me and to my publishers. Then the book makes its way, and I go on to occupy myself with something else. That’s it, and I don’t see why I should change my behavior.

How do you feel about the questions that are raised about your identity—are you amused, irritated, or something else?

They are legitimate, but reductive. For those who love reading, the author is purely a name. We know nothing about Shakespeare. We continue to love the Homeric poems even though we know nothing about Homer. And Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Joyce matter only if a talented person changes them into the subject of an opera, a biography, a brilliant essay, a film, a musical. Otherwise they are names, that is to say labels. Why would anyone be interested in my little personal story if we can do without Homer’s or Shakespeare’s? Someone who truly loves literature is like a person of faith. The believer knows very well that there is nothing at all at the bureau of vital statistics about the Jesus that truly counts for him.

At Guernica, an early excerpt from Fragments: On Writing, Reading, and Absence, a collection of Elena Ferrante’s letters, and interviews with her, due out in January.

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