Premio Strega: Elena Ferrante stays in shadows despite prize nomination
Written by: Actualité à la Une
Category: Culture

Rome - Premio Strega: Elena Ferrante is a finalist for The Story of the Lost Child (Storia della bambina perduta). The novel, which will be released in English on 1 September, is the last of Ferrante’s acclaimed Neapolitan quartet of novels which are dominated by the inner lives of women - their relationships, demons and tragedies-. James Wood, of the New Yorker, wrote in 2013: “As soon as you read her fiction, Ferrante’s restraint seems wisely self-protective. Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader". 

The books are written in such a startlingly authentic manner that critics suggest her anonymity is a necessary protection if she is to remain fiercely sincere, and have reached an appreciative audience far beyond Italy. After being nominated, Ferrante was named a finalist by a vote of the Strega jury, known as the Friends of Sunday. “She would probably be very happy to win this award,” says one of the few people who knows her identity, her publisher Sandro Ferri. But he is quick to add that it represents a status symbol that Ferrante has consciously avoided: “She had decided not to be part of the literary society, the establishment. The Strega is very much about the establishment. I am surprised that she is among the finalists. I sincerely would not have believed that". He added that the prize was “controversial” in part because the award has always been won by Italy’s two leading publishing houses, Mondadori or Rizzoli, and never an independent one like Edizioni E/O, the publishing group he runs with his wife, Sandra Ozzola Ferri. This year, in an interview published by the Paris Review – conducted by her publishers – Ferrante said of her decision to remain anonymous that it forced her to consciously add herself into her story, “exerting herself to be truer than she could be in the photos of a Sunday supplement, at a book launch, at a literary festival … receiving a literary prize”. “The passionate reader must be allowed to extract the author’s physiognomy from every word or grammatical violation or syntactical knot in the text,” she said. “So the writing becomes intimate both for the one who produces it and for the one who enjoys it". 

(With inputs from Agencies)