Elusive Elena Ferrante Finally Interviewed

I chose to read the Elena Ferrante interview due to T’s comment about Ferrante being “quite a mystery.” She was right. This interview absolutely altered the way I perceive author’s intentions. Until this interview on the Paris Review page, Ferrante had refused to give any interviews both in person as well as even over the telephone. At first, I figured this was due to her own desire to be alone, to not be bothered by the press. But towards the end of the interview, she is asked about the reoccurring theme of “disappearance” in both her novels as well as in her own life, to which she responded, “there are many reasons to disappear… the extraordinary thing about the written word is that by nature it can do without your presence and also, in many respects, without your intentions. The voice is part of your body, it needs your presence. You speak, you have a dialogue, you correct, you give further explanations. Writing, on the other hand, only needs a reader. It doesn’t need you.”

It is important to note that Ferrante adamantly holds herself to the standard of no self-censoring. In fact, she even wrote for a long time without the intention of publishing or having anyone else read her work so as to train her not to censor myself. This fascinates me, making me think I ought to write completely uncensored as well—for I feel few of us do, especially since we know we will be sharing much of what we write be it in the classroom, on a blog, or to friends and family elsewhere. Ferrante could not be more accurate in her claim that “if the writing is inadequate, it can falsify the most honest biographical truths. Literary truth is not the truth of the biographer or the reporter… it reanimates, revives…”

This resonates with me mainly due to my experiences as a reader, as someone being moved so deeply by my voice silently reading the thoughts of another. I would, however, like to feel as if I could connect to this as a writer as well. In some ways I can, yet not fully, not whole-heartedly.

In her words, Ferrante’s motive to “publish [is to] to be read.” Yet at the same time she states that she does not think “the reader should be indulged as a consumer, because he isn’t one.” In fact, in her eyes “literature that indulges the tastes of the reader is a degraded literature.” I agree. Beyond any amount of doubt. Moreover, my goal as a writer can be summed up just as Ferrante’s is: “to disappoint the usual expectations and inspire new ones.”

3 thoughts to “Elusive Elena Ferrante Finally Interviewed”

  1. Hey Danielle-
    What exactly does she mean by not self-censoring? I feel like that could be taken a few different ways. I’m thinking about it as if she doesn’t really edit her work, but I can’t imagine that’s right. But maybe she does write her train of thought, thinking that it makes her writing more authentic. Or maybe she means that she just writes whatever she wants, without giving too much thought to harsh or inappropriate content. In that sense, how do you think that you censor yourself?

  2. Hey Danielle,
    Piggybacking off Emily’s thoughts here. So the way I interpreted the self-censoring comment is that she literally wrote whatever the instinctual thoughts in her head were, with no fear of anyone ever seeing it and judging it. But that kind of brings me to my own question, of can we ever completely eliminate self-censorship in ourselves? Yeah I know that sounds a little deep haha. Just a thought I had. Does Ferrante ever reveal why its the first time she’s being interviewed?

    Last thing: I like your goal, that’s a good thing to shoot for.

  3. Hey Danielle!
    Have you ever heard of Elena Ferrante before T mentioned her? Or Maybe have you even read some of her writing? Just wondering, as I’d never heard of her before.
    I think that’s a really interesting point about self-centering. Though, going off of what Kevin said above, I wonder if it is truly possible to write whatever you’re thinking without ANY thoughts towards how it might be perceived. I wonder if there is some subconscious thing going on in our brain that still holds us back from saying certain things knowing that someone may find out in the future. Interesting to think about.
    Also, you said you agree with her idea that “literature that indulges the tastes of the reader is a degraded literature”. I understand this as literature should not be written with the readers’ tastes/ feelings in mind. Is this how you perceived it? If so, do you think there are ever circumstances where taking the readers’ tastes into account may benefit your writing?

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