The Right to be Anonymous – Elena Ferrante

cartoon owl reading a book illustrating an article about the revealing of Writer, Elena Ferrante's identityLately I’ve been reading about the outing of writer, Elena Ferrante. It makes me think again about why writers choose to be anonymous and why so many women writers use initials.


Firstly anonymity. Writers choose to be anonymous because they want to remain private. They have their own reasons for doing this.

Some of those reasons may be to do with their family of origin and the writer’s wish not to hurt or embarrass them.

Perhaps they wish to leave a troubled family history behind.


They may simply wish to remain private and not feel ‘known’ by people they themselves do not know. In this age of celebrity not everyone wishes to be one.

old painting of a women walking along the shore illustrating an article about the revealing of Writer, Elena Ferrante's identitySome writers may simply be embarrassed at the thought of people reading into their work and drawing assumptions and conclusions about them – based on the fiction they wrote.

Whatever the reason, writers have always, and will always write anonymously and that is their right.

Writing is not acting or modelling. You don’t have to have your face ‘out there’ to write books.

Most writers don’t want to face public scrutiny – particularly women writers who, as we can see from a quick glance around the Internet, are frequently ridiculed for their appearance over their opinions.


Some writers use initials as a pen name. This can serve two purposes, the desire to be anonymous as discussed above, and the desire to be mistaken for a male.


There are many reasons for a woman writer to choose to use initials. Mostly it is so their work will be judged by its own merits and not viewed as ‘women’s writing’ or ‘chick-lit.’

Women’s writing is often labelled in order to deride it and to distinguish it from men’s (serious stuff)


Besides wanting to write great stories and books, wanting to be taken seriously is the aim of most writers.

Women writers have often felt that their work is labelled, disregarded or even ignored.

It is a pity that many women writers feel they must do use initials and pseudonyms but derision is a scourge and it is surely natural to avoid it.


The revealing of Elena Ferrante’s ‘true identity’ was malicious.

It is not in the pubic interest to lay bare the personal life and history of someone who is not a danger to anyone. She has done absolutely nothing wrong, so nobody needs to be warned about her.

If she wanted to remain anonymous this should have been respected.

Her true identity is that of a writer, and if that identity is a fiction which enables her to write fiction, then selling a few newspapers is no reason to destroy it.





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