mask in a masqueradeEvery wife is more than a wife; every mother is more than a mother. But who is the main character of Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment? She no longer knows.

She has been abandoned in more than one sense: by a man and, she comes to realize, by herself.

It’s a strange experience to realize that the novel you’ve been reading about a harrowing degradation of identity was written by an author who is purposefully concealing her own.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym. My copy’s back flap reveals only that she was born in Naples and is the author of a number of (highly acclaimed) novels. The book’s title page notes that it was translated from the Italian. Various outlets have published interviews with Ferrante, and there has been speculation about her identity, but almost nothing certain is publicly known about who she is.

Why would a person so interested in the loss and rediscovery of self choose to keep herself hidden?

Of course, hiding from others and hiding from yourself are two very different phenomena. Could it be that, in order to listen to and obey herself, she has to seclude herself from the pressures of family, friends, and the media?

Could it be that she is donning a mask that reveals her true self?

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