Ferrante had asked for privacy, and Claudio Gatti, the researcher in question, made a poor defence of his right to find out more about her. He could have argued that she's made millions, enhanced in part by the secrecy surrounding her identity, for instance.
Instead, Gatti simply outed the German translator, saying that Ferrnate had lied about her past. I won't name the translator here because she, too, is entitled to as much privacy as I can offer. If Ferrante and this woman are not one and the same, then the researcher has ruined two lives, not one.
I suspect that at least part of the outrage amongst Ferrante's (mostly female) readership is that the author has always threatened to give up writing if she were ever exposed. And she undoubtedly has a right to privacy.
But where I disagreed with my writing friend (I'm still not sure we've made up yet) is that she, like many other women, saw something even more sinister in the fact that Gatti is male and Ferrante is (presumably) female: she saw a sexual motive. In the Guardian, psychoanalyst Fiona Sinclair suggested that,
Today, I came across an interesting parallel case, a woman who has re-branded herself to be known solely by her first name. I don't want to out her either so let's say that her real name is Jessica Lemon, and she wants to be known as "Jessica" in everything – Dr Jessica, Rev Jessica, Dame Jessica, even just "Jessica" on her passport. This isn't a cultural thing, it's purely a branding matter.
It causes problems on certain social media such as LinkedIn which demand accurate name disclosure. And I'm sure I'd be kicked off fast enough if I registered my second name as a symbol, which is what Jessica does. Technically she's not even asked for privacy, and she's choosing to play hide-and-seek with her surname. It's just her marketing ploy.
So does the fact that I'm faintly curious to know her real surname make me a sexual predator? I sure hope not.
(First posted on www.lawrie.info)