Unmasking the true identity of the pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante has become Italyâ€™s favourite â€“ and increasingly farcical â€“ literary parlour game.
The latest writer forced to deny that she is the creator of the critically acclaimed Neapolitan novels is Marcella Marmo, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Naples Federico II.
â€œTruly no, I am not Elena Ferrante,â€ she told Corriere della Sera, saying she had only read the first novel in the Neapolitan series and the newspaper should give her the other books as an apology.
The claim came from Marco Santagata, a writer and professor at the University of Pisa, who investigated various details in the pages of Ferranteâ€™s second Neapolitan novel, The Story of a New Name, to try to uncover the identity of the writer.
â€œI did something simple. I took the yearbook of the (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa) students in the 60s and I looked at which names could respond to all of these requirements,â€ he told Corriere. â€œMarcella Marmo corresponds to my identikit.â€
Marmo studied in Pisa from 1964 until 1966. According to Santagata, she would have been perfectly placed to write the story of Elena Greco, the novelâ€™s protagonist who leaves Naples to study in Pisa.
In the book, Ferrante refers to a bar frequented by students in the 1960s and a Christmas party which Santagata claimed was only known to the university crowd. He also believes a love affair which saw a student expelled from the menâ€™s college may have inspired the author in her writing of Grecoâ€™s romance in Pisa.
Important events in the Tuscan city which did not feature in the novel, such as the November 1966 floods and student protests which came later, are thought by Santagata to be a sign Ferrante must have already left Pisa.
Ferranteâ€™s publisher, E/O, also denied Santagataâ€™s theory: â€œWe deny that Elena Ferrante is Marcella Marmo and we hope to go back to talking about the book and not the identity of the author.â€