Who is Elena Ferrante? That’s the famously debated question behind the Italian author’s beloved Neapolitan Novels, a series whose allure is only intensified by the fact that “Elena Ferrante” is a pseudonym and the author’s true identity is unknown. Even Saverio Costanzo, the director behind HBO’s upcoming adaptation of My Brilliant Friend, the first novel in the Neapolitan series, hasn’t met the real writer.
“We have been mailing to each other,” Costanzo told journalists during HBO’s Television Critics Association press session in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. “I don’t know who she is and I don’t want to know … she is, in my opinion, a very good scriptwriter … I’ve been mailing to the publisher. The publisher would send it to her and then back to me. And then we have tons of paper.”
“I think it’s one of the most well-kept secrets in Italy’s history,” added Lorenzo Mieli, one of the producers. At the end of the day, nobody cares because we know [the secret of her identity] is very important to her.”
All of that secrecy has also shaped the Brilliant Friend adaptation, which is produced by HBO and Italy’s RAI and will premiere this fall — especially when it comes to adding subtitles. Because Ferrante wrote her novels in Italian, Costanzo said it would have been “impossible” to do the series in English. He added that HBO was firmly committed to maintaining the books’ Neapolitan dialect with English subtitles because “the dialect is part of the dramaturgy.” Not just in America, though: Mieli explained that the show would be subtitled in Italy, too, because “we’re Romans and we don’t understand the Neapolitan dialect.”