What Makes Elena Ferrante, Nominee For The Man Booker Prize 2016, The Real Winner

Posted: April 5, 2016

Elena Ferrante’s attitude to work and life is the actual winner, even if it is her latest book that has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize.

I don’t know Elena Ferrante. I read about her being a best selling author (Her books have sold nearly two million copies worldwide). I have not read any of the four books written by her forming a ‘Neopolitan Series’. The last of the four novels – The Story of the Lost Child – figures in the long list of The Man Booker International Prize, and is expected to be selected the winner.

This could be life story of many promising authors. Not really.

What sets this writer apart from most of us is her hidden identity. Nobody knows who she/he is. Those who know are not telling yet.

Petracco, the British Publisher of Ferrante’s work said, “She is happy to be successful but as far as I can tell, it is not that important to her. She’s a writer who needs to write in order to live. Having her books read is the most important thing.” (Petracco has only communicated to her via email)

We don’t know about tomorrow – her identity might be revealed. I might not like what she writes. People will have different opinions ranging from marketing gimmicks to identity issues about her reasons to stay mysteriously hidden.

As of today, there are three loud and clear lessons etched in the three sentences of her works’ publisher Petracco – lessons that we can make our own to better our lives.

I am happy to be successful but it is not that important

Success is merely a byproduct of actions that I take to live. Success is a bonus which gives happiness but not meaning to my life.

The general symptoms of success – fame and riches are deeply desired by all of us. Money that her books make must be reaching her surely but not giving too much importance to that, and just living the moments of glory is defining success beautifully.

It is important because it gives deep respect to success by keeping it personal. My success is personal. I don’t allow others to decide whether I am successful or not. I give importance to what I consider as successful. Public opinion, public approval, public applause, celebrity rankings are not a part of it. Success is incidental, I am not.

I am a writer who needs to write in order to live

This could be the most passionate sentence from an author. I write, therefore I am. Extrapolate this to anything you love doing.

A young man went to Socrates and asked him, “What is the secret sauce to succeed?” Socrates told him to go and take a dip at the river nearby. When he came back, Socrates told him to come the next day. Next day, Socrates told him to do the same. It continued for a week. Finally, the young man lost it.

Socrates told him to go to the river bank and wait for him. They both entered the water together. “Take a dip,” Socrates told him. As soon as the young man went in, Socrates pushed his head in water with all his might, not allowing him to come out. The young man kept trying and struggled very hard to overpower Socrates. He was stunned by Socrates’ behavior.

“This is the secret sauce  – Be ready to give your everything with full intensity, the way you did right now.”  The deepest urge to create, the most painful longing to do something resembles the acute pain felt while naturally delivering a child. Be a passionate parent, be a passionate professional doer – do anything but do it as if you can’t live without it.

Having my books read is the most important thing:

Books are meant to be read. If the number of readers is big, it is great but the number of readers do not define my book writing. I don’t write based on the number of readers reading it.

We all live, work, perform our duties on the size of life stage provided to us. We make our journeys from the stations we are handed over by a stroke of chance and competence. The scope of our work, reach of what we do is a result of many controllable and uncontrollable factors.

My work should have purpose for some. If not for others, at least for me. The number of people I can influence doesn’t decide the quality and quantity of my work. Also, my work is my identity for professional purposes. My face is not.

Thank You Elena Ferrante. These lessons in integrity are brilliant.

We might recognize you tomorrow. Your disguise might not last but the lessons will.

Image source: elenaferrante.com

A Ph.D. and outstanding educationist with 16 years of experience as Founder/Director of

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