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Five Star Movement strips Rome mayor of ‘important decisions’

Beppe Grillos populist party acts swiftly after one of Virginia Raggis close advisers was arrested for suspected corruption

The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, has been stripped by her populist Five Star Movement (M5S) party of the power to make important decisions after a close adviser was arrested for suspected corruption.

M5S prides itself on being scrupulously ethical and having no links to what it sees as the sleazy ways of Italian politics, so the scandal has prompted a swift response.

Starting today we change gears, we must fix the errors and leave no room for doubt, the M5S leader, Beppe Grillo, wrote on his blog.

Rome will continue with Virginia Raggi, Five Star mayor. Mistakes were made, and Virginia Raggi has admitted them. She trusted the least trustworthy people in the world, he added.

Grillo had warned Raggi the day before that important decisions, like nominations should now be endorsed by party leadership.

The arrest on Friday of Raffaele Marra, Rome city halls head of personnel, seen as part of Raggis inner circle, prompted a serious warning from Grillo.

Media reports on Sunday said he had even considered booting her from the party before reconsidering. Raggi also bowed to party pressure to force out two other advisers Daniele Frongia and Salvatore Romeo who were close to Marra.

Marra is suspected of accepting an illegal payment from a real estate developer in 2013 while he was head of housing policy under the former Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno.

After resignations and cancelled appointments, Raggis team is still not complete six months after she was voted in, which has been seized on by the lawyers rivals, who say she is not up to the job.

She faces a tough task in trying to turn around a city grappling with the legacy of years of corruption and mismanagement: potholed roads, failing refuse services and inadequate public transport.

The Rome experience has also exposed what some see as Grillos controlling role in the party he founded only five years ago.

The Democratic party meanwhile suffered a setback of its own when its high-profile mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, stepped down temporarily after being informed he was under investigation in connection with his previous job as the organiser of the 2015 World Expo fair in the city.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/18/five-star-movement-strips-rome-mayor-of-important-decisions


Elena Ferrante and the trouble with anonymity

The supposed exposure of the much-feted novelists true identity has caused a lot of outrage this week. From Jane Austen to Banksy, countless artists have tried to stay in the shadows, but it only makes people want to know more

Some all-too-anonymous writers will look at this weeks exposure of the millionaire literary superstar Elena Ferrante and find that sympathy does not come out of them without a fight. Others will see a private artists freedom ruined for ever and weep for her. For writers, thats the trouble with being anonymous. It is difficult to be the right amount.

To bring you up to speed: Elena Ferrante is the nom de plume of an Italian writer (or at least a writer of Italian) whose true identity has been a mystery since her (or his) first novel, Troubling Love, was published in 1991. Until recently the mystery was confined to Italy, where various writers, translators and publishers have been proposed as possible Ferrantes. In the past three years, however, she has become a mythic figure all over the world following the success her Neapolitan novels, about two clever women who grow up poor in postwar Naples.

Then, last Sunday, the Italian investigative journalist Claudio Gatti published a new theory. By studying public real estate records, he found that a couple connected to Ferrantes Italian publisher, Edizione E/O, had bought an expensive apartment in Rome in 2000, then another one this summer. Gatti also has documents from an anonymous source that he says show inexplicably large payments from the publisher to one member of the couple, more or less at the time you would expect Ferrante to be getting her big international royalties, and more or less in the right proportions as her sales increased. No one so far has seriously suggested he is wrong. No one likes him, either.

Two
A mythic figure Two of Elena Ferrantes Neopolitan novels on sale in a bookshop in Rome. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

You will have noticed that I have not named the person Gatti identifies. In many interviews by email, Ferrante has said that being anonymous is crucial to her writing. I have gained a space of my own, she told Vanity Fair last August, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful. If so, then Gatti may have strangled any future Ferrante novels, a serious crime if you admire her work. At the very least, he has probably made her suffer.

In August 2006, when the Sunday Times was about to expose Zoe Margolis as the Girl With a One-Track Mind, whose explicit blogs about her sex life had attracted tens of thousands of readers every day, their acting news editor, Nicholas Hellen, sent her an email. According to Margolis, it explained all the details that identified her, including her mothers job and address. It added that they had photographed her outside her flat, but the picture was not particularly flattering. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image, Hellen allegedly said. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and makeup. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.

Margolis cried, and did not answer. There was no reason to reveal my identity, she says now. No reason to destroy the anonymity I had, other than to titillate their readers. Im still disgusted by their completely unjustified behaviour and I stand in solidarity with other writers who have gone through similar experiences. Months of fallout followed. Her work in the film industry became impossible. Often she had to field calls from friends who were being pestered by reporters.

Daniel
Daniel Defoe, whose book Robinson Crusoe was first published under its lead characters name. Photograph: Hulton Getty

Richard Horton had the same experience. He was the police officer behind NightJack, which won the Orwell blogging prize in 2009. Like Margolis, he had begun writing anonymously because it let him be truthful without damaging his life. Like Margolis, he never planned to reveal who he was. Then he was exposed by the Times in his case, because his email was hacked. We had photographers camped outside the door and people trying to phone me at home, says Horton. The experience scared his wife and children. We had to go away for a few days until things died down. I regret what happened to them as a result of my identity coming out more than anything else.

Legally, Ferrante has no good options. As an Italian, which Gatti says she is, she would have the right to respect for her private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to bring a claim against Gatti or his publishers, however, she would need to demonstrate specifically that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to her real name. I dont think that public interest justifies the exposure, says Jeremy Clarke-Williams, a specialist in privacy and defamation law at Slater and Gordon, but I dont think we reach that stage, because I dont think Elena Ferrante would be able to show that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Gatti sharing details of her finances might put her on stronger ground, but she would only lose more privacy by going to court. If she wants this to go away, Clarke-Williams says, or quieten down at least, its probably better for her to do nothing, rather than launch a court case where the media can sit back and enjoy the show.

It is interesting that writers cannot reasonably expect to keep their names unpublished, given how many have down the years. Daniel Defoe published as Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift as Lemuel Gulliver (with phoney portrait). Aphra Behn published pseudonymously. So did Henry Fielding. Samuel Richardson was anonymous and Jane Austen was just a Lady. Horace Walpole, all three Bronts and George Eliot all had noms de plume, and Eliots stuck. Even today, the famously anonymous are everywhere you look. Theres the world-famous artist Banksy, and one of the worlds most famous computer scientists, Satoshi Nakamoto, who invented bitcoin (and is probably not Craig Wright). The Old Bailey has just convicted one of Britains most famous journalists Mazher Mahmood, or the Fake Sheikh of conspiring to pervert the course of justice with one of his pseudonymous stings. Then there are the bloggers, including the Gay Girl in Damascus (who turned out to be none of those things). The Guardian itself has spawned the Secret Footballer, Secret Teacher, Secret Actress and Secret Policeman. It is clear that people often do expect to express themselves anonymously. Perhaps it is just not reasonable to expect things to stay that way.

It was pretty hard to have to keep such a big secret from people family, friends, colleagues, lovers, Margolis says. When I got my publishing deal, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but had to remain quiet. That was hard. To be so proud of something and not be able to share it is quite tough. The technical aspects are scarcely any easier. Brooke Magnanti is a research scientist who blogged as the call girl Belle de Jour until 2009 when, fearing that her identity was about to be revealed in a newspaper, she revealed it herself in a different one. She had managed six years of anonymity under intense pressure, and her own guide to online privacy shows it wasnt luck.

Highlights of the Magnanti method include: changing your email account twice a year and knowing which providers to avoid; knowing how to remove metadata from text documents and media files; learning how to use VPNs and Tor, and how to tell if your IP address is accessible; setting yourself up as a silent partner in a new company run by your accountant. At one point Magnanti installed a keystroke logger (which makes a secret record of all the buttons pressed on your computer) and found that someone close to me was spying on me when they were left alone.

Journalist
Journalist Mazher Mahmood, AKA the Fake Sheikh, who conducted pseudonymous stings on public figures, after his conviction at the Old Bailey this week. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

Gattis justification for his scoop is vague. It centres on Ferrantes new book not a novel, but a collection of letters, essays and other pieces of nonfiction called Frantumaglia. According to its publisher, it answers many of her readers questions, but if Gatti is right, some of the answers are lies specifically that Ferrantes mother was a Neapolitan seamstress who spoke the Naples dialect, and that Ferrante herself grew up in the city until she ran away. He also contends that she is lying with a purpose: These crumbs of information seemed designed to satisfy her readers appetite for a personal story that might relate to the Neapolitan setting of the novels themselves.

To unmince those words, Gatti is saying that Ferrante wants people to believe she rescued herself through education from the slums of Naples, just as the Elena in her novels does. If people believe this, it would make the novels more than just the story of a woman overcoming poverty and patriarchy; it would make them an example of it happening for real. Seen this way, buying Ferrante becomes a kind of vote for feminism, and attacking her almost a vote against it; thus concocted sisterliness, not literary quality, explains the books success.

Whatever you believe, Im sure theres no need to explain why a man implying this would raise such fierce feelings. Even at the best of times there is a widespread view that female novelists are considered great more grudgingly than male ones. In any case, Gatti does not get close to proving that Ferrante had a scheme to deceive her readers, and proof is meant to matter to investigative journalists. Certainly, Ferrante is no Rahila Khan.

Who? In 1987, Virago published Down the Road, Worlds Away, a book of stories by a little-known British Muslim woman. Khans work, mostly about the hardship of Asian teenagers in modern Britain, had been broadcast on BBC Radio and much praised. An article in the Times Educational Supplement said that her first story almost persuaded me that literature still has some relevance to life.

Khan was shy about her fame, perhaps not surprisingly, although she took her shyness awfully far, never meeting or even speaking to her radio editor, her publisher or even her agent. There turned out to a simple explanation. She was the Reverend Toby Forward, an Anglican vicar in Brighton who believed that fiction by vicars wasnt taken seriously. When Virago found out, they were outraged, and withdrew the book from sale. Forward now writes childrens books, and has always argued, as Lionel Shriver did so shockingly at the Brisbane Writers festival last month, that fiction writers are supposed to imagine being other people. That doesnt mean you get it right, however. For instance, he imagined that Virago wouldnt mind.

Ferrante has no need to justify her anonymity. She can do whatever works for her. Interestingly, Clarke-Williams thinks that not even proven hypocrisy on her part would legally justify her exposure in the public interest. All shes doing is writing fiction which has struck a chord, and she may or may not have had the personal experience I think a writer of fiction is expected to make things up!

The
The late Harper Lee never hid her identity, but did manage to stay out of the public eye for much of her life. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Even so, it is worth considering her other choices. JD Salinger, Harper Lee and Thomas Pynchon have all shown that novelists need not conceal their names in order to be little-known. On the contrary, by making her identity a secret, Ferrante inevitably made it much more interesting, not least because it gave people cause to wonder whether she had something autobiographical to hide. She seems to have been drawn into all those interviews in an effort to explain herself.

She has mentioned being inspired by Jane Austen, whose anonymity made a great impression on me as a girl of 15, but Charlotte Bront is instructive, too. She published Jane Eyre as Currer Bell, with her sisters Emily and Anne being Ellis and Acton. Besides being averse to personal publicity, they had chosen pseudo-male names because of a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; indeed, rather than spending all its energy on Jane Eyre, the world spent much more on guessing who Currer Bell was, and especially which sex. This just made Charlotte more reluctant to reveal herself, which was torture when she realised that several of her literary heroes Dickens, Thackeray, Martineau were eager to meet her if she would just drop by. By the time her next novel, Shirley, was published, she was worried that her mail would be opened at the local post office. (A reminder that hacking was not invented with computers.) In the end, she gave in.

The point then, as now, as always, is that you cant seek attention for your work and hope that none seeks you. You cant choose absence. You can only choose to be yourself, or to be a mystery, and people who dont love mysteries cannot love novels either. Besides, of course it matters who the author is, at least eventually. Otherwise there could still be someone saying that Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, even Pride and Prejudice, were too good to be written by a woman.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/07/elena-ferrante-the-trouble-with-anonymity-claudio-gatti-jane-austen-rahila-khan


Elena Ferrante: literary storm as Italian reporter ‘identifies’ author

Claudio Gatti says he has solved one of modern literatures biggest mysteries but fans criticise his report as an intrusion

It is, arguably, the biggest mystery in modern literature: the true identity of novelist Elena Ferrante. But when one of Italys investigative journalists claimed to have unmasked her on Sunday, the response of many in the literary world was to ask why he had felt the need to do so.

Writing for the New York Review of Books and Il Sole 24 Ore, journalist Claudio Gatti said he had been able to identify the author of My Brilliant Friend and the rest of the highly acclaimed Neapolitan series as a Rome-based translator who once helped run a publishing imprint of Italian writers.

But her publisher and high-profile authors asked why Gatti had acted the way he did. Sandro Ferri, Ferrantes publisher and one of the few people who is known to know her identity, said he was appalled by the attempt to unmask a woman who has purposely steered clear of the limelight and has always said that she only wanted to write books.

We just think that this kind of journalism is disgusting, he told the Guardian. Searching in the wallet of a writer who has just decided not to be public.

Readers called the alleged scoop an intrusion into the life of one of the worlds most influential female writers. Some were afraid it would stop Ferrante from ever writing again, saying the story had been driven by the ego of the reporter and the New York Review of Books.

Some said there were far more worthy targets of investigative journalism.

Pamela Paul (@PamelaPaulNYT)

Who else here would rather uncover Trump’s taxes than Elena Ferrante’s identity?

October 2, 2016

Kimberly Burns (@kimberlyburnspr)

Shameful. If Elena Ferrante doesn’t write another book, it is because of the attention-hungry egos of Claudio Gatti & @nybooks editors.

October 2, 2016

Jojo Moyes, the British author who wrote Me Before You, said the issue boiled down to something very simple: that Ferrante may have had good reason to write under a pseudonym.

Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes)

Re those last RTs. Maybe Elena Ferrante has very good reasons to write under a pseudonym. It’s not our ‘right’ to know her.

October 2, 2016

Gattis conclusion was based on his review of payments that were allegedly made by Ferrantes publisher, Edizione E/O, which Gatti said showed that the main financial beneficiary of Ferrantes extraordinary success was Anita Raja.

Rajas name will be familiar to those who have long followed the speculation over Ferrantes identity, as it has been raised in ruminative Italian press reports for years never with any solid evidence.

In his piece, Gatti pointed to Italian real estate records that allegedly showed Raja and her husband, Domenico Starnone, buying multimillion euro properties in Rome around the time that Ferrante became an international sensation.

Gatti reported that neither Raja nor Starnone had responded to repeated requests for comment.

In response to the criticism, Gatti said Ferrante was arguably the most well-known Italian figure in the world, and that there was a legitimate right for readers to know … as they have made her such a superstar.

He said Ferrante and her publishers acknowledged as much when they agreed to publish a autobiographical work called Frantumaglia, which Gatti said was full of untruths about Ferrantes personal story.

In it, Ferrante points to a quote from Italo Calvino: Ask me what you want to know, but I wont tell you the truth, of that you can be sure, saying she liked the passage.

I believe that by announcing that she would lie on her own autobiographical essay, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown, Gatti told the Guardian in an email.

Indeed, she and her publisher seemed not only to have fed public interest in her true identity but to have challenged critics and journalists to go behind the lies. She told us that she finds them healthy. As a journalist, I dont. In fact it is my job to expose them.

While dozens of articles have been written over the years speculating about Ferrantes true identity, Ferrante has always zealously guarded her anonymity, saying it gives her the protection she needs to write in the sometimes brutally honest style that millions of people have been drawn to.

Anita
Anita Raja, a Rome-based translator and allegedly the author Elena Ferrante. Photograph: nybooks.com

Readers and critics particularly admire Ferrante for her ability to capture the inner lives of women, a feat that the author has always suggested requires her to be shielded from public scrutiny.

Asked by the Guardian in an email interview earlier this year why she protected her anonymity, Ferrante said it was partly to shield the Neapolitan community from which she drew her inspiration. But there were other reasons, too.

The wish to remove oneself from all forms of social pressure or obligation. Not to feel tied down to what could become ones public image. To concentrate exclusively and with complete freedom on writing and its strategies, she wrote.

When asked in a 2015 email interview in the Financial Times about her characters emotional breakdowns, experiences that are described as dissolving, Ferrante said she had seen the phenomenon in her own mother.

We experience too many ties that choke our desires and ambitions. The modern world subjects us to pressures that at times we are not able to bear, she said.

In another passage, she explains the sometimes savage world she grew up in, where men could be violent to correct women.

In comments that could resonate in the media storm surrounding her identity, she wrote: Today much has changed but I still think the men who can really be trusted are a minority maybe (and this is what I tend to believe) its because male power, whether violently or delicately imposed, is still bent on subordinating us. Too many women are humiliated every day and not just on a symbolic level.

According to Gatti, Raja has worked as a German translator for Edizione E/O and helped to run an imprint there, Collana degli Azzurri, in the 1990s, which published about four books by Italian writers, including Ferrantes first novel. Among other works, Raja has translated the works of German writer Christa Wolf.

If Ferrantes identity is ever confirmed and it may never be it would at least end speculation, particularly in the Italian press, that Ferrante is actually a man.

In an article by journalist Rachel Donadio published in the New York Review of Books in 2014, Donadio said the suggestion was more telling about contemporary Italy than about Ferrantes work, before repeating the assertion that it could be Domenico Starnone, Rajas husband, or Raja.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/02/elena-ferrante-literary-storm-as-italian-reporter-identifies-author


Virginia Raggi faces five key tests if she becomes Rome mayor

Five Star Movement candidate will have to deal with several challenges if elected as Italian capitals first female mayor

Italians are heading to the polls on Sunday for local elections that will be closely watched in Rome, where the Eternal City is expected to elect its first female mayor.

The fight between Virginia Raggi, the mayoral candidate for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and the Democratic partys Roberto Giachetti pits a largely unknown quantity against a candidate representing the left-of-centre party of the prime minister, Matteo Renzi.

While local issues, from corruption to unreliable public transport, are likely to decide the race. the election of Raggi to one of the most high profile political posts in Italy would mark an important milestone for the countrys women. The 37-year-old lawyer enters the race having secured 36% of the vote in the first-round election on 5 June, while Giachetti won less than 25% in the crowded field.

But if Raggi wins she will face several challenges. Here are five of them:

1. A new image for the Five Star Movement

A Raggi win would not only be significant for women in Italian politics, it could also mark an important transition in the Five Star Movement, the party founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo.

Beppe
Beppe Grillo. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

While Grillos political views undoubtedly still rule the party he is vehemently anti-establishment, rails against political compromises, claims to be anti-corruption, and has praised the politics of Britains Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, for his anti-EU views a Raggi victory would test whether the M5S can move beyond its protest party status and actually govern.

So far, the partys record is poor in other cities, including Parma, with a number of M5S politicians facing corruption investigations. Raggis campaign has focused on local problems that vex everyday Romans.

She has vowed to create special bus lanes for buses and more cycle paths, the kind of practical promises that suggest she is not looking to make sweeping political statements.

However, if she is elected and is seen as doing a good job, Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, will undoubtedly be looking over his shoulder. Her sights could soon be set decidedly higher than the mayors office.

2. Taking on Mafia Capitale

Ignazio
Ignazio Marino. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA

Rome was never considered a capital of organised crime on the scale of Sicily, Naples or Reggio Calabria. But over the last two years, the Italian capital has been rocked by one public corruption scandal after another, known collectively as Mafia Capitale.

The former mayor, Ignazio Marino, resigned amid an investigation into his expenses and broader concerns that he was simply too incompetent to get to grips with the corruption that had ensnared nearly every public service.

The biggest test for Raggi, or any mayor, will be whether Mafia Capitale is a controllable problem or one that will simply consume any administration that attempts to fight it.

Voters have been attracted to Raggi for her straightforward message: she wants to create a Rome that is livable for Romans. It is a simple slogan, but one that could prove surprisingly difficult to deliver on.

3. Taking on the Vatican

Pope
Pope Francis in St Peters Square. Photograph: Angelo Carconi/EPA

Raggi has not only vowed to clean up Rome, both literally and figuratively, she has promised to take on the Catholic church.

In an interview with the Guardian, she said that, if elected, she would pursue claims worth 250m and 400m in allegedly unpaid taxes on the Vaticans real estate holdings and other assets.

The taxes had never been collected, she claimed, because past city administrations had been too afraid to take on the church.

While Pope Francis has publicly said shops on Vatican property ought to pay their taxes, any moves to take on the church will nevertheless likely be frowned upon inside the Vatican.

Francis was not shy about his apparent dislike of Marino. Within days of the pontiff criticising Marinos presence at a papal event in Philadelphia, the mayor was forced to resign (albeit for unrelated reasons). It was a keen reminder that any mayor or politician in Italy makes an enemy of the church at their peril.

4. Keeping the Olympics at bay

When Renzi made the audacious decision to throw Romes hat in the ring as a contender to host the 2024 Olympic Games, he said it showed Italy was capable of dreaming of big things.

You can lose, but whats unacceptable is to crouch up and give up on playing the game, he said in 2014, barely acknowledging the serious logistical and financial strains the Games would put on the ancient city.

Renzi
Renzi at the IOC HQ in Lausanne. Photograph: Pierre Albouy/Reuters

Raggi has said she opposed the bid because Rome was in a delicate moment. It was more important, she said, to think about everyday items instead of extraordinary ones.

In the final weeks of the mayoral campaign, the Olympics have become a litmus test of sorts. While Romes next mayor may not be in office in 2024, her or his support or opposition could be significant.

In that sense, a win for Raggi would send a clear message to Renzi: that the everyday problems of life in Rome cannot be neglected in pursuit of grandiose dreams.

5. Being a woman in Italian politics

This isnt always easy.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/19/virginia-raggi-faces-five-key-tests-if-rome-mayor-five-star-movement


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