THESE are tough times for champions of transparency. Julian Assange languishes at the Ecuadorean embassy in London; Edward Snowden in an undisclosed place in Russia. Rudolf Elmer, a Swiss banking whistle-blower, is contesting a 14-month suspended jail sentence. And if Claudio Gatti, an Italian investigative journalist, expected plaudits for a story he published on October 2nd claiming to identify Elena Ferrante, the world’s most famously pseudonymous novelist, he was spectacularly wrong.

Since “My Brilliant Friend”, the first of her four “Neapolitan novels”, was published to international acclaim in 2011, speculation about Ms Ferrante’s identity has become a literary pastime. More than a dozen names have been suggested, including those of male writers such as a Strega-prize-winning novelist, Domenico Starnone. Using data leaked from Edizioni E/O, Ms Ferrante’s publishing house, Mr Gatti made a persuasive case that Mr Starnone’s wife Anita Raja, a translator, is the real Elena. The data showed her earnings soaring after the Ferrante novels’ international success, reaching €7.6m ($8.5m) in 2015.

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