From The Guardian:
Dear Elena Ferrante, In your first essay/lecture you twice describe yourself as timid, but your work is extremely brave. I assume this is because the “I” that you describe as timid or lacking courage disappears and becomes many other “I”s as you write. You quote from a conversation between Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey. He asks:
“And your novel?”
“Oh, I put in my hand and rummage in the bran pie.”
“That’s what’s so wonderful. And it’s all different.”
“Yes, I’m 20 people.”
You also speak of this directly when you say that the “excited I” had not written a story “but another I, tightly disciplined”. Can you explain these different “I”s a bit more?
I think – I don’t know – that we all experience this. In acting class when I was 16, the teacher spoke of the different “I”s we all have, and this was the first time it had been named for me. It was (quietly, privately) very liberating. I’m glad you referenced how Virginia Woolf puts in her hand and “rummages in the bran pie”, as she writes a novel. For many years I had a sense of myself when writing, as placing my hand in a big box and trying to feel the shapes but I could not see them, I could only feel them as I tried to arrange them. Have you had any image of something like this for yourself, or does Virginia Woolf’s bran pie do it for you?