Finding the Ferrante four


Clockwise from top: Gaia Girace, Margherita Mazzucco, Ludovica Nasti, Elisa Del Genio. PHOTO/Amanda Charchian for Vultur

HBO’s My Brilliant Friend stars were chosen from 9,000 children to portray two of the most elusive characters in literature.

Sitting with the Italian stars of HBO’s My Brilliant Friend adaptation is like observing two sets of sisters. The Lilas — Ludovica Nasti, 12, and Gaia Girace, 15 — are raven-haired and intense. Ludovica frantically waves her arm every time she wants to speak, while teenage Gaia offers a haughty stare. The Elenas — Elisa Del Genio, 11, and Margherita Mazzucco, 16 — are timid by comparison. With their dirty-blonde hair and large green eyes, Elisa and Margherita appear shy and serious and somehow more accessible.

Up until now, lunch at an L.A. restaurant has proceeded calmly through interpreters, as the girls devour pasta and pizza that miraculously doesn’t offend their palate. But when the topic turns to the true identity of author Elena Ferrante, who famously writes under a nom de plume, the table erupts in a chorus of si, si, si and no, no, no as everybody — including the actresses’ mothers — starts speaking at once. The interpreter struggles to keep up. “They’re all saying they think they know who it is,” she explains. “It’s a writer that we met in L.A., but she’s Italian!” shouts Gaia. “There’s so many things that don’t jive, so we think it must be her.” She reaches across the table to high-five Elisa, who grins in agreement. Ludovica and Margherita shake their heads. They prefer the prevailing rumor, introduced by a New York Review of Books blog two years ago, that Ferrante is a Rome-based translator, or possibly a college professor.

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