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Who are the people behind the books we love, and where exactly does their writing draw or diverge from their lives? The work of the pseudonymous superstar Elena Ferrante may contain a trail of clues to her true identity. Karl Ove Knausgaard devotes an epic series of autobiographical novels to discovering himself, but begins to question the project by his sixth—and final—volume.
While the mythos surrounding Sylvia Plath’s sad life story can sometimes obscure her literary influences, the writer’s college thesis shows the intellectual issues that fascinated her. A new biography of Robert Graves delves into the wartime experiences that influenced his writing. And, in an essay from deep within The Atlantic’s archives, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes how his friend Henry David Thoreau brought a unique, uncompromising perspective to his work.
Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas, and ask you for recommendations of what our list left out. Check out past issues here. Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
What We’re Reading
An open letter to Elena Ferrante—whoever you are
“Your novels have helped us see our own lives more clearly. Sometimes we have felt that you might even understand our innermost thoughts. But tell me, have we fallen into a trap? All but the most naive readers know very well that a narrator’s voice is always an invention. But what happens if you, the writer herself, are just as much an invention as your characters are?”