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I Exchanged Notes With Elena Ferrante. Sort of.

Traditionally, in crafting these excerpts, we work fairly closely with the authors. In this case, the author is an anonymous recluse accessible only through emails sent to her English-language publishers.

When our edit was ready, we sent it for Ms. Ferrante’s approval. All correspondence with her was routed through her English-language publisher, who forwarded it to her Italian editors, who sent it along to her, then relayed her response. We never had direct contact with her. (Her celebrated translator, Ann Goldstein, who has also been interviewed in our section, works the same way — she has never met or interacted with Ms. Ferrante directly.)

A note came back explaining that, while she was happy overall, she had never before acquiesced to such extensive editorial intervention. She asked that ellipses be placed everywhere in the text where we had made an editorial change. This was an unusual request, one I had never encountered before.

We communicated to her publisher that the inclusion of ellipses would probably confuse readers and might leave the excerpt reading like a series of disparate, abandoned trains of thought. Or, worse, like one of those … heavily edited … movie … blurbs. (Or, for those who remember them, the rambling newspaper columns of Larry King.)

So we proposed a compromise: We would insert an asterisk, along with a simple explanatory note, in the spots where major excisions had occurred. And that is how you’ll find our excerpt from “The Lying Life of Adults,” which will be published as a print-only section this weekend.

Readers can ignore the unobtrusive asterisks entirely and enjoy the story. Or, if you’re so inclined, grab the book once it’s available on Sept. 1 and compare the original to our edited excerpt. We promise that the novel is an excellent read — even the parts that, by necessity, we had to leave out.

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