Ferrante is the author of a half dozen novels, the best known of which is the four-volume work known as Neapolitan Novels, about two perceptive and intelligent girls from Naples who try to create lives for themselves within a violent and stultifying culture. The series consists of My Brilliant Friend (2012), The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015), which was nominated for the Strega Prize, an Italian literary award.
Ferrante holds that "books, once they are written, have no need of their authors." She has repeatedly argued that anonymity is a precondition for her work and that keeping her true name out of the spotlight is key to her writing process. According to Ferrante,
Once I knew that the completed book would make its way in the world without me, once I knew that nothing of the concrete, physical me would ever appear beside the volume—as if the book were a little dog and I were its master—it made me see something new about writing. I felt as though I had released the words from myself.
The first appearance of her work in English was the publication of a short story entitled "Delia's Elevator," translated by Adria Frizzi in the anthology After the War (2004). It narrates the movements of the title character on the day of her mother's burial, particularly her return to her safe retreat in the old elevator in the apartment building where she grew up.
The fourth book of Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet, The Story of the Lost Child, appeared on The New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2015.