“Great publicity stunt,” says Margaret Atwood of three male authors who posed as Spanish writer Carmen Mola

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The winners of the 2021 Premio Planeta Prize from Spain Jorge Diaz, Antonio Mercero and Augustin Martinez receive the trophy for their novel “La Bestia”, written under the pseudonym Carmen Mola at the ceremony of the 70th edition of the “Premio Planeta” “, in Barcelona on October 15, 2021.

JOSEP LAGO / AFP / Getty Images

Carol Shields Prize for Fiction co-founder said the three male authors who posed as Spanish writer Carmen Mola should return the money they received for a major literary prize – or donate it to a feminine literary cause.

“Winning an award by forging a woman’s identity is a scam,” Swan said in a statement Monday. The Canadian author has suggested that if men “want to restore their integrity” they should consider donating funds to something like the British Women’s Prize for Fiction or the Carol Shields Prize. The latter, a new prize valued at $ 150,000, is open to women, trans women and non-binary writers in Canada and the United States.

“It’s ironic that a hundred years ago women often took a man’s last name for publication and some female authors still prefer to use initials for their first names for this reason,” Swan added.

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The shocking plot twist – or the deception, if you prefer – was revealed on Friday, when Mola’s landmark thriller The beast won the Planeta Prize, worth € 1 million ($ 1.4 million). Audiences were stunned when three men – TV screenwriters Jorge Diaz, Agustin Martinez and Antonio Mercero – took the stage to accept it.

The revelation drew international attention. Mola, the famous author of the Elena Blanco crime series published by Penguin Random House, had been described in publicity materials as a female college professor who juggled academia and motherhood and wrote crime thrillers. A photo on the Mola literary agency’s website shows a woman in a trench coat, taken from behind. (The beast is not a book by Inspector Blanco; it takes place in 19th century Madrid during a cholera epidemic.)

Among the facts that emerged after the bombing was a tidbit involving Margaret Atwood. Last year, a Spanish chapter of the Women’s Institute recommended one of Mola’s thrillers in a list of must-read books and movies by women, including Atwood. by Mola the girl was on the list, as was Atwood The Penelope.

Atwood didn’t bother to share the space on this list with a novel that turned out to be written by men. But she admitted that the Women’s Institute might not be happy about it. (She used slightly less delicate phrasing.)

“It’s a big publicity stunt, as you can see,” Atwood said in an interview on Monday. “We all talk about it. And of course we’re all going to run out and buy Carmen Mola’s book, I guess. Just like we ran and bought Elena Ferrante, right? (Ferrante is the pseudonym of the Italian author best known for her Neapolitan novels. Mola has been nicknamed the Spanish Ferrante.)

“I think the problem is, some women’s groups or critics have said, ‘Oh, what a great insight into the female psyche.’ And it turned out that these ideas did not come from the female psyche but from observers of the female psyche, ”Atwood continued.

When she heard of this, Atwood immediately recalled Naked came the stranger and what she called Vicar Virago. Naked came the stranger was a 1969 hoax novel written by a collective of journalists – men and women – and published under the pseudonym Penelope Ashe. Vicar Virago was an Anglican vicar named Toby Forward who published a collection of stories with the British feminist publishing house Virago under the pseudonym Rahila Khan – a deception.

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“Yes you can deceive people and yes you can impersonate people and of course women have always used male pseudonyms,” says Atwood. “And that is excused on the basis that people would have noted them as female, which is true.” But if you are accused of being a woman, why use a woman’s name? Is it over now? Do we no longer mark people as women? … I would say that among book readers, you are probably not that prominent anymore. Among the general population, you are. Either way, there are a lot of shades of gray, “she laughed, obliquely. Fifty shades of Grey reference.

Atwood has had his own experiences with publishing under a pseudonym. For This Magazine in the 1970s, she wrote her Kanadian Kulchur Komics series on the adventures of Survivalwoman under the pen name Bart Gerrard, in honor of a Canadian cartoonist of the same name.

And in 1982, she published a review in The Globe and Mail of her own collection of essays. Second words: selected critical prose under the signature Margarets Atwood, citing such critics as Greta Warmodota, Gwaemot R. Dratora, Wode M. Gratataro and Trogwate d’Amorda – all anagrams of his own name. (“Margarets Atwood writes travel articles for the New York Times,” so the author was identified.)

The Mola case is obviously different – much less of a lark – and Atwood is interested to see what is happening to him now, beyond the wave of publicity. An important part of this is intention. “The question is: is this done to deceive and exploit,” she said.

She hasn’t read the book (it’s coming out next month), so declined to comment on whether she personally thinks it’s problematic.

“It’s for a lot of people,” she said. “Is this another one of those arguments in which the quality of the work excuses the sinful behavior of the author?” And once you get into that, you’re in Bad friend of art“she said, referring to a recent widely read New York Times report on a dispute between two authors, one of whom had donated a kidney, another who wrote a short story to it. subject. “This is kidney donor impersonation; how bad is it?”

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