Who is Carmen Mola? Sounds like a woman. Except she is not. At the recent 2021 Premio Planeta literary prize event in Spain, she was revealed to be a cleverly used pseudonym under which three men were writing. Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez and Antonio Mercero took the mask off on the identity of one of Spain’s most prominent crime-thriller novelists in recent times when they went up on stage to receive a million euros last Friday.
The three seasoned television screenwriters, known for work on series like Central Hospital, No Heaven Without Breasts and Blind Date, had chosen to describe Mola as a married middle-aged university professor based in Madrid who was veiling herself behind a pseudonym owing to her wish for anonymity. ‘Mola’ translates to ‘cool’ in Spanish and the author title came about as a result of a bit of joshing around.
“It’s not a joke, but almost. We thought: Carmen, it’s cool! And in the silliest way we found the pseudonym,” Díaz, one of the trio, told local media El Mundo.
Was this then a case of literary phishing? Was the woman-sounding pseudonym chosen to deceive readers or impact audience perceptions in some way? Díaz, Martínez and Mercero deny any such intent and say they only saw it as an opportunity to converge their talents into a singular outlet.
“The three of us have not hidden behind a woman, but behind a name,” they told newspaper El Pais after winning the richest literary prize in the world. They claim they browsed through many names – men, women – and nationalities before picking one that appealed to them.
Know Who Is Carmen Mola And How ‘Her’ Identity Was Revealed
Under Mola’s name, the trio authored a violent crime thriller trilogy, starting with La Novia Gitana (The Gypsy Bride) in 2018. La Red Purpura and La Nena followed in 2019 and 2020 respectively, with a fourth installment gearing up for a release next year, according to their literary agent’s website.
The series features Inspector Elena Blanco and has been hailed for its strong female characters. The well-kept charade has led to Mola creating a legacy for ‘herself’ as the ‘Spanish Elena Ferrante.’ Ferrante is the pseudonym of an Italian writer most famous as the author of the Neapolitan Novels. Despite staggering fame over the years, their identity has been hidden since 1992.
Responses to Mola’s revelation have been mixed. While many on social media are thrilled at the rare prospect of life imitating novel-like suspense, several others are critical of men occupying literary space with the assumption of female identity. Madrid-based writer Beatriz Gimeno, who describes herself as a feminist in her bio, called the men behind Mola “scammers” on Twitter.
“Beyond the use of a female pseudonym, these guys have been answering interviews for years. It is not only the name, it is the false profile,” she wrote.
See more reactions below:
So the biggest literary award (1 million euros) was just announced yesterday in Spain and it was given to a noir female writer, with the pen name Carmen Mola, who was then revealed to actually be three white men.
You can’t make this shit up.
— Sofia 🌻🦄🦋 (@pamericachavez) October 16, 2021
Hello, we are Carmen Mola pic.twitter.com/A097y8t8Uy
— Adrián Hernández (@adrianherfer) October 16, 2021
Carmen Mola ganadora del Planeta. Ahí, con tres pares de cojones.
— Quevedo 2.0 (@QuebeboVillegas) October 15, 2021
One user claimed to have cracked the code last year, saying the characters built from a “male perspective” gave away that the trilogy was actually written by “an uncle.”
El verano pasado, cuando me leí la trilogía de Carmen Mola, ya les dije a dos amigas que era un tío (me equivoqué, en realidad eran tres). Todos los personajes, protagonista incluida, están construidos desde una perspectiva masculina, y no hay que ser un lince para darse cuenta.
— Alberto (@xset13) October 16, 2021