A million-euro literary prize has lured three Spanish men out of anonymity to reveal they were sold behind ultra-violent Spanish crime thrillers as the work of “Spain’s Elena Ferrante”
The men had published under the pseudonym Carmen Mola, which is roughly translated as “Carmen’s cool”.
When one of their books won the lucrative Planeta Prize, the trio went public to pick up the check at a glittering ceremony attended by the Spanish king.
Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero had published novels and worked as screenwriters under their real names before coming together to write as Mola. Credits include work on TV series “Central Hospital” and “Blind Date”.
Her main character in the Carmen Mola novels is detective Elena Blanco, a “peculiar and lonely woman who loves grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs”, according to publisher Penguin Random House.
The men, all in their 40s and 50s, refused to opt for a female pseudonym to help sell the books. “We did not hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name,” Antonio Mercero told Spanish newspaper El País. “I do not know if a female pseudonym would sell more than a male. I have the slightest idea, but I doubt it.”
They had previously proved in interviews and on their own website that Mola was a professor in her late 40s, and told the Spanish ABC newspaper three years ago that they needed anonymity to “protect a solid life that has nothing to do with literature” .
Spanish media noted that publicity for the books had removed the tensions between the life of the apparent creator and ‘her’ creations.
“There is no escaping the fact that the idea of a university professor and mother of three, who taught algebra lessons in the morning, writing ultra-violent, macabre novels in chunks of free time in the afternoon, led to a great marketing operation,” Listed Spanish paper El Mundo in an interview with the authors.
Beatriz Gimeno, a feminist, writer, activist – and former head of one of Spain’s national equal bodies, the Women’s Institute – urged men to create a female persona in their publicity for Carmen Mola books, across various years.
“Quite unlike using a female pseudonym, these guys have been doing interviews for years. It’s not just the name – it’s the fake profile they have used to engage readers and journalists. They are scammers,” she said. said on Twitter.
Her agent’s website has a photo of a woman looking away from the camera, on the author’s profile page, above a flattering comparison to Italian literary sensation Ferrante.
Last year, a regional department of the Women’s Institute recommended one of Mola’s works as part of a selection of books by female authors, including Margaret Atwood, that “can help us understand the reality and experiences of women in different periods. understanding of history and contributing to raising awareness of rights and freedoms ”.
The Planeta Award, managed by the publisher of the same name, is as much a quest for potentially lucrative new books as a recognition of talent.
It is only open for submission of unpublished manuscripts, and the winning book must be published by Planeta. In the case of the new Mola work, which will be released under that name, that means the departure of its current publisher, rival Penguin Random House.
The book that won the award did not Blanco. It is a historical thriller, set in 1834 during a cholera epidemic, about a serial killer who remembers girls, according to Spanish media. A journalist, a policeman and a young woman come together to try to chase him.