The winner of the Spanish Planeta prize Carmen Mola has been revealed to be three men writing under a female pseudonym.
The three men – Augustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero – gave up their identities to attend the award ceremony and accept their prize – one million Euros and a publishing deal.
The trio, aged in their 40s and 50s, had previously claimed in interviews as “Carmen” that she was a professor in her late 40s, and that they desired anonymity to “protect a settled life that has nothing to do with literature.” The men had published novels and screenplays under their own names before coming together under the Mola pseudonym.
Facing backlash for the sudden revelation, Antonio Mercero defended the decision:
“We didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name,” he told Spanish publication El Pais, “I don’t know if a female pseudonym would sell more than a male one, I don’t have the faintest idea, but I doubt it.”
The original Carmen Mola trilogy follows detective Elena Blanco in a gory crime thriller. The webpage for the series on the Penguin Random House website describes her as a “peculiar and solitary woman, who loves grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs”.
The trilogy has been translated into eleven languages and is currently being adapted for television.
Hello, we are Carmen Mola pic.twitter.com/A097y8t8Uy
— Adrián Hernández (@adrianherfer) October 16, 2021
The former head of Spain’s Women’s Institute Beatriz Gimeno – a feminist, writer and activist – condemned the men for exploiting the made-up life of “Carmen” to draw publicity to their books.
“Quite apart from using a female pseudonym, these guys have spent years doing interviews. It’s not just the name – it’s the fake profile that they’ve used to take in readers and journalists. They are scammers,” she tweeted.
A regional branch of the Women’s Institute had at once recommended one of Mola’s works as part of a list of books by female authors, along with the likes of Margaret Atwood. The selection was chosen to “help us understand the reality and the experiences of women in different periods of history and contribute to raising awareness about rights and freedoms.”
I'm going to tell my kids this was Carmen Mola pic.twitter.com/5NfPOcxO8V
— Julio J. 🀲 (@julioelpoeta) October 16, 2021
The book that won the three men the Planeta prize is not a part of the Blanco series, instead set in 1834 during the cholera epidemic. It follows a serial killer who dismembers girls and the journalist, policeman and young woman who try to hunt him down.