Pseudo-mysterious

I have been toying with the idea of using a pseudonym since I wrote my first ever word meant to be an attempt at aesthetic pleasure. I was, at the time, not even aware of all the greats who wrote under a pseudonym, Lewis Carol, George Eliot, Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, and the list goes on. I simply relished in the idea of being a mysterious, coveted secret, having thousands of readers all guessing about my identity.

A little research on my part would have revealed that “proper” writers have a reason for choosing a pseudonym, and it isn’t the literary equivalent of ordering a single malt scotch whiskey and sitting in a dark corner of a bar. Pseudonyms are a choice, like many choices in literature, bearing meaning. George Eliot (real name, Mary Anne Evans) was, either consciously or by trying to make her writing easier to market, making a point about women in writing and, by extension, in intellectual circles. C. S. Lewis wrote a book inspired by the death of his wife under a pseudonym to help him process the grief (A Grief Observed), and the rawness of the subject matter made him take refuge in a pseudonym to protect his privacy.

So yes, I think I have established that I was immature in my thinking. My thinking, though elaborate (I actually did come up with several possible pseudonyms), was not necessary. I was not escaping political persecution, I didn’t need to hide my identity, even if I felt embarrassed about my writing.

But let us not be overly dramatic, not all writers who use pseudonyms are facing firing squads or racial/gender discrimination. Some of them want to break into new genres (à la J. K. Rowling) or simply try to write with the thrill of pretending to be a new writer breaking the scene (I can only really come up with an example from Germany, Sebastian Fitzek who wrote, still in the same genre, under the name Max Rhode).

Why then did I come back to this idea now, after over ten years? My new project. My new book is an historical novel, about a Jewish immigrant from Germany, seeing the rise of Nazism from his “self-imposed” exile. This is, of course, heavily inspired by my own family’s history, who left Germany as things were getting very uncomfortable for Jews. The struggles of an immigrant the concerns about the crumbling “old country”, they are the same things my grandparents and great-grandparents experienced, which makes me feel I am speaking for them, telling their story (though a bit embellished and made more marketable). This brought me back to my first ever idea for a pseudonym, which as an Alias my grandfather used when he was wanted by the British police during the British mandate in Palestine. It seems like more than a gesture, or an homage, it seems like placing the voice where it belongs. It feels like making a connection between us for me to assume as my chosen my pseudonym his forced alias.

 

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