What’s in a name? “Everything. Nothing”, writes Carmela Ciuraru in her book Nom de Plume. A book on pseudonyms, the author delightfully chronicles several male and female authors who, at different points in their careers, took pseudonyms — sometimes to dupe the readers, sometimes to dupe themselves. A pseudonym, or a nom de plume, serves several purposes. It can be an alias, a supposed act of liberation and sometimes a way of leading an alternative existence. If writing is a way of manufacturing new experiences, why not create a fictitious self to narrate, or better relive it?
Several female authors have used pseudonyms in the past to use it as a subterfuge and evade patriarchal bindings. The Bronte sisters, Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) and, most recently, JK Rowing wrote under male pseudonyms. While the reasons might have been different (or maybe not), several male authors too used female pseudonyms.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay as Anila Devi
Considered one of the most famous Bengali authors, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote under the pen name Anila Devi. Author of novels like Devdas, Parineeta and Nishkriti, Chattopadhyay was known for writing about women and for women, long before it was considered a norm. It is believed by many that Anila Devi was his sister.
S Rangarajan as Sujatha
Considered one of the most popular Tamil authors, S Rangrajan wrote over 100 novels, 250 short stories, books on science, stage plays, and a volume of poems. He used his wife’s name Sujatha as his pseudonym and was known as that by many. It is widely believed that as another author had the same name as his, Rangrajan started writing under his wife’s name.
Benjamin Franklin as Mrs Silence Dogood
American polymath and one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin wore several hats. He was a political theorist, painter, author, scientist. Perhaps his varied interests also percolated in his penchant for adopting different pen names. It is popularly believed that Mrs Silence Dogood was used as a pseudonym by him to get his work published in the New England Courant, after being rejected by it several times. The newspaper was owned by his brother James Franklin.
Tom E Huff as Jennifer Wilde
Romance as a genre was mainly populated by female authors. Tom E Huff, one of the best-selling American authors, wrote extensively in this genre. And, perhaps, this can be read as the reason why he used several pseudonyms. Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, TE Huff, Katherine were some of his many pen names. He wrote some of his romantic novels under the pseudonym Jennifer Wilde and preferred other pseudonyms while writing Gothic novels.
Achintya Kumar Sengupta as Niharika Devi
Born on September 19, 1903, Achintya Kumar Sengupta was one of the most renowned authors of his time. He closely worked with the famous magazine Kallol and wrote over 100 books. Sengupta had started his career with a female pseudonym – Niharika Devi.