Critics Slam Men Who Won $1.2M Literary Prize: ‘Scammers’


The Beast, a gruesome historical thriller about a serial killer in the 1830s, has won one of Spain’s top literary prizes, and its author, Carmen Mola—a popular writer known for the “strong female protagonists” in her crime novels, per the Washington Post—was supposed to show up Friday night to pick up her $1.2 million award. But no woman arrived in Barcelona to accept the Planeta prize: Instead, three middle-aged scriptwriters who’ve worked together on various TV series came up to the stage, and came clean, announcing they were actually the famed writer, whose previous trilogy has been translated into 11 languages and is set to head to the TV screen.

“Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we’ve been telling, a university professor,” Jorge Diaz, after winning the prize with Agustin Martínez and Antonio Mercero, told the Financial Times, via the Post. “We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.” The authors say they chose the name Carmen Mola at random and that it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a female one. The Guardian notes the name translates to “Carmen’s cool.” “We didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name,” Mercero told Spain’s El Pais paper.

But others are pushing back on that claim, saying the entire effort was an intentional ruse meant to make people think Mola was a woman. “These guys have been answering interviews for years,” tweeted Beatriz Gimeno, who used to lead Spain’s Women’s Institute. “It’s not only the name, it’s the false profile” they set up. “Scammers,” she added. Backing up Gimeno’s assertion: The agent representing “Mola” has a supposed photo of the author on its site, a black-and-white shot that appears to show a woman from behind.

In a 2018 interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC, Mola, described as being in her 40s with a husband and three kids, noted, “I hope no one finds out who I am,” telling the somewhat wary writer of the article that they assumed a pseudonym due to “having a life already formed that has nothing to do with literature.” Last year, a Women’s Institute branch lauded one of Mola’s books as one that should be read “to help us understand the reality and the experiences of women.” Still, it appears the prize, awarded to an unpublished manuscript, will stand, and it will be published by the Planeta Group next month, under Mola’s name. (Read more literary award stories.)

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