There is a certain romance, an air of mystery that surrounds the ‘anonymous author’, almost akin to that felt when one stands before the flame dedicated to the Unknown Soldier. What is it about the ‘A’ word that arouses the tinge of dissatisfaction that it does. The lack of a personal touch perhaps. For most people reading a piece is a personal exercise, a mute discourse with the person whose ideas have engaged his time and attention. A piece that moves you, which you identify with or even one whose humor obtains your seal of approval (read laughter) leads you to wonder about the individual behind the name who has been able to invoke such emotions in you.
Anonymous may signify a dead end in this regard, however it is in fact a challenge to your imagination.The questions that can be asked are many. How much of an author’s personality is stamped in his work? Can you conjure up a caricature of the author through his work? Would it not be interesting to expend some of your imagination on what or who the nameless, faceless person is? Would that be the truest comment on the author, unmarred by the considerations of background, times or gender, based solely on the intensity of his/ her ideas?

In the world of anonymity, the concept of a pseudo name offers a brighter prospect of gaining familiarity with the elusive author. An anonymous and a pseudo name differ in many respects. Chiefly it can be said that while a pseudo name is a form of anonymity, anonymous is certainly not a pseudo name. You may come across another anonymous write up and never know if the anonymous-es were the same. On the other hand, a series of works could be published under a pseudo name.

This may sound a tad bit more interesting if you were aware of the fact that Mark Twain, Charlotte Bronte, Ayn Rand, Saki and even Voltaire were actually pseudo names. A pseudo name is a story waiting to be told. The reasons why an author would distance himself from his work by adopting a pseudo are myriad. Why Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum would want to be published as Ayn Rand is not hard to fathom, however there exist more complex reasons like wanting to disassociate yourself from the views expressed. So Salman Rushdie may have considered ‘Saldie’ if he cared enough for his head or if he belonged to the fairer sex.

Virginia Woolfe’s remark ‘For most of history, anonymous was a woman’ holds true in context of women authors who adopted names of men in order to be taken seriously. Though the concept of anonymity may have become redundant today, what with the onslaught of information technology, the emergence of liberal polities and the right to freedom of expression finding their rightful places world over. Yet the ‘A’ factor refuses to go away. Ever wondered where those forwarded messages on your cell phone come from?

Malavika Vyawahare