On anonymity, pseudonyms and ghostwriters


By Juan Yves Palomar / @JuanYvesPalomar

Dedicated to Junius and all the writers who have planted tomorrow through their words.

What is a name? What is a pseudonym? What is the difference between the assigned identity and the assumed identity? How did we get to the point of developing the ability to embody in written symbols the sounds we produce with the air? When we are born and begin to live, the way in which our presence is announced is decided by the beings that surround us. Unlike other animals on this planet, humans are a species that tells stories to understand, to organize our days and to accommodate the phenomenon of the existence of consciousness with our life experience as individuals.

The birth of the first traces of language began millennia ago, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, when our ancestors generated the first cooperative ties, such as care for illnesses or injuries, the distribution of responsibilities for the task of hunting, gathering resources, and cultivating the first species of domesticated plants. With the emergence of the first languages ​​also came the first names.. In Europe for many centuries people received the family name from their place of origin or from the name of the owner of the farm, in the case of the majority of slaves.

In America for many centuries the oral tradition accompanied the domestication of corn through the social evolution of the peoples and their legends. For generations, empirical knowledge and the relationship with sacred plants indelibly marked the worldview of people born west of the Atlantic. With a worldview that puts natural elements at the center while narrating its mythology based on various types of faith and a polytheistic spirituality. From the polar circle, passing through the great lakes to Patagonia and the end of the world, the societies prior to the Spanish, English and Portuguese conquests practiced a form of spirituality deeply rooted in their territory. Finding in sacred places, common symbols, stories passed from generation to generationcollective teachings that pass from mouth to mouth through the ceremonies.

For many centuries, even before the invention of the printing press and the book as we know it today, thousands of authors have written under a name other than their birth name. What reasons led or motivated you to carry out this maneuver? The reason or motive can be very varied. From an attempt to escape the censorship imposed (¿Bernal Diaz del Castillo?) by different actors through the ages (such as Lewis Carroll) or as a way of searching for what Fernando Pessoa called heteronyms.

It is therefore understood that in the world of alter-egos and pseudonyms there will be the most different types of writers; who will use it as a literary resource, as an exploration to broaden horizons in the trade. As a tool to express your ideas in branches of thought where your professional field is usually far away.

Anonymity then becomes a vehicle, a condition that makes it possible for the message to reach far beyond the person who writes it and their immediate circle.

Faced with the caricature of the anonymous, the tabloid rumor and medieval heritage of associating the foreign with the negative, there is a much broader way of thinking of anonymity as a collective tool, a kind of tent where you can get together with your friends. friends to write freely without the need to sign with a unique identity and protected by the collective like an armor of stories, literally and metaphorically. As contemporary examples we can count essays such as that of the Night Council in Un habitar más fuerte que la Metrópolis, in which notions such as non-architecture are addressed or, where appropriate, the texts of the Invisible Committee such as the one titled under the name: “To Our Friends” where an important critical reflection of the logistical dimension of power is made.

What are, for example, nowadays if not pseudonyms, the names of rock bands or urban music groups? The hyper-individualization of reality is broken from our ability to narrate our present and find an alliance in others, in thinking of ourselves as a team. In this sense, music is no exception. The artistic names are then also a way of capturing a shared imaginary, in this case the operation is the inverse that with a ghost writer where the writer himself is subtracted from his textit is more about the creation of a “team character” or a group identity “in the face of the sometimes so longed for or overwhelming possibility (it depends from where you look at it) of fame.

In the case of ghostwriters, it could be said that it is the laborers of the trade, stripped of the authorship of their words, who work or have worked as ghostwriters, perhaps for a very diverse palette of reasons, from the election to make it a way to earn a living even for those who are politically motivated or as a way to avoid censorship. There is not only the digital variant of the sale and purchase of texts online, rather, highly recognized writers such as Paul Auster or Alejandro Sawa have used this resource at some point in their lives.

In the end, language not only helps us to inhabit the world but also helps us to inhabit ourselves. How do we think of ourselves if not with words we learned from others? What are languages ​​without their language families that allowed their evolution? The proper names at the end are a personified variant of the symbol, that old spell that managed to tame humanity millennia ago. The mysterious thing about it all is that a necessary condition for the emergence of language is that it be shared and used as a team by a group that understands it. Thus, politics, language, science and culture have been linked since the emergence of words.

Perhaps and only perhaps, without knowing and in an unsuspected way for many, everyone’s favorite activity is to go through life conjuring the world, naming others, things, ourselves. Like a great little magic that we have normalized over the last millennia. In the end, maybe we are just that, an animal that tamed the fire, learned to tell stories and open paths for tomorrow’s laughter.


On anonymity, pseudonyms and ghostwriters